Why is it some people seem to triumph over adversity? In fact, some people seem to actually thrive on it. Right now I'm thinking about a man named Erik Weihenmayer who I met at an awards ceremony many years ago. Erik is blind but he climbed Everest; then he went on to teach blind children in India to do the same. He brings to mind others who have faced serious adversity: those who don't have use of their hands so they rely on their teeth instead to hold a pencil; those with limbs blasted off in war who return to inspire others. How do they do it? My clients with serious, even life-threatening impairments say that they don't dwell on the word or even the concept of "adversity." Instead they focus on something larger than themselves. It may be an activity or a group or a family member---a child, someone elderly----someone to whom they feel they can offer encouragement or support. The point is, they recognize that they do have something to offer in spite of what others might consider debilitating circumstances, and it is that realization that lifts them out of personal despair. One woman told me that her relation to her nearly-incapacitating illness changed overnight when she stopped thinking of adversity as an adversary; in other words, when she stopped fighting her condition and shifted her attention beyond its limitations.
Some people call this denial. The word usually has negative connotations, indicating that we're living a lie by not facing reality. When it comes to moving beyond adversity, denial can be an incredibly positive tool. Deny that your condition can sideline you or render you useless. Deny that you have nothing to offer. Deny that your creative genius and unique perspective on life are diminished in any way by physical constraints. Use denial to jumpstart your realization of the fact that on one else is you, and therefore no one else can bring to the table what you have to offer. Allow that awareness to grow inside you until it becomes impossible to contain, and then let the energy that comes with it help lead you beyond whatever seems adversarial to you at this time.
The act of people reaching out to help others regardless of their own situation has been called "The Good Samaritan effect." In the Good Samaritan effect we hear of people jumping far outside their safety zone for the benefit of another. This overtakes rational thinking and involves a big dose of denial. It's a perfect example of human beings' inherent altruistic nature, and is something that comes with an unexpected benefit: we are helped, even healed, when we help another. Maybe this is due to the endorphin rush that accompanies the "feel good" moment of actually being of service to someone---maybe it's due to the resultant reminder that we are an important, contributing member of society. No doubt there are exceptions, but all the people I've known who have extended themselves to help others have left the idea of adversity in the dust.