Wednesday, 11 June 2014 12:02

Understanding Adversity Featured

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Adversity is defined as the obstacles, barriers, mountains, upsets, challenges, setbacks, afflictions, bad luck, calamities, disaster, misery, catastrophes, distress, hardship, ill-fortune, misfortune, woe, mishaps, sorrow, suffering, trials and troubles that we face in our lives. Adversity is the state

of hardship or misfortune. It can be both small and huge events in our lives.

The following can constitute an adversity in our lives like a broken cup or plate in the kitchen, a punctured car tyre, a sprained ankle playing tennis or football, missing the last bus home, losing your door keys or locking the keys in the car, discovering that you have left your money at home when you come to pay at the supermarket checkout, a burst pipe flooding your home, or coming home and finding you have been burgled. It could even be a boss stressing you in the office or a colleague making your life miserable.

Adversity is around us all the time, but it is the way we respond to it that determines if we are to succeed or fail in life. Your reaction to adversity affects your overall emotional and physical health. Adversity can cause the often apparent, mechanical reactions of depression and hopelessness. Dealing with, and responding to life adverse situations will cause you to have pressure and stress which result in possible psychological problems. And the pressures of life and the related stress, affect the blood pressure, cholesterol levels and the possibilities of heart attack. Adversity can also weaken your immune system, making you more susceptible to disease and illnesses. People who are optimistic live a healthier life than pessimistic people, because their attitude of mind and positive outlook on life means that they face and overcome the adverse situations with less stress.

I was reading the BBC column from Lewis Hamilton and he agreed that he thrives well under pressure. The truth is adversity can be our greatest motivation for spiritual growth or our deadliest means of discouragement - the difference is in understanding God’s purposes through adversity. It is important to know why it comes to our lives and how to respond to it. The biggest word here is ‘respond.’ When faced with adversity do you react to it or you respond to it? Your action will determine the final outcome. You cannot change the event but how you act towards the event will determine the kind, type and nature of the outcome you will get out from the event.

The ability to effectively respond to and overcome adversity, will not only reduce the effect it has on your physical and emotional health, it will enhance your performance, which will be seen in a greater focus, increased productivity and you will feel more creative. Less time will be spent blaming yourself and getting depressed and there will be a noticeable increase in the speed of recovery from the challenges and setbacks that you experience.

You will have a feeling of being in control and will have a constructive approach to how you address the challenges that you encounter each day. You now have more energy and a feeling of empowerment. And over time it will mean that you will have improved health. We should not be concerned about, or live in fear of Adversity. Instead we should welcome it as an opportunity to succeed. The people that experience fulfilment in their lives have had to endure many of the same adverse situations, but because they have a love of life, have had inspirational ideas and had faith in the outcome of their endeavours, they have overcome these adversities. The ability to transform adversity into a challenge or opportunity is one of the traits that are a virtue of mankind.

The truth is adversity is not something you can be prepared for until it is now and there. The best way to prepare for any kind of adversity is to be mentally strong, staying positive with a positive mind-set and training yourself to see the good in every situation.

When you are faced with a situation that you cannot change the event, there is no need wasting energy crying and blaming. There is no need crying over spilled milk. You need to invest your energy at this stage in what will work and not the event you are not in control of. The event has already happened. You need to learn from it so it doesn’t happen again and now you must equip yourself to respond to the situation. So don’t waste your time getting upset about the past that is no longer in your control.

Facing difficult challenges and overcoming them builds self-confidence, teaches self-control and tends to foster an attitude of conscientiousness towards others, who may also face difficulties. Adversity, painful and something we all hope to avoid but inevitable to avoid because it is part of being alive, can have a positive impact on our character.  We acquire qualities such as persistence, self-control, conscientiousness, self-confidence and curiosity from experiences with adversity.

When you are physically abused as a child, repetitively belittled abuse constantly, your body releases stress hormones.  These hormones physically damage a child’s developing brain. Too much stress leaves children hyper-vigilant, unable to focus and, as a result, unable to learn. These adverse childhood experiences can be quite pervasive and don’t contribute to success, but rather lead to mental health problems such as depression and anxiety, behavioural problems such as substance abuse, criminal behaviour and self-injury and physical health problems, such as STDs, cancer, heart disease, chronic lung disease, diabetes.

The good news is that our brains are capable of changing, growing and learning throughout our lives.  Counteracting and retraining the brain is not easy, but some treatments, such as mindfulness training and DBT have proved effective in helping people change emotion, behaviour and, in some cases, pathways in the brain.

Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) is a therapy designed to help people change patterns of behaviour that are not effective, such as self-harm, suicidal thinking and substance abuse. This approach works towards helping people increase their emotional and cognitive regulation by learning about the triggers that lead to reactive states and helping to assess with coping skills to apply in the sequence of events, thoughts, feelings and behaviours that lead to the undesired behaviour. DBT assumes that people are doing the best that they can, but either are lacking the skills or are influenced by positive or negative reinforcement that interfere with one’s functioning.

When an individual or child is faced with overwhelming adversity or significant life challenges over which they have no control, they don’t learn self-control, nor do they learn persistence.  Instead, they are more likely to learn helplessness or hopelessness. Abuse or experiencing multiple crisis that occur one after the next without time for recovery are two examples of overwhelming adversity that can impact those personality traits connected with life success.

Remember it is not the adversity here that is the problem but how you deal with it matters more than the adversity itself. Understanding the beauty of adversity can help us flourish and thrive in the midst of trouble. It is the foundational hope that God makes all things beautiful in His time, which works as an anchor to our soul, to carry us across the finish line of victory.  As much as we all hate it, resist it and do everything we can to avoid it, adversity works beautiful things within us. Looking for the positive in every circumstance gives you the power to turn the adversity into a challenge and in a challenge you find a silver lining, a miracle and a breakthrough.

Right at this moment you might be experiencing an adversity in your life. In the 2014 FA cup final within five minutes Arsenal FC was two goals down. The history was not in their favour. The first FA Cup competition in season 1871-72 had fifteen entries. That is about 142 years ago. On record it was only one team that has been two goals down and come back to win in 1966 and that was Everton, Merseyside’s against Sheffield Wednesday and this is a record 48 years ago. So Arsenal FC was having an adversity within 8 minutes of the game. Before half time they claimed back one goal.

Mikel Arteta captained the Arsenal Team and after the match when he was interviewed by the television crew he said something very interesting which I believe will help us all when faced with adversity. Mikel Arteta says Arsène Wenger’s half-time team talk help turn the FA Cup final in Arsenal’s favour. The manager’s speech at half-time was brilliant,” the Spaniard told Arsenal Player. “[He told us] to keep believing in how we should do it and keep performing. “He told us to stay calm. We had done the most difficult thing, which was to score the first one [after going two down] so now the game was open, we had plenty of time to do it, and we could not rush it. It was brilliant, I think the lads continued to play and we showed a lot of experience and composure. I’m really happy, it’s a happy day.

Next time you are faced with adversity and it looks like nothing is working for you, my advice is the same:

1.    Keep believing
2.    Keep performing
3.    Stay Calm
4.    Don’t be in a rush

The main issue is not about the adversity itself but how we handle and cope with it. Every problem in life can be described as adversity however it’s how we look at these obstacles that makes like easier. If you have the ability to turn adversity into a challenge instead of becoming depressed every time something goes wrong, the smaller problems in life won’t be a problem at all and the larger problems will be easier to deal with.


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