“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” – Dr. Viktor Frankl
Sooner or later you will experience what I have come to know as “the crisis crossroads,” or what I’ll also refer to as one of Life’s Ts: a transition, test, trial, trauma or tragedy. It doesn’t matter what you call it; you know it when you are at one. I have been there many times in my life and as a Logotherapist (meaning-centered psychotherapist) I spend my days working with people at every crisis crossroad imaginable.
“What do I do?” My clients will typically ask me. “Tell me where to go?” They will often plead.
However, I can not tell them the specifics of where to go, as it is their unique journey, nor can I prescribe an exact formula, as their crossroads is a one-of-a-kind experience. I can tell them and work with them on the following five areas everyone, at every crossroads, needs to navigate. These are the five steps are the foundation of a program and philosophy I have created called, “Choose Your Own Way,” based on the teachings of Holocaust survivor, founder of Logotherapy and author of “Man’s Search For Meaning.”
Whatever crossroads you are facing–from divorce to death and dying, from professional chaos to personal crisis, from chronic struggle to acute suffering–here is what you need to choose your own way.
Step 1: Choose To Make Your Stand
The crossroads, by definition, leave us feeling helpless, powerless–even hopeless. We’ve never been here before. No one told us we’d arrive at such confusion, we were simply never prepared to handle such chaos. We don’t know what we are doing, where to go or how to proceed.
We are scared and in fear, and when the fear sets in, we react. That is to say whatever action we take when based on fear, always and inevitably sends us in the wrong direction, takes us down the wrong path and leads to more destruction, suffering and setbacks.
This is why we must first stop: stop rushing, stop pushing and stop reacting. In the words of my teacher, Sylvia Boorstein, “Don’t just do something; sit there.” Stop. Breathe. Get centered. Make your stand.
It takes courage to stand quietly, calmly and patiently at your crossroads. However, if you react your way forward, make no mistake about it. You’ll eventually have to come back to the crossroads and do it over, having wasted time, energy and probably doing some damage along the way. So begin by starting through stopping; move forward by first getting still and making your stand.
Step 2: Choose To Feel
Next, we live in a world that teaches us to “fake it till you make it.” The problem, however, is that we often don’t make it, and yet keep on faking it… and faking it and faking it. Not only do we fail to navigate our crossroads, but in the end, we live our lives feeling like a fake.
Instead, the crossroads provides you an invitation to finally be honest and fully become authentic, truthful and real.
It is also an opportunity to discard other people’s goals and society’s rules. To hell with the pretty, polished Facebook facade. In the words of an ancient kabbalist, “There is nothing more whole than a shattered heart.”
Your shattering is your beginning. It may not be pretty, but it can be beautiful. No matter what you are facing, feel your broken heart, as a pathway to becoming more, to becoming whole and to finally becoming real.
Step 3: Choose The True You
The crossroads always have one thing in common, whichever one you have come to, they always make us feel that we are not enough. We don’t know what we are doing. We don’t have what it takes to move forward. It is our fault for getting here. The falsehoods and fiction involved with the stories we tell ourselves when left unchecked will become our truth.
The truth, however, is that you have everything you need to find your way out of the forest. You–the true you–is the only thing you need to move forward in your life. You simply have to let go of your false self, and discover, trust and follow your true self. She is in there. He is waiting. You just have to turn to them, and they’ll become your north star forward through this crossroads and whatever future crisis presents itself upon your path.
Step 4: Choose To Transcend Your Self
The crossroads turn us inwards, begin to define us, and frankly make us think that this is all about us. We are in survival mode. We can’t think about others. It becomes about me, me, me, I, I, I, all day, every day. Until we break free of ourselves and return to others, we can not find our forward in our life.
As Dr. Frankl teaches, the ultimate human act is self-transcendence, to transcend our self in service of others. True freedom, as he teaches, is not a freedom from, but freedom to–to others, to something bigger than ourselves, to serve. The way through the crossroads always involves others and when we are standing at one, we have the opportunity to become more responsible and to truly become free.
Step 5: Choose To Own Your Power
Lastly, we not only become responsible at the crossroads, but response able–able to stop reacting to our circumstances and start responding to our life. When we learn to choose our own way through the crossroads, in the words of another Holocaust survivor and Logotherapist, Dr. Edith Eger, we stop being victims and start becoming survivors.
“Victims say ‘why me,’ whereas survivors say ‘now what,’” according to Dr. Eger. Now, what do I do when I’m here? Now, what can I do now that I’m here? These crossroads cannot and will not turn me into a victim. I will choose my response. I will choose my way forward. I will choose to choose, my only true power. I will choose to be free!
If you would like to learn more about my online, multimedia program, Choose Your Own Way, to navigate your crossroads practically, purposefully, and powerfully, visit here.
Choose Your Own Way incorporates ancient wisdom, universal, spiritual practice, therapeutic best practice, practical self-development tools, and most of all, the insights, inspiration, and proven effectiveness of these ideas as lived by Dr. Viktor Frankl. No matter what you are facing, no matter how much you are enduring, no matter how uncertain, overwhelming, confusing, or hopeless it might seem–you have a choice.
You can choose to discover deeper meaning, uncover your true purpose and take back your authentic power, not in spite of the wilderness–because of it. But it comes down to a choice.
This program will educate, inspire and empower you to make that choice.
It’s time to choose your own way!
Dr. Rabbi Baruch “B” HaLevi