The concept of unintended consequences is frequently discussed in terms of politics, world affairs, covert actions, war and peace etc. The US support of Afgan rebels against the Soviet Union most likely contributed to the rise and power of Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban. The reporting of ‘success rates’ of surgeons seems to lead to their reluctance to take on extremely ‘sick’ patients whose prognosis is grave. The success and achievements of modern medical technology [of course coupled by the avarice and overabundance of personal injury attorneys] has contributed to the attitude among the public that the death of any individual must and can be attributed to ‘medical malpractice’ of some sort.
The list is endless and amusing as well–the law protecting Americans with disabilities which has promoted the use of ramps where there are stairs has led to the proliferation of wheels on luggage. The fate of rhinos has been improved by the introduction of Viagra. This does not mean that they no longer have ‘wrinkles’, merely that their hunting for their presumed male potency enhancement has been mitigated.
But on a metaphysical level, unintended consequences can be a useful way to view our own life’s difficulties and challenges. Unhappy relationships that end may ultimately offer the opportunity for greater happiness for all concerned.
Personally, I have used times of disappointment, particularly in my medical career, to re-assess my status [re: employment or how I structure my practice] and have made favorable changes as a consequence.
Someone close to me is in the process of creating a new business model to address inequities and difficulties he experienced in the world of free-lancing. Without the pain of his experiences he would never have had the insight and motivation to undertake this change.
People suffering from health related problems may decide to alter their lifestyles as a consequence, people fired from a job may be forced to re-assess their goals and ultimately become motivated and more successful down the road.
It is a re-working of the belief that things happen for a reason. And perhaps they do. But just as powerful a consequence is the awareness that individuals can take control of a bad situation and become pro-active rather than passive victims.
This is a powerfully potent source of motivation, energy and even happiness. It can reverse a downward trend of disappointment, self-doubt and emotional and physical illness.
The truth of unintended consequences is that we can CHOOSE to derive meaning and motivation from episodes of suffering. It becomes a powerful force for healing.