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Learning from Adversity

Reframing, acceptance and letting go are all mind sets and approaches we can use when faced with adversity. Life’s difficulties, however, are not just something to get over but they give us an opportunity to grow.

Difficulties are often seen as obstacles or problems we want to quickly overcome. Yet within adversity is the opportunity to learn valuable lessons about ourselves. It is in painful situations, where we gain a new perspective and purpose for life. If we hurry too quickly from one situation to another we can easily miss these important life lessons. Perhaps difficulties and obstacles are there for a reason.

Maybe your marriage has just ended or is on the rocks, or you have just been informed of a life-threatening or debilitating diagnosis for yourself or a member of your family, or your child has been born with major disabilities, or you have lost a valued friend through misunderstandings, etc.; whatever the circumstance, what we usually want is to quickly find a way out of painful and uncomfortable situations.

But it is exactly in that pain where we discover our need to become better listeners, discover inner strengths and allow our weaknesses to help us grow as we challenge old beliefs and ways of thinking. It is in difficult situations where we become resilient and have the opportunity to learn from grace and forgiveness.

Transitions not only get us from one stage of life to another but can raise old issues we have avoided. Transitions allow us to rethink old problems, pick up the bits and pieces of past failure and losses, and work through them.

There is a resistance to grow because we are often forced to face some uncomfortable truths about ourselves. With change comes the urge to put up “self” roadblocks – a resistance to dig deeper. However, we can go on repeating failed patterns of behavior, or we can use that “neutral zone” to get started on some major personal growth work.

Write a letter to yourself.

Dear. . . (Put in your name.) In the letter, list the obstacles that you believe are keeping you tied to your past or keeping you from doing what you want in the present. What unfinished business from your past is keeping you locked in the same unproductive cycles? What personal resistance is keeping you from becoming more honest with yourself?

Now draw a floor plan of your house as a child. Write down events that contribute to your current feelings. What brings up pain? What gave you joy and pleasure? What triggers anger? What grievances or regrets have you been dragging with you? What misunderstandings and hurts keep you stuck today?

This is an exercise to learn more about your self – not to place blame on circumstances or others.

©2012 Marlene Anderson, MA, LMHC, NCC

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