harnessing adversity

the hidden power of adversity

Adversity gives us new direction if we are willing to “turn towards” it.

Adversity, pain and our being

Neuroscience has illuminated us with fascinating knowledge about our brain and how it functions.  It is now known that the main goal of the brain is to keep us safe and secure. The brain perceives as a threat the presence of a lion and those ideas and opinions that are totally different from ours. 

The brain does not like change

We wonder how as human beings, we are meant to overcome the resistant behavior towards adversity. I personally believe that we try to avoid pain, discomfort, adversity and change to a way too high degree. I am not saying that adversity and pain are enjoyable, but they are  part of life.  We try to select what we take and what we reject, and in the process, we block our paths to possibility. 

When we block certain experiences, in my opinion, we block growth. Besides, we all experience pain. We cannot help it.  So what we do is ignore it, sweep it under the carpet, suppress it, repress, get distracted…and with this, we put it all behind a locked door as a part of our being. Psychologists say we cannot repress selectively. We repress emotions, period, so while we repress pain, we also limit our ability to experience joy. And little by little, we lose touch with ourselves…What to do instead?

The luminous face of adversity

I have found through experience that adversity and her twin brother, pain, have been golden springboards for self-development, for the discovery of unknown strength, for the long due need to focus on overcoming weaknesses, and for bringing to light those areas of the self that were calling for integration.

I even think that after seasons of easy-going times, some adversity presents itself in my life to shake me up, so I won’t get rusty at the skill of living.  I know that somehow I attract it to halt my inertia and numbness that would spread all over me during good times. Yes, actually, the good and easy times may be numbing because we “get used” to the comfort and the non-challenging experiences. In a sense, we lose “muscle.” The sooner we understand this, the sooner we will be willing to embrace life as it is, with its different rhythms, cycles, seasons, and reasons.

Staring adversity in the eye

I want to reflect on the most recent adversity I have faced in my life: my divorce. Adversity may be unwanted, yet it may be chosen and agreed upon. What a paradox, right? We actually choose a route for a good reason, but the package brings along adversity. Adversity comes as an unwanted and most needed companion that will bring about challenges as we cross the threshold to a new horizon. Having been married for 31 years is quite a lifetime.  So I knew that the divorce would bring about some radical adjustments to be experienced as adversity. What is the essence of adversity actually?  I went to the dictionary and found a definition that blew my mind.  I found that the Latin origin of words always sheds light. Adversity comes from “adventure” to turn towards.

Turn towards…what?  In here lies the key. What were the adverse effects of my divorce? First and foremost, I felt the letting go of a dream that hadn’t materialized as I had expected/wanted – and that I never will – was hard. That brought me into mourning the loss. I allowed the sadness in as a friend to help me express my inner experience. Tears are so great! With each tear, a bit of the pain for the loss was released. Now I had awareness, with full knowledge of the connection to that ailing part of me. 

I knew that unless I completely let go of what couldn’t be, it would be very hard to cross to the other side and to a new chapter in my life.  I could only move forward, and for that, I had to let go of the past that was pulling me back. Another adversity was adjusting to living alone, something I had never done before.  From my family home I moved in with a friend in my late 20’s and from there with my husband.  At 61, I was about to have a brand new experience that most people have when they are 18, at least in the U.S. 

The whole idea didn’t scare me, but COVID hit, and at times, loneliness hit too.  It was a little too much altogether. I never had an issue being alone, but living alone meant adding a different twist. The last piece of the divorce puzzle was the financial independence I hadn’t had for a long time.  I had to battle the shadows that would assault me at times: scarcity needs not met, and limitations. Once more, COVID added its own adversity to the mix.

The last piece of divorce puzzle was the financial independence I hadn’t had for a long time

Turning towards

I see adversity as a tough corner to turn, after which we face the luminous direction. Unless we turn it, we won’t see the light. So making peace with the unfulfilled dream I had for my marriage let me look into a brilliant future, filled with new possibilities. Dare you let go of what is not serving the present? What you are holding onto is not safe anymore.  It will only hold you back from personal growth. The reality of living alone made me realize that the company of people is a treasure that I would have to reach out for whenever I longed for a shared experience and just being with someone. I always had that choice, as well as the choice of being alone, but not lonely.

I also turned to re-inventing myself in the arena of business and who I wanted to be in the world.  I started writing more – something I had been drawn to for some time – as a means of expressing my voice and my views, whether or not they found followers on the other end. This last turn made the adversity worthwhile and golden. I might have never been geared towards writing and creating online courses otherwise. I was in a comfortable place, so why push myself for more?

Now I love the ME that dared take the step. She is fresh, genuine, raw, creative and unique. I like what my voice has to say. I have grown.



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Maria Wilson
Bio: ICF (International Coach Federation) Certified Coach Associate Certified Pranic Healer. Passionate about human relationships- starting with oneself – as a key element in our quest for a meaningful and happy life.
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