Why Heroes Need Adversity
Known as one of the greatest political leaders of all time, few people associate the name of Abraham Lincoln with the notion of crippling depression. Although he triumphed in the Civil War, and in the excruciating battles that came along with it, it was perhaps in his internal battles that he struggled the most to be victorious. On more than one occasion, his depression nearly drove him to suicide.
Lincoln’s life was hard, and that is an understatement. He grew up in poverty, lost his mother when he was only a child, and experienced a variety of crushing defeats in his political career. On top of it all, his depression followed him everywhere he went.
Despite all these hardships, however, Lincoln came to see his adversity as a benefit; it shaped his character, and helped him prepare for greater things. He endured it all, and grew stronger because of it. It might just have been this, his personal adversities, that shaped him into the man who could lead a nation through its.
How To Deal With Adversity
Just like Lincoln, every hero needs adversity; they need something that calls out their potential to become stronger. And pain is often the very thing that ignites that spark.
Would Batman exist if the young Bruce hadn’t lost his parents? Or would Luke Skywalker had the strength to become a Jedi if his aunt and uncle hadn’t been murdered?
Tough questions, indeed.
But dealing with pain is even tougher.
To deal with pain is no easy matter; and to heal from it requires a whole lot from you and your social environment. Not every way of dealing with the pain is equally good; and if you choose to embrace it, then you better know what you’re doing.
When something bad happens, and pain enters your life, your brain has a tendency to want to integrate and make sense of the pain-related information (as to prevent it from ever happening again).
If, however, there’s too much new and painful information at once, then you won’t be able to interpret it based on your old assumptions about the world. As you’ve never dealt with something of this magnitude before, your brain can’t make sense of it, and the result is suffering.
Think of it like this: if you’re trying to locate a house with an outdated map, unknowing of the fact that the road to the house have since been blocked, you will suffer in the form of not finding your way.
This is the important part; the point where different ways of dealing with the pain diverge.
In order to heal properly, the new information must be accommodated. What this means, is that you have to reshape your world view in order to integrate and make room for the new information. If, on the other hand, you make no changes to your world view — and try to fit the pain with what you already know — then you’re setting yourself up for failure.
If you won’t come to terms with the pain, you’ll be expected to develop more rigid defense-mechanisms, and you’ll suffer even more the next time something bad happens.
To actually enable this process of accommodation, however, there’s three things that needs to be in place. Namely, Competence, Relatedness, and Autonomy.
- Competence refers to the ability to deal with the pain, and can be increased by reflecting and journaling on the problem, talking to someone about it, or read helpful information.
- Relatedness refers to the social environment and the support of others. A feeling of relatedness comes by when you dare to be vulnerable, and share what’s going on with others.
- Autonomy refers to the responsibility and freedom one has in one’s own life. If you can take active charge over where you are, and where you’re going in life, then you’ll be autonomous.
When all three requirements are in place, you’re not only likely to get through the pain, but you’re also likely to grow stronger because of it.
Through it, you’ll learn to develop yourself, become more appreciative of the good things in life, and find the proper answers to the existential questions that will undoubtedly enter your mind.
To heal properly is to receive an update to your system. And as Carl Jung said,
“There is no coming to consciousness without pain.”
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