The secret to transcending the difficulties and challenges that life presents

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Dr. Efrén Martínez, psychologist and international speaker, talks about the importance of living with purpose.

Efrén Martínez, President of the Society for the Advancement of Sense-Centered Psychotherapy

Efrén Martínez tells us what is the secret to transcend life's difficulties. / Photos: Courtesy

LatinAmerican Post | Carolina Rodríguez Monclou

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Leer en español: El Secreto para transcender las dificultades y retos que presenta la vida

According to Efrén Martínez, President of the Society for the Advancement of Sense-Centered Psychotherapy, people who live with purpose recover faster from postoperative, live longer after a diagnosis of terminal illness, are less prone to use drugs, suffer less from depression and anxiety, handle traumatic life events better, and work more vigorously.

LatinAmerican Post met with the Eminence in Psychology to learn more about the importance of living with purpose, especially in uncertain times.

LatinAmerican Post: What is logotherapy and why is it so important?

Efrén Martínez: Logotherapy is a school of thought that arose from the restrictions of an Austrian psychiatrist, neurologist, and philosopher named Viktor Frankl. Being a Jew who lived during the First and Second World War, he was taken to the Nazi concentration camps for almost 4 years and that experience made him question the importance and meaning of life.

In the midst of difficult circumstances, Frankl lost his pregnant wife to their first child, his father, his mother, and almost all of his friends. However, in his process of resilience, he created a new current of thought based on logotherapy.

This discipline arose in the 1960s, a time when empirical data and research in various countries about the importance of the meaning of life for different disciplines occurred. When all this information is gathered, it is discovered that living with meaning makes life different, since it improves health and psychologically allows people to be more stable. Today, this stream of thought applies to psychotherapy, education, and business administration. In this way, what today is known as logotherapy and existential analysis arises.

LP: What does it mean to live with meaning?

EF: Living with meaning involves 3 things: connection with people, actions, situations, and objects that are valuable to us, direction to orient ourselves towards what attracts us to that which connects us, and action to direct us to realize what is valuable. The more connected I am with sources of meaning, the more stable I am. The more direction I have, the less I end up getting into places where I shouldn't be. The more action I put into life, the more I progress.

Also read: What is quarantine Cabin Syndrome?

LP: What do you recommend to people whose sense of existence was frustrated due to current circumstances?

EF: A life with meaning always implies having a process of diversification of value, what does this mean? If, for example, you only have a source that gives meaning to your life, such as riding a bicycle, and a pandemic arrives and you can no longer go out for 3 months, your life lost all meaning. It is necessary to diversify the value and have several sources of meaning because in life nothing is eternal. Many people live in wonderful houses, but since before they did not have time to be at home, they did not enjoy it. What was normal before, we now value more.

LP: Could the quarantine be seen as a respite then?

EF: This break that the pandemic allows us is forcing us to see things that we would never have seen before. We must take advantage of this moment of calm to see what new values are visible and what other valuable things are presented to us so that we can enrich life.

According to the expert, the anguish is actually wonderful because it brings with it two messages: the first "take care of yourself and take care of what is valuable around you", and the second "enjoy what you have". Viewed in this way, distress is a powerful ally that reminds us of what is important to us.

LP: What positive things has the quarantine brought with it?

EF : It is an interesting time to read and watch movies that inspire us. This is the time to do everything we have always wanted to do, but we had not done it due to the excuse of time or difficulties. It is a good time to lead a healthy life, and a wonderful time for the topic of meaning.

LP: Is this an opportunity to transform ourselves?

EF: It is a golden opportunity to transform ourselves, but this does not imply that you stop doing what you do to dedicate yourself to something else. The transformation is reflected in valuing what you do to connect with your life in a different way.

LP: Considering that optimism is a key piece of Frankl's conception, how can you be more optimistic right now?

EF: According to Frankl there are 2 types of optimism: the first is the tragic one that would be, for example, accepting that we all die. When you accept this as a reality of life, you don't suffer as much. Suffering lasts as long as it takes you to accept it. On the other hand, there is also the hope and faith that life has meaning in any circumstance, however incomprehensible it may be. Optimism is a decision.

LP: What can people who have lost their inner strength do?

EF:  Look for sources of inspiration and role models for people who in similar circumstances have done important things. Activating support networks with close people will help you have greater strength.

LP: Investigating I found that you are a fan of yoga and meditation, why is that?

EF: Meditation is an interesting and powerful tool. Meditating gives you some important differences in how you handle your impulsiveness, cravings, desires, and urges. In the same way, your body and your health are also transformed. Yoga has a scientific beauty. It is a practice that can decrease anxiety and anguish and increase hope. This is being done by organizations to get through the time we are going through, but especially the one that is coming.