Dr Stewart Hase - Psychologically Speaking

Searching for meaning? Adopt a porpoise today!

An acquaintance of mine in New Zealand heralds from the Bronx, in New York and who, despite 20 years in the land of the long white cloud, has a very strong accent. In our frequent walks together when I am working in Invercargill, he often talks philosophically and sometimes whimsically about having porpoise. I used to go back to my hotel thankfulthat on the occasions I had been around to his house for dinner that he had not served up sauted dolphin or dolphin fin soup. I quizzed him about this one day and, of course, he was not referring to some nasty eating habit but about having porpoise in life. Over the years, and particularly in my clinical work, I have increasingly become more aware of how important this simple phrase is.

In his book Mans Search for Meaning (the book was written in less enlightened times and I am sure man means both genders and all stations in between) Victor Frankl describes a personal experience that I have found truly inspirational at certain times in my life.Frankl was a psychiatrist and was writing a new theory of psychiatry to challenge the current Freudian dogma of the day. Caught up in Hitlers final solution his work was burnt and he was taken to a concentration camp deep in Europe. He was in four death camps , including Auschwitz, over a period of three years. Not wanting to lose his ideas Frankl wrote on little slips of paper which he hid in his coat. When that was eventually lost he wrote his book in his head. One day, dreadfully malnourished and ill, Frankl was trudging along a rough ground in the wet and thinking about how he was going to survive his dreadful plight. Out of the blue a fellow prisoner whispered to him that he was glad that his wife was not there to see what was happening. Frankl started to think of his wife and the love he felt for her. In his minds eye he spoke to her and she to him. Through all his dreadful experiencesFrankl kept this vision of his wife before him. Surviving even Auschwitz, Frankl eventually wrote over 30 books, developed his major theory and lived to be 92. His experience in the death camps taught him that the main thing that differentiated those that survived with those that didnt was that the survivors held on to purpose, meaning, vision.

I dont want to make the idea of happiness too simplistic but its become obvious to me that one of the main influencing factors in achieving it is, as my friend from the Bronx would say, porpoise. Adopt a porpoise today! I have a sneaking suspicion that the society we have created gets in the way of being able to find our porpoise. This society emphasises instant gratification, the quick fix, have it all and have it now, and the need for speed in almost everything we do. Work time is expanding in time as well as into our home and leisure lives so that we are inappropriately multi-tasking all the time. I meet a lot of people who are busy but not actually doing anything that makes much sense in terms of porpoise.

On the other side of the coin, of course, are those who, having given up busy lives that did have meaning, then cannot see any porpoise at all. And there are those who just have nothing to do and perhaps have never been able to experience meaning at any time in their lives.

So, whats your porpoises name? Whats your passion? What keeps you putting one foot in front of the other? It will be different for all of us. Is it fixing the environment, human rights, survival of the local hockey club, the love of family, writing, making a better world for the next generation, a sport?

Well, while you sort that one out, Im off to look for some porpoise in the river and maybe theyll lead me to some fish that I feel good about eating.


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