Adversity in life doesn’t always make you more mentally resilient. Resilience has become a popular buzzword in recent years. However, this has also resulted in our understanding of how it works being quite far from the truth.
Not everyone who goes through difficult times automatically becomes more competent as a result. Because far more often these adversities will pull you down and keep you from living happily and fulfillingly.
We are literally living in an age of transformation. Perhaps that is also the reason why optimism and positivity no longer work for many people the way they used to. The classic “Always look on the bright side of life” , which the actors in the movie The Life of Brian sang, sounds almost hollow these days.
Because right now you have to deal with the problems and risks you face today. You can’t just turn away and think “everything will be fine, this will only make me stronger”. That is no longer enough. Because now it is time to create space for new possibilities, to learn to deal with adversity, negative emotions and the less friendly side of life.
Resilience exists, but you don’t get it automatically. Because it doesn’t just activate itself and it doesn’t always show up when you need it most. This is why it is so important to understand how this valuable psychological resource works.
Adversity doesn’t always make you more mentally resilient, but you can learn from it
We have become used to rating experiences (and emotions) as “good” or “bad”. As a result, many people have become intolerant of all of those things that fall into the latter category. And it’s easy to see why that is. Because ultimately we prefer stability, complacency, harmony, pleasure and balance.
But when unexpected things happen, the multitude of problems and difficult situations, no matter what kind, lead to a mental block. If you don’t have the psychological tools to weather this storm, then all you are left with is gasping for air.
Adversity doesn’t always make you more psychologically resilient because not everyone knows how to activate resilience. In addition, sometimes you find yourself in such a difficult situation that you may not even be able to overcome. Let us now deal with that in a little more detail.
Resilience does not mean dealing with adversity, but rather using it for navigation
A lighthouse metaphor is often used when people talk about resilience. Imagine a lighthouse on the coast of a stormy sea, the waves crashing violently on its walls. But the lighthouse doesn’t move. No matter how strong the wind blows and how violent the storm rages, the lighthouse remains standing.
While this is a nice metaphor, it is not really accurate. A much more helpful, if not as poetic and inspiring, metaphor is a buoy. It looks something like this:
- Instead of fighting the waves (which represent the adversity), you have to move with them. Like a buoy floating on the surface of the water.
- Your mental clarity and temperance keep you afloat and enable you to weather the storm.
- The key is to have something that will anchor you in the ground.
- And this inner anchor is formed by your thoughts, attitudes and behaviors. They help you stay firmly anchored when life does everything it can to throw you into stormy waters.
Adversity doesn’t always make you more resilient because this process takes time
Adversity doesn’t always make you more resilient. Sometimes hard times are just hard times. They throw you on the ground for a while and then they are over without teaching you a specific lesson. In addition, there are other times when you cannot activate your resilience because you do not have the necessary coping mechanisms.
- Sometimes you just feel lost in the face of adversity. And that’s more normal than you might think.
- If it weren’t for that, we wouldn’t need psychologists, psychiatrists, and mental health experts. You are not a superhero and not a lighthouse that can defy even the most violent storms unscathed. Because you are human. And people can fall.
- If you need help from experts who can give you the tools to help you deal with your problems, that’s perfectly normal.
Some people shoulder any burden and make the most of the challenges, and others just survive them
Adversity doesn’t automatically make you more mentally resilient, that’s for sure. However, it is also clear that the result strongly depends on each individual person. Some people have a natural ability to deal with difficult circumstances. And not only that. Not only do you master them, you turn them into new opportunities. Other people, on the other hand, manage to survive such situations, but that’s about it. They stay afloat and on course, but they don’t “make the most of it”.
We want to make one thing clear: Both reactions are equally valid and admirable. Ultimately, the goal in difficult moments in life is to survive them in good physical and mental health. If you can do that, you have been successful.
Some people cross this threshold and also have new tools and experiences in their backpacks. Others will just be relieved that they have overcome the dark ages and can start over.
No matter what category you belong to, you should always be proud of your efforts. The most important thing is that you do not stop setting yourself new goals and continue to walk towards the promising horizon full of hope.