Existential Psychology

Triumph Over Adversity

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Without adversity there can be no triumph in any meaningful sense. You need that counterpoint just like you need the night to recognize the day or evil to recognize good. Most of us want to have our cake and eat it too though. We want smooth sailing all the way yet still want to feel triumphant, heroic in our lives. But it doesn’t work that way, and without some sort of obstacle there is nothing to overcome and therefore no reason to feel triumphant.

Right thinking embraces adversity, however unpleasant it may be, treating it as an opportunity for growth. Wrong thinking looks at adversity in the usual way, as simply unfair and unwanted. As the psychologist William James was fond of pointing out, our expectations play a tremendously important role in the outcome. What we believe will happen is usually what ends up happening because our thoughts, emotions, and resulting actions all align with that underlying expectation.

If you can shift your thinking to view adversity, however unexpected or unwanted it may be, as a chance to really shine, to access your inner reserves of strength to triumph over it, then that is probably what will happen. If you treat adversity in the usual way, you’ll probably get the usual result.

We don’t always get to decide what happens to us but we always retain the freedom to respond to our situations as we see fit, an idea Viktor Frankl called attitudinal values. Attitudinal values show that humans are ultimately free despite the various limitations to their freedom. In the case of adversity, you get to decide how you’re going to respond. If you decide it’s a valuable opportunity to rise to the challenge you will be giving yourself a chance that many people miss to add the heroic, triumphant dimension to your existence.