Cultivate the ability to face any adversity or traumatic incident in life

Anytime during our journey, life can become painful, even cruel. Things just happens. There are no
explanations behind many events. ‘Why me’, ‘Do I really deserve this in life’, ‘Why God has been so unfair to
me’, are some of the questions that automatically arise, having no convincing answer. Uncertainty and
randomness prevail in life. We are where we are in life because of randomness and the decisions and choices
that we made in the past. We can exercise control over our inner world i.e. the mind and not on the external
world, the people, the circumstances and the events. Therefore, we must realize that adversities are the integral
part of our life’s journey. Despite our best efforts and intentions, they may arise without warning. Therefore, we
need to accept as the life is presented to us.  
Like, we are travelling for a destination with family on a vehicle. Suddenly someone hit the vehicle and killed the
dearest family member. Similarly, life can turn cruel. Many a times, we may commit a mistake or an error of
judgment, which can result in devastating outcome. Such adversity can break some person, while many others
can come out successfully from those challenging time. It all depends on how we face such adversity. How have
we prepared ourselves to handle such kind of unprecedented and traumatic events? No one can prescribe any
formula for such incidents. However, the following 4 things can certainty make us better equipped to handle any
incident which can cause acute emotional and psychological distress.
Be Stoic: The Roman philosopher, Epictetus, the founder of Stoicism, had very correctly remarked that, “For
good or for ill, life and nature are governed by laws that we can’t change. The quicker we accept this, the more
tranquil we can be”. We must accept our limitations in controlling the external surroundings. The things which
are beyond are control must not be the source of our trauma. Similarly, we should remember that “whatever
has happened, has happened, and things would have happened in any other way”. We should accept those
things wholeheartedly. Stoic, believers of Stoicism, also feel that we should prepare ourselves by visualizing
negative outcome. Things can turn worst anytime, so prepare for the worst. This is called negative
visualization.
Control the negative stream of thoughts: With any adversity or trauma, comes a continuous stream of
negative and distressing thoughts. If we don’t handle those thoughts carefully then thy may lead even lead to
mental health problems. If we try to suppress those thoughts then same set of thoughts would come more
frequently and intensively. In that case, we get trapped to toxic and distressing thoughts.
Due to strong identification with mind, we don’t know when we overthink. It’s common that people get
depressed or overwhelmed under such circumstances. Some can even go to the extent of committing suicide
in the event of extreme situation of hopelessness. People lose hope without realizing that time is the biggest
healer. We should therefore accept the incident as God’s Will and left to time to heal the wounds.
Be mentally tough and resilient: Mental toughness means the ability to perform under adversity. In recent
times, this quality of mind has received attention as we are working more and more under stressful
environment. In fact, this term initially came from sports, where it’s used for athletes. To succeed as an athlete,
it’s the primary requirement. It’s widely believed that success of sports personalities largely depends on their
mental toughness. Resilience is extremely important during adverse situations. When we are mentally tough,
we act mindfully with resilience, perseverance, and determination.
According to American Psychological Association, mental resilience means, ‘adapting well in the face of
adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or even significant sources of stress’. How easily and smartly we get
adapted to such situations is the key to become ‘a mentally tough’ person. More rigid we are during adversity,
greater are the chances to break under severe mental stress. Mental toughness allows us to adapt and
succeed under difficult conditions. How early and easily we recover back from any adversity or traumatic event,
to a large extent, depends on toughness of our metal ability.

Be like Bamboo: Bamboos are known for their strength as well as flexibility and resilience. Like bamboos, we
should also be strong and easily adaptable to new life’s conditions whenever the need arises. Bamboos can
withstand any strong windy situation. They just bend under wind pressure but then revert back to straight
position when storm eases. There is a famous quote of Bruce Lee, ‘“Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily
cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind.”
Like bamboos, we should stand tall and straight but flexible enough to withstand any outside pressure. Under
challenging times, we need to act strongly but at the same time flexible and adaptable. There is also saying
worth quoting that, ‘Bamboo is flexible, bending with the wind but never breaking, capable of adapting to any
circumstance. It suggests resilience, meaning that we have the ability to bounce back even from the most
difficult times. We should believe in our own capabilities and be confident under any adversity we may come
across. We should never be rigid in our beliefs.
‘This too shall pass’: Abraham Lincoln is remembered as one of the greatest presidents in US history. It is said
that one of his favourite sayings, which he would repeat to himself during the bad days, was “This too shall
pass.” This simple and small quote can be applied in any troubling situation. It can give us hope and strength
both. Whatever may be the adversity, eventuality that time would also pass.
Be mindful and awake: It’s very natural that under distressing and adverse circumstances, we will be
overpowered by emotions. We usually react impulsively. We don’t think consciously and with cool mind. So, we
tend to act and react in our own habitual and conditioned way. What’s required on those moments is to be
aware, fully conscious and mindful to the emerging situations. We suffer acutely after the incident because we
keep on interpreting and analysing the incident in many different ways. We keep on ruminating and worrying
over the incident. Don’t present on the moments at hand. We are not mindful. We can reduce our suffering and
distress if we try to remain mindful. Mindfulness is the way to cultivate and strengthen the ability to be mindful.
Take away: There is a famous quote of Seneca, the Roman Stoic philosopher, “Look around you at all the
throng of those you know and those you do not, you will find everywhere men whose sufferings have been
greater; legend has not granted exemption from misfortune even to the gods”. Seneca wrote this about 2000
years back. These words give great consolation in the time of adversity. If we look around us, we will find
people who have faced far more cruelty, greater trauma or severe adversity in the life and came out with
greater strength. We should try to remember that adversities give us opportunity to evolve and grow to the
higher level.

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