How I coped with Aliya By Devorah Kur (Telfed Magazine – page 18 & 19)
Some people believe that it is the circumstances in our lives that determine our happiness or how we cope with struggle and difficulty. I am going to challenge this thinking. This reminds me of my favourite quote by James Allen, “Circumstances don’t make a man; they reveal him.” What do you notice about yourself when you are under pressure or life becomes challenging?
What determines whether tough times turn out to be beneficial or whether good times will make us miserable? We all know people who ‘seem’ to have the best of everything yet they are miserable, and those who ‘appear’ to have nothing yet are happy. How can this be? It all depends on our attitude. We can learn this lesson from Dr Victor Frankl (1905-1997), author of the bestseller “Man’s Search for Meaning.” He was a Jewish Austrian psychiatrist in the 1930’s and founder of Logotherapy who suffered in the concentration camps for four years. He teaches that every person’s life has purpose, MEANING and direction, and that we each have the choice and inner ability to find that meaning. In the camps, Frankl helped people find meaning in their lives, despite circumstances. This approach gave hope; and hope for a future helps us to overcome challenge.
I was drawn to study Logotherapy when patients of mine would ask me, “Why do I have to have cancer?” or “Why can’t I have a baby?” I had no idea how to help with these life challenging questions but desperately wanted to. You can’t help someone to heal just through their body; you have to address the mind and soul as well. In 2011 when we decided to make Aliya, I went to speak with my lecturer at UNISA, Dr Teria Shantall, who had studied under DR Frankl! At the time I had no idea that she was Jewish. When I told her that I would not be able to continue the course because I was going to live in Israel, she said, “Marvellous Devorah, I live in Modiin! You can join my private English group of Logotherapy students when you arrive.” What a blessing! These concepts and way of thinking literally saved me and our Aliya during our transition.
Making Aliyah was the biggest dream of my life. I couldn’t believe that it was going to become a reality. As you know, no matter what age or stage of life you make Aliya; it is hard! There are lots of tears as we navigate our way through unchartered waters. There are cultural, language, driving, social, etiquette, school system and plain manner hurdles to overcome. Even the songs they sing in Shul have different tunes! Where do we find the strength to overcome this?
For me, it was my Zionistic pull which gave me a determination to help each of my family members who were suffering through the transition. There was no option to go back. I had a deep desire to live in Israel and now that this privilege had arrived, I was going to overcome anything. Nietzsche said: “He who has a WHY to live can bear almost any HOW.” This quote inspired Frankl as well, who tells of his first ‘meal’ after his arrival to the camps. He was given a plate of ‘soup’ with a fish head floating in it. His initial reaction was disgust. Didn’t they know who he was! He was a doctor, respected in Austrian medical society. He stopped himself and thought that he didn’t know how long he would be there, but what he did know was that if he continued with this attitude he wasn’t going to make it very far, as he had unfortunately already witnessed. So, he decided to view this as a nutritional meal that would feed his soul and nourish his body. It was a total attitude turnaround for him, one which saved his life.
We all have this ability to rise above our challenges no matter what they are; health, Aliyah, financial, relationships, work or spiritual. The place to start is with our attitude. Look at what you can control in the situation instead of what is out of your control. Start here. If it is connected to Aliyah, keep reminding yourself of the initial reason you decided to come; because when you know that, you have a goal to work towards.
Frankl says, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
So, while we can’t control the fact that it might be raining outside which is ruining our plans; we can decide to take an umbrella to keep ourselves dry.
About me: Devorah Kur runs an integrative Wellness clinic offering Reflexology and Logotherapy (counseling to find meaning in life’s difficulties from Dr Victor Frankl’s teachings and book – Man’s search for meaning). She incorporates mental imagery which uses the mind to help us heal, and emotional first aid for trauma. She is passionate about helping people through their illnesses, challenges and struggles in life. Her forte is to help people ask, “What now?” instead of asking, “ Why me?” She is an international motivational speaker, lecturing on meaning and personal growth.