Jarrod David Copeland-Prisoners of our Thought

Author of Book: Alex Pattakos and Elaine Dundon
Date Read: July 7, 2023

Book Report

Based on the teachings of Viktor Frankl and his principles for discovering meaning in life and work. “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and our power to chose our response. In our response lies growth and our happiness.”

What is life asking of me?
What is this situation asking of me?

No matter what challenges you face in life, you always have the ultimate freedom to choose your attitude and your response to what is happening to you. You are responsible for finding meaning in your circumstances and importantly, for not becoming a prisoner of your own thoughts.

The authors develop seven core principles that best describe Viktor Frankl’s teachings.

  1. Exercise the freedom to choose your attitude.
    • “You do not have to suffer to learn. But, if you don’t learn from suffering, over which you have no control, then your life becomes truly meaningless. The way in which a man accepts his fate – those things beyond his control – can add a deeper meaning to his life. He controls how he responds.” Or as I like to tell myself, I control the outcome. The authors describe how VF taught that “everything can be taken from man but, the last of the human freedom to choose one’s own way.” Complaining, for example, when we complain we allow ourselves to be victims and to be helpless. We lose or power, we give away our freedom. An example of true freedom is from Nelson Mandela who served 27 years in prison. Years later while he was president of South Africa he explained to the president of the US, Bill Clinton, why his face of anger and frustration quickly faded on the day he was released from prison.
    • “That day when I stepped out of prison and looked at the people observing, a flush of anger hit me of twenty-seven years. Then the spirit of Jesus said to me, while you were in prison you were free; now that you are free, don’t become their prisoner.” The authors go on to describe that while it can be difficult, we still have the freedom to choose how we respond. True optimism is we choose our attitude. We actually make three choices: one, we choose a positive attitude about the situation at hand. Two, we choose to visualize what’s possible to deal with the situation at hand. And three, we choose an attitude that generates passion for the action that makes the possible become a reality.
    • A question that was posed is: List ten positive things about being in prison. So, I came up with a list: 1) I value life and freedom like never before. 2) I can use my testimony to help others who might be incarcerated or going down a path that will lead to incarceration. 3) I’ve learned how to cope and battle against depression, anxiety, fear and stress. 4) I learned how to listen to God. 5) I value simple things in life (the things that matter most), for example, my wife, God, family. 6) I have read books that I was more thn likely never going to read. 7) My relationship with my wife has grown stronger. 8) I know and understand what I must do with my life upon release. 9) I focus on my personal growth. 10) I am being refined.
  2. Realize your will to meaning.
    • “A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the “why” for his existence and will be able to bear almost any “how.” This quote alone set my emotions on fire. The authors describe how important it is to focus on realizing the will to meaning rather than focusing on pleasure or power. As the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates wisely advised, we should go within and listen to our inner voice. We should trust our inner voice and not be swayed by others.
  3. Detect the meaning of life’s moments.
    • We don’t create meaning, we find it. To find authentic meaning in our lives, we need courage, which is not the absence of fear but the willingness and ability to walk through the fear – to tread into the darkness of life’s meaning. Fear is crippling, it limits us. Knowing why we do things is essential and the beginning of real freedom and meaning in our lives. What will be my legacy? A question that I ask myself daily.
  4. Don’t work against yourself.
    • ‘A job at which one works is not what counts, but rather the manner in which one does the work.’ The authors go on to say how we often work against ourselves by trying too hard to get things done our way and not the right way. One reason we may miss succeeding is that we overlook the importance of relationships in the workplace. Also, missing the connection with customers and consumers. Meaning also rests in the appreciation of the moment. When our awareness is focused on the past or on the future, we lose the connection to present, to the Now.
  5. Look at yourself from a distance.
    • Be able to laugh and find humor. It’s a great gift. It’s a great equalizer. A sense of humor is usually accompanied by cheerfulness. When we detach from ourselves and from our situation, we don’t diminish or deny the circumstances, we go beyond them. When we dwell on our mistakes, we give them far too much credit.
  6. Shift your focus of attention.
    • “De-reflection is intended to counteract, compulsive inclination to self-observation.” We can choose to hold onto our anger and resistance, or we can choose to let go. If we let go, we can begin to heal by shifting our focus to something or someone else. We can choose to shift from negative thoughts and negative situations to positive ones. In doing so, we regain control of our emotions and thoughts. Also, our imagination can also help us distract ourselves from certain potentially negative situations, or to de-reflect.
  7. Extend beyond yourself.
    • When we focus solely on ourselves an our own needs, we are being prisoners of our thoughts and our actions. When we spend our lives consumed with our own struggles and our own perspectives, we limit our ability to connect meaningfully with others. Self-transcendence – is going beyond our own needs and desires to truly care for others. These seven core principles the authors derived from Viktor Frankl’s system of Logotherapy and Existential Analysis provide insight into how we all can live more meaningful lives. The final few chapters go into what the authors call Meaningology. Which is defined as “the study and practice of meaning in life, work, and society.” The seven principles form a new paradigm called OPA.

O – connect meaningfully with others (O).
P – engage with deeper purpose (P).
A – embrace life with attitude (A).

In closing I would say the teachings of this book closely resembles the way Jesus Christ walked, not just talked. The authors are quick to quote Greek philosophy, and while I do agree with most of the teachings, I still can see the roots derived from the way God envisioned us to live on earth. Meaning is at the heart of what makes us human. Every situation and every human interaction, we can glean something from. After all, we are still learning to be human.

Why did I chose to read this book?
Once again, due to my greatest blessing, my loving wife, who told me about Viktor Frankl and his teachings. I walked past the book cart one day and saw a book that had Viktor Frankl’s name on it. And just as God would have it, he placed in my path, something that would help me in my pursuit to my personal growth.

What did I take from this book?
I learned a deeper understanding of how to live my life with meaning. The authors did a good job at explaining Viktor Frankl’s teaching on finding meaning in everything and the power to choose that is within me. Or as I like to say, I control the outcome. No matter the situation, good or bad, I will focus my energy on positive thoughts and attitude. I will use every situation to learn and grow from.

How will this book help me to prepare for success upon release?
Prison is a stifling place and it’s easy to be a prisoner of my own thoughts. It is very taxing on the mind and spirit. Emotions are stretched to the limit as I battle my demons. I will use these teachings to take control of my thoughts and use every situation as a means to learn. I am using this time to better myself, not letting the ‘time’ use me. I am solely responsible for how I respond and feel towards every situation. I am being refined into a new man, a new creation. I will not back down. I will not stop seeking redemption. I am fully committed to being a successful member of society. This book has helped me understand how to become a better husband to my wife, a better son to my parents (my dad and my in-laws), a better brother, a better uncle to my five nieces and nephew, God willing, a good father, and a valued member of the community.