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Adversity can help us get stronger

It seems that some of us, perhaps particularly those with a tendency towards anxiety, spend our lives trying to minimise the chance that bad things will happen. We try as hard as we can to manage our fear that in fact things can go wrong by putting in place imaginary protection – live invisible force fields. We delude ourselves that by making sure everything is ordered and perfect we can somehow inoculate ourselves from the ills that seem to befall the rest of the world.
Shanghai night field

Yet sometimes much of the investment we make in time and energy is largely for nought because, of course, bad things do happen and the fact is that we have little control over that. Mental health workers are also now better at understanding that when bad things happening, besides being unpreventable, it doesn’t necessarily lead a person to having a devastated life.

Yes, there are those who have experienced so manydifficult events that they are knocked over by the relentless waves of misfortune and find it difficult to get their feet. But there is also some evidence that some level of pain in our lives, some experience of suffering is in fact good for our resilience, akin to a vaccination’s impact upon our psychological immune response.Perhaps a small amount of pain and suffering activates our systems so that we are inoculated with strategies and coping the next time something goes wrong. We can better learn how to think, and act, and manage our way through adversity. And we also learn that we can survive. We can be OK.

In her TED talk, human resource consultant Regina Hartley, mentioned how in her research and experience it can be those who have experienced adversity and suffering that have the resourcefulness to deal with the difficulties life may bring them. She suggests when interviewing people for a position of employment, rather than choosing the person who has achieved but not suffered, versus ‘the scrapper’ (in her words), who has overcome adversity to achieve the same academic success, to choose ‘the scrapper’. Choose the person who will have developed the skills and the mindset, the perseverance and the perspective that they will need to get through the tough times of any employment. Choose the person who has already been vaccinated by life’sexperiences.

Tarnya Davis is a clinical and forensic psychologist and principal of NewPsych Psychologists (4926 5005). Her book, All Things Considered, is available attheherald上海龙凤论坛m.au.

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