Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit. ––Napoleon Hill

The word “gift” is probably the last word that comes to mind when one experiences adversity. Yet, how many times have you heard someone—a friend, a family member or perhaps even yourself—say something along the lines of  “at the time it was an awful and terrible experience but in retrospect, it was all for the best”? No one really manages to make it through life without facing a certain amount of adversity. The key really is learning how to cope with it, learn from the experience and grow.

I recently heard an interview on National Public Radio with Dr. Norman Rosenthal, best-selling author and psychiatrist. His new book is titled The Gift of Adversity: The Unexpected Benefits of Life’s Difficulties, Setbacks and Imperfections. Dr. Rosenthal talked about his personal experience dealing with an adverse situation that many, including myself, have faced in recent years—the loss of a job. Very few things can be as crushing to someone as losing their job. I never thought it would ever happen to me, but it did. I loved my work. I had always been that person who happily came into the office earlier than most and was often the last to leave. I had always been promoted to positions with more responsibilities in leadership and management and I welcomed the additional challenges. Then, one day, management changed and just like that my work was on the chopping block. In just a few minutes, one of the euphemisms (reduction in force, restructuring, realignment, etc.) was used to tell me that I was being laid-off and I no longer had a job. The sting was painful.

Now I can look back at the situation with grace and appreciation and see it was one of the best things that could have happened to me. Losing my job gave me the freedom to move on and explore new paths. I became an independent consultant and I enjoyed my new found time to pursue and explore interests that had long been neglected. I could reflect on what I thought was important, what would bring me happiness and prioritized accordingly. I had it all wrong before—work was no longer my priority. My husband and I decided to start a family and I now have a beautiful little boy who never ceases to take my breath away. I am thankful. This journey has been a blessing and my adversity, a gift.

Dr. Rosenthal spoke of the concept of Post Traumatic Growth that comes out of a new positive psychology. The goal is to try and understand the joyful and good aspects of human behavior. When asked how one can make post traumatic stress turn into post traumatic growth, Dr. Rosenthal offered the following tips that can help people take advantage of adversity:

  • Really accept the adversity that has happened. If you suffer a loss, try to deal with it head on, for what it is.  We often go into denial to ward off the painful feelings associated with the adversity. Instead, we should come to terms that it really has happened.
  • Analyze the situation. Every adversity is different and you must respond accordingly.
  • Create a narrative. Tell a story. A great way to analyze the confusing aspects of an adverse situation is to talk things through and tell a story, but the key is not to tell the story the same way each time. Every time you tell the story, see different things, find and explore different angles because that will mean you’re continually processing the adversity in new ways.

I hope you’re able to find the joyful aspects of any adversity that has come your way and incorporate gratitude into your everyday existence.

One other unexpected benefit I received from my experience was more time to challenge myself to write. After some nudging and encouragement from a friend, I decided to start this blog. Building the Petit World Citizen community has been a pleasure and I thank you for being a part of it and sharing this space with me. I very much appreciate those of you who follow this blog and comment, but I also appreciate those of you who don’t. I know you are there, reading and traveling along this journey with me. This gives me inspiration to continue. As always, if you have questions or topics you’d like for me to explore, please don’t hesitate to let me know. Feel free to comment below or contact me by email.

Merci,
Martine

4 thoughts on “The Gift of Adversity

  1. Dearest Martine,

    I had seen this blog but did not have the time to read it straight away. I then received the Chocolat blog and of course I had to go to that first!

    I was able to finally read this blog this past weekend. Thank you for sharing your heart.

    Since graduating from LLU in 2009, feeling fully equipped to take on therapy and faculty positions, I instead found that I was minimally qualified, not qualified, not selected . . . the list went on and on.

    I have been applying for many positions. My main objective has been to meet my school loan debts and so that we would have enough income to qualify for a house. Just this past week, Nathaniel asked, “Mom, have you heard anything yet about those jobs you applied to?”

    I answer, “No, not yet.”

    Nathaniel says, “Gosh Mom, you have degree–a doctor’s degree–and you can’t find a job? That’s very discouraging!”

    My youngest son echoes my frustration, disappointment, and sense of failure.

    As an employee of ESRI, Ricardo is being sent to do a project with the Veteran’s Hospital in Palo Alto, California. Before he can begin that project he has had to undergo a serious background check–even our neighbors are going to be interviewed in order for the V.A. to determine that Ricardo is qualified to access their databases. During one interview, an investigator asked where Ricardo lived and who was his landlord. He responded that it was LLU, to which the investigator said incredulously, “You’re staying in student housing?!”

    We remain here because of our debt load. We need a second income in order for us to move out. Thus, I feel shamed. A failure. Doubts have pounded my emotions and thoughts over the wisdom of pursuing a degree in marital and family therapy. Did I make a mistake? Should I have stuck with my original profession (teaching) and pursued a higher degree in that area? On and on it has gone.

    But something else has been afoot these past four years. God has not been idle. He has been busy answering my other prayers. (Although I would have preferred He answered these along with helping me find a full-time position) What other prayers? The prayers for inner change–although to be honest I wouldn’t have chosen this way to answer me! But God in His wisdom has slowly peeled away every piece of my pride in professional positions, income, and material possessions. He has unclenched my fists in wanting to control everything! Hyveth Williams once said, “when you really have nothing, you are no longer afraid.” And she was very correct. I am no longer afraid of losing anything. In this respect, I am very honest with myself, others, and my clients. I believe I am more genuine with people–more so, because all the veneers that once falsely covered me are no longer there to hide who I really am.

    Oh, don’t think that the “real” me has not had to be repaired, healed in many different ways. Too many to outline here. Suffice it to say that I am knowing peace every “skinny” minute (as you wonderfully put it) of every “fat” day.

    I have discovered that I love being a wife, mother, and grandmother. I love play! I never allowed myself the luxury of play. I learned that in losing fear in the areas above, I’m overcoming my fear in other areas as well. A few years ago, I finally learned to swim! I learned to play in the water!

    I love honest and genuine conversations. Perhaps this is why my clients find their own healing–because we have honest and genuine conversation.

    I found that I passionately love to write–my book is a lover who gives me a kind of passion that is a mix of hot, heavy orgasm and a warm, cozy bed. Incredibly exciting, yet satisfying and warm. How wonderful is that? What a discovery!

    My relationship with Ricardo has also grown and deepened. Being home most of the time these past four years has strengthened him as a husband. He’s now in charge of our finances. It’s been wonderful to see how he manages things. I ask myself, “How didn’t I see this before?” What took me so long to give up control so that I could enjoy being taken care of? What took me so long to find this kind of happiness?

    My relationship with my children has also changed. We talk, we exchange, we share jokes. We love to hug and share kisses. Yes, even at their age! It’s all because I’ve been home! Who knew?

    So, dear Friend, thank you for bringing this topic of adversity to light. Joel Osteen always said, “A setback is really a setup for God’s best for you!” I like to think this–even though it may not totally seem like it yet. But I can say, that if I died today, God did not leave an important stone unturned. He has faithfully been moving all the huge boulders in my life.

    Thank you also for providing Dr. Rosenthal’s book. I’m going to order it!

    Blessings and love! (BIG ONES!!) j.

    Date: Thu, 12 Sep 2013 17:43:36 +0000 To: jmmperez@hotmail.com

    1. Dear Josephine,

      Thank you for your personal, deep and heartfelt comment. Your husband, your children, your grandchildren and your clients are so lucky to have you in their lives. The unexpected benefit of peace and trust you now share with your family is so evident in the happiness that comes across in your writing. I truly am happy for you.

      I can understand your sense of frustration and disappointment in not being able to find a job, especially with a debt load. I have no answers, but I do know that you are not a failure. Your a successful wife, mother, grandmother, friend and therapist. All those mean a whole lot….

      I must say, your description of your book…well, I’ll just say, it seems to be quite a book! If it brings you that much pleasure, you better keep writing!

      Love to you! Keep writing, keep hoping, keep living the life you were meant to lead. And, please let me know how you like Dr. Rosenthal’s book!

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