The human spirit is more resilient than we realize. Challenges and setbacks are opportunities for growth—we can use them to our advantage. It all comes down to what we make of the situation.
Traumatic experiences can lead to positive growth. Do not define yourself by your MS; define yourself by what you can make out of the changes it has brought to your life. Positive growth can take many forms including:
- An increase in spirituality
- An increase in compassion for others
Part of being resilient is changing how one perceives adversity.
Changing one’s perception relies on developing insight: your ability to recognize your beliefs about the cause(s) of adversity, and to understand how that may affect your emotions and behavior. Once you have this insight, you can see things as they are. You can put adversity in perspective without being influenced by fear or other emotions. Then you can avoid catastrophic thinking and other unhelpful mindsets such as tunnel vision (focusing on just one aspect, rather than the whole picture, of a situation) or personalizing (attributing an adverse event to your own personality or actions).
Psychologists outline the process for changing your perception of adversity as ABCD:
- Adversity. Events in our lives that we can’t change
- Belief. Our interpretation of the event, including why we think it happened, and whether we think it’s temporary or permanent
- Consequence. How we act and feel as a result of the event or our belief
- Disputation. We acknowledge our belief as a belief (not a fact) and then challenge it by looking for other possible explanations
- Developing a “counterfact” — a new way of framing the event — can help us feel fortunate rather than helpless. To develop your counterfact, it may be helpful to pretend you’re arguing with a friend about it.
Here’s an example
of the ABCD process that may help you rethink your own adverse event.
diagnosed in 2003
“In my early 20s my family experienced a tragedy that was devastating. It caused me to reevaluate who I was. Relationships that I thought I understood, I didn't anymore. That was an experience that I think helped me become more resilient. It also was an experience that brought my mom, sisters and I closer together. That support network has been a huge help during and after my diagnosis with MS.”
diagnosed in 1997
“There's nothing like very nearly dying to really make you appreciate being alive. And today I literally wake up each morning and I am so happy to be alive. I think of all of the wonderful things that I can do that make-make life worth living.”
The theory of authentic happiness includes three different elements that we choose for their own sakes:
- Positive emotion: what we feel including pleasure, rapture, ecstasy, warmth, comfort, etc.
- Engagement: flow; being one with the whatever is going on at that moment, time stopping, and the loss of self-consciousness during an absorbing activity
- Meaning: belonging to and serving something that you believe is bigger than the self
What contributes to your authentic happiness? Take the authentic happiness assessment