This book by Barbara Hansen had a profound impact on me at a time when I was struggling so I am hoping it will be useful for you as well. With that in mind, I will highlight a few of my favorite parts of the book.
First, however, I think the author’s back story is important. She was paralyzed at 19 years old and spent the rest of her life in a wheelchair. She describes some of her challenges including getting out of bed every morning using an elaborate hoisting method. Then she loses her home in a storm. So she is very qualified to discuss overcoming adversity.
Hansen’s main focus is on developing internal resources to handle life’s difficulties. She talks about creating a “steel core of spiritual strength. There are three important first steps she discusses: 1) Process the pain of the past 2) Choose our response to reality 3) Stop making ourselves victims. She says, “By changing our thoughts and attitudes we can modify our actions, habits.” This way we gain inner strength.
What I find interesting is that she does not tell you what attitudes you should have and says this depends on the individual as long as it “nourishes the soul and makes us better people.”
She says, “Memorizing inspirational and peaceful lines from poetry or scripture has given me the inner strength to get through life’s lousy times.” This is good advice. It does take a little bit of work to do the memorization, but it is worth it.
We All Count
Hansen quotes William George Jordan, in his book, “The Majesty of Calmness.” Jordan says, “ Man’s unconscious influence, the silent subtle radiation of his personality, the effect of his words and acts, the trifles he never considers, is tremendous. Every moment of life is changing to a degree the life of the whole world.” Consider that last statement! Every moment of your life is effecting the whole world! That is such an uplifting and serious thought. We all count.
Death, divorce, aging, being single are all reasons for feeling what Hansen calls, “terminally alone.” She calls for all of us to become aware and be the person for someone who feels alone.
Journaling and Books
Hansen doesn’t specifically discuss journaling, but she talks about “typing.” Here is what she says, “ At the end of the day I will often know that life is not right; something’s wrong. Having only this vague sense of discontent, I’ll not be sure exactly what I am feeling or why I am feeling it, but I know something is corrupting my peace of mind. Typing helps me pull my emotions outside of myself and place them onto the screen. The longer I type the clearer my feelings and ideas become, my paper psychiatrist has helped me face, sift through, and deal with the emotional pain that has periodically pounded my life. As thing gives form and focus to my ideas and feelings, I find I am no longer in the clutches of discontent. Talking to my paper psychiatrist gives me a clear awareness of what it feels like to be me.” She says this so much better than I did in my book, but it is one of four things that helped me deal with adversity. I called it journalling and she calls it typing, but it is the same.
She says books give her strength and pleasure. “The insights and inspiration I get from books “refill my pitcher” when my pitcher gets empty.” So grab a book. It can make a difference.
Hansen says that “faith in God gives us a desire not only to live but to live well unless we believe being alive makes the world a better place, we are going to have a hard time getting in touch with our spiritual core; unless we have faith in our own uniqueness, we’ll find it difficult to to have faith in a power higher than ourselves.”…”This faith in our personal spiritual value gives us staying power when life hands us rotten reality.”
I love the final sentence in her book after she discusses the importance of spirituality as an anchor in everyone’s life and the hope it gives us. Then she says, “This hope isn’t the certainty that life will turn out well; it’s the belief that life makes sense regardless of how it turns out.”