Freedom for the New Year


Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude….to choose one’s own way.

 —Viktor Frankl

You knew Senator John McCain as a superb blend of honor, dignity, and guts. In his book, Prisoners of Our Thoughts, psychologist Alex Pattakos tells us that McCain held the above quote in high regard.

Viktor Frankl, like McCain, was also a prisoner, but decades earlier and on the other side of the world, in the Nazi concentration camps. After he lost his family and survived the camps, Frankl founded a system of psychiatry based on attitude. He agrees with those who say that attitude is the control center from which our feelings and behavior flow. That’s good news for our parents, because they’re off the hook. Attitude is activated by a decision, not by what anyone else says or thinks.  Here are a few tips to help us make that decision:

  1. Start with the most obvious.  Ask yourself if you really believe attitude determines the course of your life, or that it’s just positive thinking palaver.  If the answer is “yes”… 
  2. Check out which thoughts hold you in prison. Are they about the eighty-six emails you’re facing, or about running late in rush hour traffic, or that your co-worker just morphed into a jerk? Then say slowly to yourself this phrase from A Course in Miracles, “I can see this differently.”
  3. Beware of your attitude toward your attitude. When the above tips seem impossible, forgive yourself. Shelve your concern while you cool down with a walk or a talk. Because it takes practice, shifting your attitude may still be difficult. While practicing, remind yourself that you are on the way to a freedom no one can take from you.