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The story behind ‘negative happiness’

woman on mountain

I have recently explored the story of Viktor Frankl, neurologist, psychiatrist and the father of Logotherapy. This man formed his therapy and its existential tone due to his survival of the death camps during WWII. One phrase got my attention: “Negative Happiness.” When a friend showed him a picture of the prisoners in their huts, he saw happiness in their eyes, not sadness. People were always shocked to hear a Holocaust survivor say that the prisoners on the bunks in those pictures were “happy.”

Frankl’s view of Negative Happiness is about the absence of suffering. Horrible things occurred constantly in the death camps, but life was so much better when there was a break. Something as small as sitting, eating, slowing down and resting became sheer joy for those in the camp. His experience in the Nazi death camps changed his outlook on life forever, and in turn, can change you.

I am not comparing small hunger pains, aching/sore muscles and exercise fatigue to life in a Nazi death camp. I AM, however, encouraging you to pause and reflect on several important points while adopting the healthy lifestyle that Via Christi LIGHT encourages.

When you complete a difficult task like exercise; when you feel hungry; when you undergo a race or a new event, please remember Viktor Frankl. We can learn so much from a negative happiness outlook on our lives.

  1. Be grateful you can move, eat, exercise, be free and are able to choose a healthy lifestyle.
  2. Recognize the small aches and pains that you experience as evidence that you are working towards a healthy lifestyle. In comparison to others who have suffered much, growth pains are a good thing.
  3. Look, pay attention and be mindful of your negative happiness. When you finish the struggle, enjoy that moment. Enjoy the break. Enjoy the ceasing of the swimming, biking, lifting, walking or any task that you complete

When we finally stop our struggle, there is a moment of negative happiness that we can bask in!


About Tony Kubina LCP

Tony Kubina is a psychologist with the Via Christi LIGHT weight loss program in Manhattan, Kansas.