How is it that some people can rise above severe adversity while others crumble in the face of adversity. Further, what can we learn from those with the fortitude to rise above “this momentary affliction”?
When we get to brass tacks, it seems that there is something which reaches beyond the current state of affairs and peripheral influence. We all know of, people who have gone through horrendous situations and yet manage to remain positive. These individuals can rise above and constantly move forward. People like Viktor Frankl a holocaust survivor who went on to offer more to the world of psychotherapy then most others. And yet, on the other side of the coin there are the multitudes which drown in eternal disenchantment and hopelessness.
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom” Viktor Frankl
When I have gone through the darkest times in my life it is examples like Viktor Frankl, Paul and Job that I keep going back to and which help me stay above the situation. And yet, there are other times when I have fallen prey to my circumstances. These two diametrically opposed outcomes have prompted me to consider what information exists which can allow us to be more consistent with the positive. More to the point how can we consistently allow ourselves to live in the meaningful and joyful regardless of the external inputs around us.
I propose that we can rise above our difficult situations and we can become better, by first distinguishing and accepting that we are not victims! Rather we are the architects of our lives and active participants.
What follows below are three simple reminders, given as much to you as to me.
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Viktor Frankl
“In a person who is open to experience each stimulus is freely relayed through the nervous system, without being distorted by any process of defensiveness.” Carl Rogers
Find your Purpose
“If you want to identify me, ask me not where I live, or what I like to eat, or how I comb my hair, but ask me what I am living for, in detail, ask me what I think is keeping me from living fully for the thing I want to live for.” Thomas Merton
Identifying your purpose in life, that thing you live for, will help you to stay the path when everything around you is falling apart. It doesn’t have to be huge or amazing either. Although having an overarching purpose is important and can be life defining, it is okay to step back and realize that simple things can offer purpose as well. In the throes of war, for that moment, purpose may be defined as simply being there to encourage a loved one. Overall, by purpose in this context we are speaking to living for something outside of ourselves.
Realize you are human
"The real problem is not whether machines think but whether men do".-B.F. Skinner
You are not a machine. You are human. You have feelings, thoughts, emotions. Grant yourself permission to live in those feelings, thoughts and emotions. Positive and negative emotions are not inherently good or evil. Restricting one or the other will by contrast impede the other. We are, as human’s two sides of a coin. When we learn to accept and embrace both side we will flow into authenticity. This authenticity and flow of feeling will allow to begin to accept the side of the coin which will eventually lead to a more positive outcome.
Choose wisely but choose
“Attitude is a choice. Happiness is a choice. Optimism is a choice. Kindness is a choice. Giving is a choice. Respect is a choice. Whatever choice you make, makes you. Choose wisely.” Roy Bennett
Throughout the course of your day you make thousands of choices you may not even be aware of. This isn’t a lack of control, it’s the way we are built. In these choices you have opportunity. To hold your head high or to slump your shoulders and downcast. To look for the right side of the coin or accept the negative side. To learn from mistakes or be crushed under the weight of them. To forgive or hold on to anger or resentment.
When the night has been its darkest even a cloudy morning is a gainful site and appears as bright and shining as any sunrise ever seen. With each passing adversity, we can grow; we can rise above; we can learn that we are capable of more than we ever knew we had in us. In these three points, when followed, we shall find a strength we never knew we had. For while it may be easier to play the victim it is not the path that you were born to walk.
“Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives—Choice, not chance, determines your destiny.” Aristotle