Why we should welcome adversity

September 14th, 2013
We are all familiar with the words of Nietzsche who said, "that which doesn't kill us, makes us stronger."  It has become a kind of mantra for a society in which everyone seems under siege, or faces some kind of adversity.  But is it true?

We’re told that we learn from our mistakes, but is there an easier way?  Does the willingness to lean into to adversity, make it more likely?  Do those who deny adversity’s benefits, have less of it?  And how does the value of learning from adversity get weaker,  often closed down, by the power of positive thinking which is often so much a part of our happy talk culture?

These are some of the ideas dealt with by Dr. Norman Rosenthal in  The Gift of Adversity: The Unexpected Benefits of Life's Difficulties, Setbacks, and Imperfections.  Rosenthal is a psychiatrist and the scientist who in the 1980s first described winter depression or seasonal affective disorder (SAD). He spent 20 years as a researcher at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) where he studied disorders of mood, sleep, and biological rhythms.

My conversation with Dr. Norman Rosenthal: