Reality Check: Adversity: Can Thinking Help?

Nothing’s really bad or good, but thinking makes it so. Did Shakespeare get it right?

Sooner or later, most of us face adversity. For some types of adversity, we have control over whether the result is a huge disruption or a minor glitch. How? Perhaps it’s in how we think about the adversity.

Jennifer’s husband has finally been accepted into a training program at work. If he succeeds, he will have expanded opportunities, more job security, and ultimately, a bigger paycheque. It’s all good.

Jennifer is pleased. She knows how hard he’s worked for this opportunity and how much it means for him to be able to better support their family.

Jennifer also sees some difficult times ahead. Her husband will be spending considerable time away from home. Studying and learning new skills will be stressful for him. She’ll be left on her own for weeks at a time with their young children.

Does the way you think about your situation make a difference? Let’s examine some of Jennifer’s choices.

On the one hand, Jennifer can choose to think about her husband’s upcoming absences negatively. She can think about how she can’t handle being on her own. What if the car breaks down? What if the children get sick? How will she handle the lawn-mowing, the garbage, all the tasks that her husband does? These thoughts may well be followed by feelings of anxiety, apprehension, and resentment.

On the other hand, Jennifer can choose to think about the absences positively. She managed fine alone before she married. Granted, she has new responsibilities (children) now, but she also has additional resources—in-laws and friends with children. She has considered how to handle what might come up. If the car breaks down, she can call the garage (essentially what her husband would do anyway.) If the lawn needs mowing and she can’t do it, she can pay someone. These thoughts may well be followed by feelings of competence, resilience, and connection with others.

Jennifer could even go further and choose to think about this time as an opportunity. She could plan activities with her children that they would not normally do. They could change their routines, play games, do crafts, make new meals together. They could create new habits, such as Skyping with daddy every evening or writing to him every day to keep him connected to the family.

Jennifer could think of this adversity as an opportunity to grow and develop self-confidence. She could assume a more active role in partnership with her husband in decision-making and problem-solving. These thoughts may well be followed by feelings of excitement, freedom, and anticipation.

Regardless of how she thinks about it, Jennifer faces the same adversity. With her husband away, there’s more work. She will be more alone. She will need to make decisions without talking them over. The reality of adversity remains, no matter how she thinks about it. Or does it?

Will choosing a way of thinking make a difference for Jennifer’s reality? What do you think?

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