Thursday, September 24, 2009


Fantastic discussion today, thanks to the willingness of class members to share their own stories and challenges. Turns out we moved beyond chapter 7 ("The Uses of Adversity") prematurely, Tobi's question about focus in the present brought us back to it.

Childhood disease or abuse, traumatic stress in the theater of war that then threatens to disturb the peace (your own, and that of the people you love), human brutality towards fellow humans who happen to be vulnerable because young or weak, mental illness, respiratory failure... the sources of adversity in life are practically endless, and it can sound heartless to tell the victim to buck up and move ahead. "That's life." Right. But that doesn't make it easy.

But of course, we have no happy alternative to re-gathering our resources, concentrating our force as will and ability allow, and moving forward as best we can. It's made a lot easier when your fellow humans sympathize and lend support. Even just moral support.

Here's a positive point Haidt makes about one of the useful strategies available to us all: if you can't bring yourself to talk it out---or even if you can-- write it down. "You have to use words, and the words have to help you create a meaningful story. If you can write such a story you can reap the benefits of reappraisal... even years after an event. You can close a chapter of your life that was still open, still affecting your thoughts and preventing you from moving on with the larger narrative. Anyone, therefore, can benefit from adversity..."

But after all, "major adversity is unlikely to have many-- or perhaps any-- beneficial effects for children."

Which is not to say that you shouldn't always look for silver linings. But wouldn't it be nice if we could eliminate more of those ugly black clouds in the first place?

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