Ukrainians hold on to Tragic Optimism- A lesson for all of us
The Ukrainian people are fighting for their freedom, and in the process, they are teaching us all what tragic optimism looks like. Viktor Frankl, the famed psychiatrist, and philosopher founded the theory on the belief that human nature is motivated by the search for a life purpose. He coined the phrase after his own experience of living through the horror of a Nazi concentration camp.
Tragic optimism is the hope that something good can come out of a terrible situation. It is the belief that even in the darkest of times, there is still some meaning to be found. The Ukrainian people are living proof that it is possible to find meaning in the face of overwhelming tragedy, and they have not lost their hope or their optimism.
Despite the violence and bloodshed, they are refusing to give up their dream of a free and democratic Ukraine.
Frankl said that when we have a “why” to live for, we can bear almost any “how.” In his book, Man's Search For Meaning, “When we are no longer able to change a situation we are challenged to change ourselves.”
For me, I have been thinking about these three things almost daily as I watch this war unfold before my eyes.
1. Tragic Optimism is not denial – It is the hope that something good can come out of, and even in the midst of a terrible situation. It is acknowledging the pain and struggle, rather than a false or toxic positivity.
2. Tragic Optimism is not giving up – It is the belief that even in the darkest of times, there is still some meaning to be found.
3. Tragic Optimism is not easy – but it is where we connect with our own true humanity and the humanity of others. It is this common bond that in the most difficult of circumstances, we can know we are not alone.
Unfortunately, there will be death, destruction, and pain before this is over for the Ukrainian people. There is no denying that. But, they are an inspiration to us all in their commitment to never give up on their dream of a better future. We can learn a lot from their tragic optimism and resilience.