Piaget, (1962) and Kohlberg, (1981) suggested that, on average, moral judgment variation between novices (younger) and experts (older) children were down to their levels of cognitive development. Mature children made better moral judgments because they had advanced cognitive abilities. However, there was another factor that was at play.
Piaget and Kohlberg suggested that the difference between the novices and experts depended on what they chose to focus when assessing situations.
According to Piaget and Kohlberg the novices have realistic orientation. They tend to focus on obvious (extrinsic), narrow (or egocentric), and instant (hedonistic), negative facet of the situation. On the contrary the gritty have subjective orientation – they focus on intrinsic (hidden), transcendence (inclusive), and long-term (eudominic) positive facet of the situation.
In this respect, in order to stay calm in adversity one need to turn our attention away from the negative aspects of the situation and fix it on the positive aspects. Again, this is in line with what we learned earlier about the roots of our positive feelings.
I know this is not easy, but there are many ways to go around it. Let us examine these a little bit further.
Here are some practical tips on how to find and maintain a positive perspective at all times.
Have a “hidden benefits” attitude – consider every adversity comes with hidden benefits as opposed to focusing just on the bad extent of the situation. People with higher equanimity do not deny or ignore the extent of the damage, loss or pain, but they refuse to be paralysed emotionally by the situation, instead they choose to think on something that will make them stay calm.
In the current pandemic for example, there are so many disheartening things are happening every day – tragic losses of lives, record unemployment, increase in domestic violence, and extreme poverty. That is besides the inconveniences of the draconian lockdown measures. All these are concerning to say the least. But, unfortunately, not every aspect of concern can be changed .
However, there are countless positive aspects of this pandemic as well. Take for example the heroics of our NHS and social care workers (plus the “Clap for our Carers” gratitude gesture that goes with it), the amazing contribution of all essential workers, the armed forces and the public at large. Just consider the heart-worming events like Captain Tom Moore’s 100th Birthday Walk which has now raised over £30 million for the NHS (Justgiving, 2020). If you feel a bit down just factor in scenarios like these and watch your stress levels go down.
When going through tough times remember the inherent good theory, that every thing happens for a good reason. Just find it and keep it in your thoughts.
As explained earlier, for evolutionary reasons the “bad” aspects are easily accessible even to people with basic mental ability like those at Piaget’s stage one. On the other hand the “good” aspects demands enhanced perceptional abilities and sustained effort to find because they are not obvious (Cozolino, 2014; Tolle, 2006).
So keep looking for something to cheer you up. I have uploaded some videos (at the bottom of the page) to inspire you during difficult times.
Have a larger than myself attitude – an outward, inclusive and generous perspective that is based on a sense that, while we can create, change or control some aspects of our lives we do not have absolute control of what happens, not only in our own lives, but also in the lives of others.
In this together: have a sense that adversity is an inevitable and integral part of human life, a dark-tunnel through which all of us must pass en route to a better life. This perspective will take away your sense of self blame, shame, victim mentality and loneliness.
Maintain a sense of “usness” – that self and others (including the environment) are connected and that our existence and wellbeing is interdependent (Christakis & Fowler, 2009). It is perceiving that some situations might not benefit you at the time but it might be beneficial to close others. In a way see the benefits of your troubles through the eyes of others.
Reach out to others , particularly those that are in greater need. Reaching out have several benefits. First, it diverts your focus away from your pain. Also, apart from reminding us that we are not alone in our pain, reaching out to others in pain also helps us learn a great deal from them.
Keep a “this too shall pass” perspective: remember that situations are dynamic, adaptive and subject to the inevitable force of change. This means we have the potential, not only for growth, improvement, and thriving, but also for decline and, sadly, mortality (Tolle, 2006; Lomas, 2015). This thought help us to remember that adversity give us the opportunity to grow and thrive.
Remember, the best is yet to come: maintain a perception that every adversity is time sensitive, it has it’s own timing (when to come) and time (for how long). Changes that bring greater benefits do take more effort and time to happen. As opposed to instant gratification that is prevalent among younger children long-termism affords one with the ability to delay gratification and endure short-term pain for a long-term gain. Having a long-term perspective also means maintaining hope that adversity, no matter how tough it is, will come to an end. And by the time you come of it you will be a better person than before you went in .
Find a reason to make you feel grateful and humbled. Acknowledge that who we are and whatever value we might have is largely due to the contribution of others and from something external and superior to us. It is finding a cause for inspiration – stories of people who, despite going through tough times still touch others with their sense of courage, resilience and selfless giving.
I leave you with a story from the book ” Strength for living” that I wrote during my dark days. Moments that take our breath away is one of the inspiring life stories of gratitude I have ever come across. May sincere hope is that it will lift you like it did to me.
Stay safe. Live well.