“What does not kill you only makes you stronger” is a quote that can be traced back to Friedrich Nietzsche, a German philosopher. He used the phrase from time to time during his reign and it turns out that he was actually correct.
Research shows that most survivors of trauma experiences improved personal development and positive variations. This is called post-traumatic growth; it involves a positive change that occurs after the occurrence of a traumatic event and life crisis. People that fall in this category experience positive changes because of their better appreciation to life. They tend to approach situations from a new point of view thereby feeling enhanced personal strength and spiritual satisfaction
Jerry Seinfeld, a popular comedian was usually ignored in the early days of his career. According to an interview with him, there was a particular occasion when people of New York disco ignored his act as if he wasn’t even present on stage. This and so many other challenges he experienced in his early beginnings made him a better person and a stronger performer.
In 1994, J.K Rowling experienced a divorce and was on government aid. She could barely feed her baby and had no money for a computer. Just three years before the first Harry Potter book was published, she manually typed out each version of the 90,000 words novel before sending to publishers. Her manuscript was frequently rejected by publishing houses until Bloomsbury, a publisher based in London accepted her manuscript, and that was the breaking point for J.K Rowling who is now famous for the Harry Potter book series.
Trauma comes in many forms, whether it be losing a loved one, physical or sexual abuse, being abandoned by your parents, bullying, life-threatening medical conditions, natural disasters… and the list goes on. But is it possible for us to accept that suffering is a fundamental part of life and that we can persevere through the pain regardless?
Understandably so, this is easier said than done. But it cannot be denied that every traumatic experience has taught us new things, made us tougher and more resilient. If you’ve had the unfortunate experience of staring death in the eyes and avoiding it by a heartbeat, chances are, you’re going to value the fact that you’re alive more than the average person would.
Just think about it. The average person would complain about petty things like traffic congestion, a broken nail, mild back pain, or a fly buzzing around in the room. Trauma survivors know better than that since they know that the things they do have are not to be taken for granted.
When we have it too well, it’s easy to forget the value of everything we have going for us. It’s the traumatic things in life that remind us of how it can all be gone in a fraction of a second. And no matter how hard our experiences may seem, they do tend to teach us new things. Things that transform our current lives into something better than they were before.
There is no standard for measuring healthy growth or trauma but the reason why some people experience post-traumatic growth and others don’t can be easily deduced.
The people that are more likely to show signs of post-traumatic growth are people with a moderate tendency to adjust to a psychological occurrence.
People that often find it difficult to adapt, tend to exhibit less Posttraumatic growth. In addition to this, people with the greatest aptitude for psychological adjustment show a very minimal sign of positive change since they are already used to the fact that difficulty is fundamental to life hence, they seem adaptable to any condition they find themselves and less affected by the experience.
The approach a man applies to accepting fate and any suffering that is attached and the way he carries his cross gives him a maximum opportunity when tackling issues. This helps to significantly add a meaning to his life. Even though some pains that are experienced in life are inevitable and they make up the experience of a human being, most are created by our thoughts and can be minimized by mental health tools and mindful practice. Alteration of your thoughts can improve your life thereby helping you to cope with challenges that can cause pain and panic. The fact still remains that sometimes what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. It is necessary to understand that the greatest strength lies in accepting that it is alright to be weak sometimes.
“Accepting” is quite different from “Approving”. If you accept, it simply means that you have stopped resisting because doing so causes you more pain. Acceptance implies surrendering to the moment as the case may be, it does not necessarily imply giving up. A person is not capable of surrendering until he is really tired of the present situation. Most religions even teach surrendering.
Instead of surrendering to a situation, if we continue to argue against it, it can cause suffering. If you wish to change reality, you might as well try to lecture a cat on barking. No matter how hard you try, the cat will still pronounce “Meow”. There is nothing as hopeless as wanting reality to be different from what it really is.
Even if what does not kill you only makes you stronger, the suffering can be simply minimized by accepting what is. Surrendering to a situation will minimize the pain even though it does not magically drive away the situation.
The wisdom lies in being able to appreciate the small things in life. A gentle breeze, a new skill we’ve learned, a good evening spent with friends. Realizing that even if everything goes well in life, these moments won’t last forever. By making that mental shift, the little annoyances will practically shrink into nothing, and we will become perfectly content just with being alive and well for now.
Another thing to note is, no matter what has happened in our lives, on average, people who lived as little as 100 years ago probably had it way worse — Wars, the fatal illnesses we can now treat, oppressive political systems, you name it. We’re lucky to be living in the 21st century. It’s a relatively nice place to be.
In the End
Mental growth is a marathon, not a sprint. The most challenging part of the process is maintaining the good faith in the universe and yourself. But if you believe that you can become more resilient, you will do so, and your mental well-being will start to show it sooner or later.
Be willing to take the hits whenever they come, they are meant to make you rise to glory. It’s only a matter of time, just hang in there — After every hardship comes ease.