Several blog postings in November 2008 dealt with the topic of overcoming adversity.
I discussed the challenges that confront each and every human being and suggested that our attitudes regarding these difficulties is crucial in order to 'overcome' them. It is preferable to regard them as necessary, expected opportunities to challenge our soul's growth and development. From a metaphysical perspective, overcoming adversity may be the reason for our existence in the first place.
I also discussed how adversity leads to a re-evaluation of our values–how materialism and constant striving for money, power, prestige becomes less desirable or even achievable. Instead, our personal relationships, our physical, emotional and spiritual well-being become foremost.
Adversity and suffering can also make us more humble and more compassionate of our fellow man. We can share in life's traumas and by doing so, mutually heal.
A necessary component to healing through adversity, of learning to view stress as necessary and even useful, is to understand the need to exercise control over chaos.
Chaos is like free-fall. It is the ultimate source of intense anxiety and panic. They feeling that you have no idea what is happening, no idea what to do next can be disruptive and dangerous.
A recent NEWSWEEK article on stress emphasizes this point. Making an effort to exert control over extremely stressful situations is first step towards regaining one's equilibrium and being able to move forward.
For my patients who receive a terrible diagnosis such as cancer, I advise them to only think about the next step. Our tendency when problems hit is to project into a future which may appear desperate and bleak. To do so, to worry about future tragedy merely adds to the paralysis.
I suggest to everyone facing sudden unexpected adversity–whether an upsetting medical diagnosis, a firing at work, a notice of foreclosure, a troubling report about a child or loved-one—plan something proactive for the next moment.
Do something that will attempt to control the chaos. Immediately take action, even if it is placing phone calls, scanning the internet, making lists of your immediate plans, discussing the problem with trusted friends. This action may not even be ultimately productive. But it will be incredibly important. It will signal the universe, and more importantly you, that you are not prepared to give in or succumb to the chaos that surrounds you.
Being active sets the tone for your own perspective on yourself. Do you fall into a state of helpless panic, seek drugs or alcohol to lessen your panic ? Or do you make it clear to yourself and all others, that you won't go down without a fight.
This approach is actually self-fulfilling. Being optimistic, upbeat will charge you with the energy you need to make something positive develop from the chaos you are facing. Seeking to reign in the chaos sets you on the right path to overcoming adversity.