Adversity Always Brings Choices


Adverse circumstances spare none of us. All through life, we come across adversity. We come across events, circumstances, situations and people, whom we don’t like. We come across failures and heartbreaks, dejections and frustrations, loss and ruin, disease and ill health, grief and sorrow, and anxiety, fear and stress. But adverse situations need not be just a pain in the neck. Every adverse situation lends itself to many choices, and depending on what choice we make, we can create a different reality, and our life can move on a different path. Once we make a choice, we will get the results of that choice. If we want different results, we have to make different choices, not keep cursing our fate, our destiny and our lives.
When faced with any adverse event or situation, we have, broadly speaking, four choices.
1) Denial and defense
We can choose to deny the whole situation as if it is not really an issue. If we suffer from a broken relationship and heartbreak, we can deny it by saying ‘Oh, its nothing. Anyway, I was not really having any great relationship with that person, and I was myself thinking of breaking the relationship”. If that is indeed the truth, then the adversity is no longer an issue, because we got what we wanted. But if we are lying to ourselves, if we are denying the hurt, the trauma and the suffering, we cannot be happy. We may be able to apply a lid to the issue and suppress our emotions about the issue, but these will fester, linger and grow, and will eventually burst out, as another problem or a disease or bring us back to a similar issue.
Going hand in hand with denials and lying to oneself, is defense or getting defensive. Someone says something to hurt us or criticizes us or points out our mistakes. Instead of listening to them and giving it a long thought, and deciding whether they are right or wrong, we immediately jump to our own defense. No, I did not say that, no, I did not do that, I was doing correctly, I forgot, I got distracted by a phone call, I had too many things on my mind etc. —we land up giving a list of excuses which is supposed to justify our mistakes and make them okay.
2) Blame
The second choice we make, when faced with adversity, is to blame. We either blame ourselves, fall into self-pity and a victim mode (I’m so stupid, I’m useless, I’m always making mistakes, my life is cursed, I’m born with all these issues etc.) or we blame others. “It is because of you, or because of my mother or father or brother or spouse, or the weather, or my profession or the government, or recession or whatever”. We want to find a scapegoat, to take the blame, and hence justify our adversity. We don’t want to take any responsibility or explore our own role, which led to the adversity.
3) Ignoring
If the issues at hand are minor, or if they don’t have too many repercussions, or are not likely to be recurrent, we might choose to ignore the issue. If our domestic help or employee takes an unscheduled holiday, and it affects us, we can choose to ignore it, provided this happens once in a while. If it becomes too much or too frequent, we may not be able to ignore it, and will be forced to take some action. But ignoring is good, for small and often irrelevant issues. We don’t have to make hard choices every time. If someone has parked his vehicle wrongly, or someone is blaring music, or someone passes some nasty comment, we can choose to ignore these things once in a while, provided we are not seriously affected by these things. Ignoring small issues does bring peace of mind. If we were to take up cudgels against each and every small problem, life would be one long drawn-out conflict.
4) Accept and Learn
This is actually the best option but one which we are loathe to take. It doesn’t come easily and often needs a lot of calm and awareness. Most often, we react reflexively with either denial, defense or blame. But if we are able to remain calm and study the adverse situation dispassionately and objectively, and if we are able to have someone close who can shed some light on the issue from outside, we will be able to see that every adverse situation, however bad, always has a flip side, Also, every adverse situation is literally attracted by our inner selves, so that we have a chance to learn, accept and evolve. If we avoid the temptation of choosing options 1, 2 or 3, we will be able to see the adversity for what it really is, see how we are responsible for being a part of it, see how we have come here or why we are standing here, see what we could have done differently in the past to avoid this situation, and then accept it for what it is. Once accepted, once we stop fighting the issue or defending ourselves or blaming ourselves or others, we get clarity. We can then see how we can benefit from the situation, what we can learn, and how we can convert our negative emotions associated with this event and negative emotions from the past, into more positive ones like love, forgiveness, assertiveness, faith, hope, trust, honesty, and let go.
-P V Vaidyanathan