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Prisoners of Our Thoughts: Viktor Frankl's Principles at Work

by Alex Pattakos

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English (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (2)
by Kelly Jad'on

From: www.BasilAndSpice.com
Author & Book Views On A Healthy Life!

Book Review: Prisoners of Our Thoughts: Viktor Frankl’s Principles for Discovering Meaning in Life and Work (Berrett-Koehler, 2004,2008) by Alex Pattakos, Ph.D.

A BestSeller Classic Review

Alex Pattakos is a principal of The Innovation Group and the founder of the Center for Meaning, based in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He is a former therapist and mental health administrator, political campaign organizer, and full-time university professor of public and business administration. Alex Pattakos has worked with several Presidential administrations on public policy matters and has served as an advisor to the Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Prisoners of Our Thoughts is based on the wisdom and personal encouragement of world-renowned psychiatrist Viktor Frankl (Man’s Search for Meaning), and his seven principles for finding meaning in life. The book has received the praise of Alan Webber (Founding Editor, Fast Company), Dr. Patti Havenga Coetzer (Founder, Viktor Frankl Foundation of South Africa), and Steven R. Covey, who wrote the forward.

In a dedication to Viktor Frankl, and preface regarding Pattakos’s relationship with the Frankl family, the author tells of a meeting in Austria in 1996 when he proposed the book idea to Frankl. “Frankl was more than encouraging when, in his typically direct and passionate style, he leaned across his desk, grabbed my arm, and said: ‘Alex, yours is the book that needs to be written!’ As you can imagine, I felt that Frankl’s words had been branded into the core of my being, and I was determined, from that moment forward, to make this book idea a reality.” Viktor Frankl’s thoughts have influenced Pattakos’s work for over 40 years, moving him to the pinnacle of the world of meaning, thus extending Frankl’s wisdom to others throughout the world.

Frankl lived what he thought, as does Pattakos—who is now affectionately known as Dr. Meaning. Core Principles underscored in Prisoners of Our Thoughts help the reader learn to think and live life in the same meaningful manner:

Exercise the freedom to choose your attitude —even in the face of adversity, we are able to decide and be responsible for our own attitude. Famous examples utilized here are Nelson Mandela who became President of South Africa and Christopher Reeve the actor who portrayed Superman, only to become a quadriplegic after being thrown from his horse. Reeve wrote in his memoir Still Me, “I think a hero is an ordinary individual who finds strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.”

Realize your will to meaning. Comparing the outside forces which affect us (Freud’s pleasure principle and Adler’s will to power) with Frankl’s will to meaning, Pattakos shows the reader that only the will to meaning comes from within. It is up to us to find, control, and fulfill it. He reminds us that in America we are surrounded by wealth, but we have increasing suicide rates among our young people. More than anywhere else, this element of will to meaning is necessary in the workplace, where people must be placed above money, giving credence to meaningful work.

Detect the meaning of life’s moments . The key word here is awareness. If we are aware, we know the meaning of a situation, culminating in intelligence. We need to slow down, turn of the cell phone, and “smell the roses.” Two points of human motivation highlighted in this chapter are love and conscience. Example: “We work nights so we can be with our kids in the morning and see them off to school….We put a dollar in an outstretched hand…And when we see how our world is connected in this way, we can name ‘why’ and know meaning.” Without voicing himself, it is on this page, that the reader can fully comprehend the meaning behind Dr. Pattakos’s writing of Prisoners of Our Thoughts, as he seeks to help others.

Don’t work against yourself. When we work too hard at creating meaning, this plan can be fallible. Trying to impress others can undermine our thoughts and our work relationships. At the end of each chapter Pattakos gives the reader an opportunity for self-reflection. Here he asks the reader several questions, including, “How did you first come to recognize that you were not making progress? How did you rationalize or justify your dilemma? In hindsight, what would you have done differently in this situation?”

Look at yourself from a distance. We need to be able to self-detach, like an emergency medic with a patient, allowing him to keep a distance emotionally. This can be achieved with humor and laughter, or by immersing one’s self in a role. Doing these things allows us to keep our thoughts outside a prison of thoughts.

Shift your focus of attention. When in a precarious situation, think of something else. This eases tension and is innate, but gets lost or shelved as we move into adulthood. Here Pattakos uses his own boyhood example of being pinned under his horse, under water, after a missed jump. He remembers wondering whether or not his horse was ok, would he get his homework completed on time for school, and even asked himself to recall his own name. The younger Pattakos was reassuring himself that he was still alive!

Extend beyond yourself. Think of others and you will increase your own happiness. This is selflessness; it feels good, satisfies us, and allows us to transcend ourselves. This is true of great leaders who turned suffering into service: Desmond Tutu, Mahatma Gandhi, Viktor Frankl. Each forgave and let go of his suffering.

Using everyday examples, Pattakos explains that we are creatures of habit, who unwittingly lock ourselves into our own mental cages, becoming Prisoners of Our Thoughts. “We lose sight of our own natural potential.” Through a search for meaning, we can discover how to break our self-inflicted chains and break down our mental barriers, giving us a new look at reality. In essence, if Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor of Nazi death camps could do this, so can we.

5 Stars ( )
  BasilAndSpice | Oct 16, 2008 |
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Dr. Alex Pattakos is a cofounder of the Innovation Group consulting firm. Here he illustrates acclaimed selfhelp guru Viktor Frankl's keys to finding meaning in even the most hopeless situations. Growing from his time spent in a Nazi concentration camp, Frankl's principles are easy to adopt and will help listeners press forward to escape mental ruts in their quest for a more fulfilling life.… (more)

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