Call Adversity By Its True Name

Overcome

[Editor’s Note: We thought our readers would enjoy reading this article written by one of Resort Trades’ favorite writers, Sheryl Cattell. While the topic is a departure from our usual focus on the timeshare industry, we’re pleased to bring you this excerpt from her soon-to-be published book, “Connecting Adversity to Purpose” coming to a bookstore near your mouse in 2021.]

We all know someone who faced and conquered adversity in life, then achieved great things because of the experience. A friend of mine, Gayle, thought her purpose in life was to be married, raise her family and excel in her role at a publishing company. However, the universe had other ideas. Her son began avoiding friends and social gatherings at the age of 14. When he couldn’t cope, he would run into the woods.

This wasn’t in the plan for Gayle’s purpose, and she had few role models and little support. An open discussion of mental health issues often does not occur because it’s frequently hidden in the family closet. And yet, over 25% of the U.S. adult population struggles with a diagnosable mental disorder in any given year. So, Gayle and her husband struck out into uncharted territory to find solutions to a problem they didn’t understand.

Like most teens who do not get treatment, their son tried self-medication, smoking marijuana to treat extreme social anxiety, which, around age 17, merged into paranoia, leading to a psychotic break. There were scary nights when their son chose homelessness. Once, he fell asleep on the bench in front of a Palm Beach police station where, fortunately, friendly officers called his parents. The family spent over a year paying an expensive psychologist who did not take insurance before finding a licensed clinical social worker who got the diagnosis correct: schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia is a brain illness that responds best to anti-psychotic medication and therapy when treated before or just after the first psychotic break. Delay can be disastrous or at least worsen the prognosis. For many, paranoid, erratic behavior lands them in jail and starts the revolving door of incarcerations and hospitalizations. Sadly, people, they encounter often do not understand what is happening or the need to call behavioral health professionals. Today in Broward County, Florida, at least one-third of all homeless persons and 45% of inmates live with a mental illness.

Be Brave and Conquer the Peak
Be Brave and Conquer the Peak

Gayle’s family finally found the right psychiatrist to treat schizophrenia. Almost everyone with a severe mental illness can recover within the community with the proper treatment and support. The new treatment included the appropriate combination of drugs to address his anxiety and paranoia, combined with walks in the woods, tennis and music, plus a loving and supportive family and congregation. The good news – their son emerged on the other side, and his experience led Gayle to a new purpose in life.

Turning to Advocacy

Gayle and her husband then became advocates for those who have a mental illness. They joined the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) to help other families like theirs find the help they needed without having to go it alone. Two years ago, Gayle became President of the Florida Mental Health Advocacy Coalition (FLMHAC.org). This organization works to eradicate the stigma associated with mental illnesses and improve the quality of life for all individuals affected by these diseases, including family members. Since joining NAMI, Gayle has become a local, state, and national advocate and the Florida Mental Health Advocacy Coalition leader. She meets with policymakers and politicians and even worked with other NAMI Broward members to provide permanent, supportive housing for those with serious mental illness. Gayle is doing work she never knew existed and never thought possible in her life. Her experiences make a big difference and her stories need to be shared. Her son turns 30 at the writing of this article. He loves to play tennis and guitar and is a huge Florida Marlins fan. Gayle’s experience is a fantastic story of adversity that helped define her purpose, making the world a better place along the way.

Reclaim Life’s True Goal

The goal in life is not to come into this world, to have a predictable life unmarred by conflict or hardships, and then to make the transition back to pure spirit untouched by the trials and tribulations of human existence. The goal is quite the opposite. We come into the world to engage, learn, live a good life, love, and survive conflict and hardships along the way. Think of it as a gym membership — life gives us opportunities to use our spiritual, emotional, and physical muscles. We build them up so that they can take us on a fantastic journey of love and compassion.

And with these newly minted muscles, we become something more than we were before adversity, that is unless we get stuck. We can rise and meet the challenge with our energy, focus, and attention, or we can lament the tragedy, feel sorry for ourselves and seek pity. This latter approach only slows us down and keeps us from the real reason we are here. Gayle’s willingness to engage and to reach out to others allowed her to use her energy for good and in the process, she is helping others do the same.

Quite often, our life’s purpose may be quite the opposite of what we seek. The rougher the ride, the bigger the challenges, the greater the learnings, and the better the prize. If your life is full of hardship and strife and you can overcome those struggles, then you get the most out of the university of life. However, many forget this truth and wish that things would get better, that something had not happened, or that someone had not come into their lives. That’s judging the gift from the wrapping instead of opening it and welcoming it as the gift that it truly is. When you open and accept the gift in whatever form it may take, only then can you go forward with the knowledge and wisdom it brings.

Set Sail for the Good Life

Look at life as a sailboat that has set sail for a destination. When the winds of change whip up and toss the boat around, the energy you spend worrying, complaining, and being anxious are akin to drilling holes in the ship. When the ship takes on water, it slows down or veers off course. As the boat sinks further, the destination and the journey become lost in the storm. Let me offer you a different option. Instead of wasting your energy on things that don’t serve you or contribute to your forward motion, stay pointed to true north, to the destination that caused you to set sail in the first place. Keep your energy focused on the goal. Then, the boat will sit higher in the water, moving more quickly without sinking under its weight. Adversity is not something worth stopping or slowing down for. Dr. Chris Michaels, a religious science minister and one of my teachers, says it best, “Yeah, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I do not need to stop and build a condominium.”

Fear, uncertainty, and doubt are the unholy trinity that saps your energy and keeps you locked into a fixed mindset. They make sure that you limit your thinking and expectations to only the familiar and comfortable things. Adversity gives you a chance to change that pattern and adopt a growth mindset that can tackle anything that life puts before you when applied.

Each adversity that life throws your way is a gift in your journey toward a more robust and more expansive version of yourself. Suppose you realized that adversity was nothing more than a gift. In that case, life is full of these, and you need only to show up, accept, embrace and learn from the adversity to overcome it. Another lesson of adversity is realizing that there are accidents and everything happens for a reason. No matter how terrible it may look today, there is a silver-lined gift hidden away for us to find. When you ask families with differently-abled children whether they would change anything about their lives, most say the challenges they face give them deeper abilities for patience and compassion. These qualities allow them to touch those in their life in unique and powerful ways, so they have an incredibly positive impact on those with whom they share this journey.

For some reason, humans tend to get caught up in the negative outward appearances of adversity. They stay glued on the negative when they do that, drawing more of it into our lives. Try this approach instead: refocus attention on what we want to create in our lives because that’s what will manifest. Anything that we make in our life must first be created in our minds, hearts, and emotional bodies as something deserved and accepted in our lives. If we feel unworthy, those thoughts need to be released before we can accept more in our lives.

Change the Way We Look at Adversity

So how do we release these “bad habits, bad thoughts” about adversity? When you start experiencing the body sensations associated with your fear, uncertainty or doubt, be kind to that sensation and know that you have a choice. You can exchange the bad habit of avoiding or complaining for a new habit that embraces every gift in whatever form it appears.

Desire is creative energy within us trying to come into existence. By changing the way we look at adversity, we redefine it as a gift. We can then release adversity or replace it with thoughts that better match our real desires. The sooner we can let go of ego and the limited thinking about who we are and what we can be in life, the sooner our authentic self can be realized and desire can materialize.

What does this big change look like?

It looks like us stopping ourselves whenever we start drilling the hole in the boat—stopping the negative thoughts, the self-effacing denigration, the doubts, and the fears. Replace them with the positive image of what we desire. Quietly, persistently, and constantly repeat the mantra of our desired state; don’t give one iota of energy or thought to anything less than our highest version of ourselves. And yes, stuff will come up and happen to us that doesn’t look very good from the outside. However, if you can see adversity for the gift it is, then no matter how terrible it looks at the onset, stay focused on your end goal and then dive in and figure out how this gift will help you get there.

Have you unwrapped your gift today? If not, what are you waiting for?

Crisis Playbook/Exercise:

This exercise comes from the public service announcement that we all learned in grade school. We all went through the training of what to do if we caught on fire. The three steps are: stop, drop and roll. We learned this so that we didn’t do something counterproductive in the moment of panic, like running around fanning the flames with more oxygen. By having three easy steps in our back pocket, we react more constructively, even when faced with our emotional fire.

Stop

When you become aware of the physical signs that you are about to become overwhelmed by fear, uncertainty, or doubt, consciously stop yourself and take a pause. Your physical body will realize something is happening even before your mind does. Recognize and acknowledge these sensations as signs that can allow you to choose another direction instead of following the habitual and unproductive one. Pause or stop before your thoughts, emotions or feelings start to engage. It’s easier to do the sooner you catch yourself.

Drop

Next, let yourself drop into whatever that physical sensation you are feeling. Typically, sensations show up as constriction in the throat, a knot in the stomach, or burning in the solar plexus. These physical sensations are here to let you know that strong feelings or emotions will soon arrive. Embrace the physical sensation and be curious about the deeper emotion underneath fear, anger, or sadness. Let go of any resistance or judgment you may have about it, and just let it be. Welcome and accept whatever you are feeling. Treat yourself like someone you really love and care about unconditionally. Please give thanks for the part it can play in your transformation.

Roll

Finally, take a deep breath in through your nose and let it go slowly through your mouth as if you are blowing on a straw. Do this several times, breathing in loving kindness, acceptance, and letting go of any resistance, fear, judgment, or anger. Feel the release of energy and let the calmness roll over you. If you feel a change in energy, become aware of what you learned. Congrats – you’ve decided to stop the noise and choose another way.

Rinse & Repeat

Each time these feelings or thoughts come to your attention, do not dwell on them but rather get rid of the idea by replacing it with another one. With all your focus and energy, invest your thoughts into something you want to manifest in your life. Let it materialize in your mind’s eye and let your body experience what it feels like to have this as your reality. Stay in this moment, in this feeling, and accept it as your birthright. Give thanks and then rinse and repeat. Do this every time a negative thought or pattern presents itself. You are replacing the bad habit and the wood drill from the boat with a positive image and outcome. Your future will thank you.

The typical responses to adversity include the physical (body sensations, constricted, knotted, burning), mental (worry, obsession, anger), and then behaviors such as procrastination and avoidance. The Stop, Drop and Roll exercise helps you take control of your thoughts so you can extinguish the fire before your emotions are allowed to disrupt your happiness.

This article is an excerpt from the soon-to-be-published book, “Connecting Adversity to Purpose” coming to a bookstore near your mouse in 2021. Sheryl Cattell, MCLC, is the founder of Allmaya, LLC, dedicated to helping overwhelmed high achievers, realize, and attain their “true calling.” Sheryl is a Master Certified Life Coach from the Certified Life Coach Institute, and a member of the International Federation of Coaching. She is also the recipient of several ARDY Awards and spent nearly ten years shaping the digital footprint of Bluegreen Vacations. For more information please visit www.allmaya.com or find her on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/scattell or via email allmaya@aol.com