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Seeing the benefits in adversity

It can be hard to get that when you’ve hit difficult times there’s very likely something in it all that you’ll benefit from long-term. Of course it can seem like a wind-up likely to be met with expletives. However, in all that might be going on, there might be some insight or learning that you need to get, maybe one you’ve not got till now, and which will prove a major gain for you in some way. The trouble is that this can be very hard to see at the time.

When difficult times come, what we can so easily do is focus in on the difficulty. From a pain/pleasure perspective, we want to avoid the pain and get more pleasure. So we’re struggling to avoid something. We’re also likely to want to restore the old situation, which is presumed to be OK in some way, even though things are probably changing and we can’t have it back. So we’re likely to be grieving for what we’ve lost. In what is called the Change Curve, we first have to feel the pain, reach the “pits” and find a way to accept what has happened, what the lessons are and what the new way forward is, before building the new life. There’s probably a letting go somewhere too. Many people are unable to make this transition and stay stuck somewhere before acceptance, for example feeling upset, angry or depressed about what has happened or attached to the old ways. The adversity may go on a long time and we need to find the endurance to see it through, even when we can’t see the end point. People can so easily give up along the way. There may be false dawns, when it looks like it’s working out but then things fall back to the default phase of difficulty.

People who have lost their job and have found it has taken them a long time to get back on their feet will know this one, as might people who have had business or financial difficulty or a major illness or bereavement or a disaster, among some typical examples.

It can be as though the hardship itself obscures the awarenes, the insight into the situation that’s needed for learning to take place. Energy is more invested in survival than creativity. However, many who’ve written about these situations say that it is when we start to make choices about we will manage the situation and ourselves that’s different that we start to make the learnings. Many would probably say it’s when we “take responsibility” in effect. We start to apply our will to what’s happening. Determination gets involved. It’s like we decide we’re going to deal with things differently. This too can be a “false dawn” and we can slide back, but if the process is repeated and we are able once again to re-focus, we find the inner strength and will to move forward.

What that is varies massively but I would say that this is where the benefit can truly come, when we find our own way forward, our own coping mechanism, and our own ideas about what we can do, and start to implement them. What has so often struck me is that there’s some very important personal insight involved, about how we operate as persons, how we think and feel, our patterns and attitudes, how we do things, something that needs to change or be done differently. If we make this learning, which is all about self-awareness, we are somehow stronger and wiser for it, perhaps even a breakthrough that can be life-changing and life-enhancing.