Difficult Life Events as the Key to Becoming a Wise Person

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When it comes to wisdom, the most commonly linked factor is age, but many older people tend to show signs of bitterness. So, researchers explored other potential factors in gaining wisdom aside from age, such as painful life experiences. The study was performed by a research team at Oregon State University. They explored the context of wisdom based on difficult life events and the impact of their social environments on the growth of participants. The results have been published in The Journals of Gerontology: Series B. How Difficult Life Events Can Influence a Person? There are several examples of difficult life events, including the death of a romantic partner, separation or divorce, loss of an occupation, and severe financial problems. All examples of DLEs produce a huge amount of stress that can either positively or negatively impact the growth process of an individual. Also, these events can occur at any given time that puts everyone at risk of becoming bitter or wiser later in life. When it comes to wisdom, people usually assume that age provides it due to their experiences in life. But in real-world situations, not every adult has the hallmark signs of wisdom, especially those who still act immature and irresponsible in handling their lives. To prove the relationship between age and wisdom, a research team conducted a study to explore the factors that can make someone wise. In this study, the researchers enrolled 14 men and 36 women aged 56 to 91 years. They performed semi-structured interviews among the participants that focused on a difficult life event.

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The interviews were also designed to know how the participants coped with the life-changing event. Then, the team analyzed the responses using a constructivist grounded theory, a method that appreciates multiple truths and realities of subjectivism. Out 50 participants, 32 of them considering their DLE as a monumental part of their journey through life. To be specific, the participants considered the event as the main disruptor of their original view in life, wherein they felt safe and competent. Thus, the event completely rewrote their identity as an individual. “For these folks, the event really rocked their boat and challenged how they saw life and themselves,” said Dr. Carolyn M. Aldwin, an author of the study and director of the Center for Healthy Aging at OSU. However, when Dr. Aldwin asked the participants to recall the difficult event, a common thing stood out among them. The respondents confirmed that the event totally defined them and showed them a different meaning of life. How Can Painful Life Events Become Positive?If an individual suffered a difficult life event alone, they have a higher tendency to backslide due to the amount of pain or hatred they felt. As such, the result will likely be a new person filled with bitterness in life or an untimely passing as seeing nothing in life aside from misery. But if the person had a supportive social environment, they are likely to survive the pain and hurt, and learn the wisdom in that traumatic life event, forever changing their view in life and their personal identity.

The recent study found that the social environment of an individual played a vital role in promoting the perspectives associated with the aspects of wisdom, such as compassion, acceptance, comfort in uncertainty, and self-knowledge. “What we were really looking at was when bad things happen, what happens? What’s important is that the event can become a catalyst for changes that come afterward,” added Dr. Aldwin, quoted Psychology Today. Even though the survivor will be emotionally or mentally scarred, they become a bearer of wisdom that can never be obtained through learning institutions. The wisdom they obtained from difficult life events is priceless knowledge they can pass to the next generation, teaching them on how to better value people and life. How to Turn an Adversary into Wisdom?People faces challenges on a daily basis, whether small or big, bland or intense. These adversaries can either break individuals or can shape their values and personal qualities. Tofe Evans, an author and advocate of resilience, shared how to convert life adversaries into wisdom in the Redbull website.

– Your Mind Over Matter: When you think about being a loser or about the end of the line, it puts your entire mindset into the negative side of the story. A problem in life does not only represents a difficulty, but it also signifies an opportunity to learn. As you push your way through the pain, learn the lessons of the adversary and use it as a weapon to help you face the next challenge.

– Never Give Up: When you are aiming for a goal and the challenge becomes way tougher than before, push through and do not give up. Remember what your goal is and the passion you always have inside you. These things will keep you grounded until you accomplish that objective.

– Always Trust Your Spirit: Do not believe your doubts and never doubt what you believe in. As you grow older, your adversaries advance and it means you need to keep your inner spirit strong and resilient. This means that you cannot show weakness or mercy to the difficulties in life. Always believe that the difficulties given to you are matched to your capabilities and skills. You just have to use the right skills to conquer those adversaries.

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