Have you ever felt so exhausted, broken, disillusioned, or helpless that you thought you couldn't go on? Have you felt on the edge of the precipice with no choice but to give up or hit bottom emotionally?
It happens to all of us, sometimes life gets pretty difficult. As much as we struggle, we don't see the light at the end of the tunnel, we feel trapped. But it is precisely when we go through these extreme situations that we discover our true strength. As a famous popular saying recalls: a calm sea never made an expert sailor.
The strength that comes from adversity
Maurice Vanderpol, former president of the Boston Psychoanalytic Society & Institute, analyzed one of the darkest chapters in human history: the Holocaust. He found that the victims who managed to get out of the concentration camps mentally healthy had something in common which he called a "plastic shield".
That shield was made up of several pieces, including a sense of humor, often a black humor which, however, helped them adopt a critical sense of perspective. Other central characteristics that helped these people overcome adversity were the ability to establish meaningful interpersonal bonds and the construction of an internal psychological space that protected them from violent intrusions.
Obviously, no one wants adversity to knock on his door. But sooner or later they will, so it's best to be prepared to deal with the problems and setbacks in the best possible way. In fact, when we try to avoid adversity, we also eliminate one of the most important ingredients to cultivate our resilience.
“Terrible things happen, but the way I respond defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to be stuck in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or overcome the pain and safeguard the most precious gift I have: life itself, ”says American writer Walter Anderson.
That is why, instead of avoiding adversity, we must embrace them, understand that they are a kind of essential fuel for cultivating inner strength. We don't have to like it. We don't have to enjoy it. But we must rely on their potential to turn a storm into a source of strength. The teaching that comes from adversity is the ideal breeding ground for making a qualitative leap in our life.
When we believe we have reached the limit, but continue to advance, we give ourselves a great lesson in courage that will become a solid pillar to support our lives. Not throwing in the towel today makes us stronger for future battles.
5 benefits you can get from adversity
We need to stop seeing adversity as an enemy and start seeing it simply as situations. Situations are not simply a place we find ourselves in or a circumstance we are going through, but they involve the way we assume those facts, as well as the thoughts and emotions that come to our minds and feel in that moment.
This means that every situation is a microcosm that includes, on the one hand, facts and, on the other, our reaction to what happens to us. Therefore, a change in one of these variables will lead us to a different situation, to another microcosm. Sometimes we can't change the facts, but we can change the way we react to them. And this is usually enough to get out of the situation that takes away psychological oxygen.
A good place to start is to take adversity as an opportunity to get to know each other better and enrich our baggage of psychological tools for life. To do this, we must understand that adversity:
1. They help us develop resilience. Resilience is not the product of a simple life but is forged in the most difficult circumstances, when we strive to move forward, despite everything and everyone. Each challenge we face and overcome strengthens our will and develops our ability to overcome obstacles that will appear in the future.
2. They strengthen our self-confidence. Overcoming adversity helps us sustain our inner strength. We are what we are because of the experiences we have lived and the way we have dealt with them. Successfully coping with adversity gives us the necessary self-confidence to overcome new problems without collapsing, with the certainty that we will succeed no matter what happens.
3. We learn to feel more comfortable in uncertainty. Adversity takes us out of our comfort zone, confronting us with uncertainty. This allows us to learn to manage the discomfort generated by uncertainty and the unknown, so that in the end our comfort zone will be wider and wider.
4. They allow us to discover our strengths. Edge situations can highlight our best abilities and strengths, qualities that otherwise would have remained in the shadows. Adversity encourages us to overcome our limits and discover a new "me". It is no coincidence that a study conducted at McGill University reveals the close relationship between resilience and self-awareness.
5. They stimulate unconditional acceptance. Adversity is inevitable, they are part of life. Resisting or denying them will only make them come back with an even more destructive force. That is why problems are an excellent opportunity to practice radical acceptance, to assume that there are things we cannot change but, even so, we can continue to live and even enjoy life.
We must not forget that adversity is one of the most powerful forces in life. They can bring out the best or the worst in us. The decision is ours.