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Coping with Adversity


Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king's horses and all the king's men
Couldn't put Humpty together again.


It takes a nursery rhyme to tell us that not all tragedies can be repaired. Relationships go afoul; jobs are lost; illness encumbers; lives are lost – all part of the human condition. No one escapes the vagaries of life. At some point we all face a seemingly insurmountable loss. Some people more so than others. What then does one do then, when things cannot go back to as they were before?


The concept is resilience. Resilience is the capacity to cope with life’s challenges. It is the capacity to manage in the face of adversity to survive and thrive.  Several key ingredients play into resiliency, including:


An appreciation that hardships, loss and indeed trauma are all factors in life.

The value of this appreciation is that when faced with a hardship and although reasonably affected, we understand that such makes up the fabric of the human condition. We are humbled by life as opposed to being simply overwhelmed and believing we are either above it or not subject to it. Thus we cope with difficulties beyond our control realizing that the bad is just as much a part of life as the good. There is no wallowing in pity although to grieve from loss would be normal.


That even though we do not have control of everything, we maintain a sense of control over ourselves and our response to adversity.

Thus with things seemingly out of control, we take responsibility for ourselves, our role in life and our reactions to it. We are still active participants where at times, we must show flexibility to adapt and ability to change course in view of matters outside of ourselves that otherwise alter our plans or trajectories. We chose how we adapt and therein we can gain some sense of control in a world over which we have limited influence.


An understanding that we are social creatures, dependent and interdependent on one and other for survival.

If left truly to our own devices, few amongst us would ever have all the necessary skills for survival. We need each other be it for the most concrete of things such as food, water, shelter and clothing; to more abstract needs such as comfort, care and belonging. The degree to which we can avail ourselves of the support of others, the greater the likelihood we can adapt and survive. Thus resilience is as much a social construct as emotional and cognitive.


If you are having difficulty coping with a life event consider using these strategies to increase your resiliency:


Ask for help. No one person can shoulder the weight of every burden. Sharing the weight makes the burden lighter;


Put your event into a larger perspective even if it is seemingly a meaningless incident. Sadly, bad things do happen to good people. That too is a fact of life;


Take whatever small steps you can to manage in the situation. Something as seemingly trivial as self-care when overwhelmed can be a hardship. Do something, anything for yourself. Start where you can to bring some sense of control to yourself in a world that may otherwise seem chaotic.


These are only a few aspects of resilience, the key ingredient for coping or overcoming adversity and upset. Practice these. For more, consult a therapist – also a reasonable strategy to facilitate coping, survival and thriving.


Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
(905) 628-4847


Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead and the parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator. His book, Marriage Rescue is due out in spring 2013. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.




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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
(905) 628-4847  


Gary Direnfeld is a social worker in private practice. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider Gary an expert on child development, parent-child relations, marital and family therapy, custody and access recommendations, social work and an expert for the purpose of giving a critique on a Section 112 (social work) report.


Call Gary for your next conference and for expert opinion on family matters. Services include counselling, mediation, assessment, assessment critiques and workshops.


Buy the book:

For information on Direnfeld's book, Raising Kids Without Raising Cane, click here.


Are you the parent of new teen driver?  Check out this teen safe driving program: www.ipromiseprogram.com


27 Sina Street, Georgina, ON, Canada L4P 3E9 Tel: (905) 628-4847 Email: gary@yoursocialworker.com