Many of the greatest lessons I have learned were realized after experiencing some degree of adversity. At the outset of each period of adversity I would feel sorry for myself, wonder how something like this could happen “to me,” and ruminate on how shitty the situation was. Yet I always dig out of it, after varying amounts of time I end up with a completely different perspective: deep gratitude for the experience and especially the people that played roles in it. It is a profound shift, let’s examine how that process takes place.
Here is an example of one such encounter with adversity.
About 5 or 6 years ago I was partying with friends in a “club” in NH (I use quotes because it was entirely sub par to those in Switzerland.) We had bought bottle service and a table. At the end of the night, a very early 1:30am compared to the 5am I grew accustomed to at university, I erroneously thought the bar was still open. It wasn’t, so I returned to my friends at the table. Abruptly, a 6′ 7″ bouncer came and told me I had to leave. I merely asked “why just me and not my friends?” upon which he began to use force, to which I did not resist. On the way out, he threw me down three steps into a wall. Once outside, he slammed me down onto the icy sidewalk – giving me a significant concussion. I told a nearby policeman in his cruiser about the incident, he said “I don’t have time for this” and sped off. The next day I went to the police station to file a report, I had eye witnesses and a hospital report. They didn’t even file the report because I was going back to school in Switzerland.
I felt completely helpless. I was angry at the whole situation, all sorts of thoughts were running through my head. I even thought about exacting some sort of revenge. Yet there was absolutely nothing I could do, and the police didn’t care about it – the one time I needed them.
For a few weeks I was ruminating about the whole experience, rerunning it through my mind and suspending those emotions in my mind and body. I couldn’t get over the feeling that I had been wronged, I didn’t want to accept the reality. I was stuck in the narrow perspective of victimhood.
In that perspective, the situation was unacceptable. So I began to expand my perspective and look at the experience from different angles. Each new angle brought greater insight. From an expanded perspective, I saw that the bouncer actually provided me with a gift: the opportunity to forgive him and overcome this traumatic experience, which taught me the power of forgiveness and the profound effect that a simple shift in perspective could have on my emotions and world view.
In particular, I was grateful for that feeling of utter helplessness because if this situation hadn’t occurred I would have never felt that way. In a sense it shattered my worldview, it changed how I thought about police and their role… and it showed me how vulnerable I was. Beyond gratitude, I went a step further and found love for that bouncer and what he did. This is the strongest form of forgiveness.
With love and gratitude for the experience, a huge burden was lifted from my emotional body. I felt more open, happy, and free. The situation no longer had any effect on me, I was fully past it with a more resilient mental and emotional outlook. All from a simple shift from “why me?” to “thank you.” Instead of questioning and resisting reality, I accepted it.
This is the key, we must accept reality. When we take things personally, we make a big deal out of things and suspend the pain and suffering in our psyche.
When we accept reality and extend gratitude for it, we naturally let go of that pain and suffering. As a result we actually gain a more resilient outlook on life!
When you experience adversity, by all means experience the low feelings for all that they are and for as long as you want. When you are ready to move past those emotions and relinquish your victimhood, search for the subtle gift of the experience and find both gratitude and love for it.
I’m Ben! I’m a travel-obsessed abstract thinker here to help you extract the hidden lessons behind your day-to-day experience.
Integrity Health is a franchise company residing in New Hampshire. We specialize in health coaching centers combining fitness with weight loss to optimize and promote optimal health. We are also the national purveyors of the EZCOACH Fitness Prescription System licensed by fitness professionals.