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Facing obstacles and overcoming them is one of the main issues discussed in Human Nature. Recently, there have been a great number of fellow-students confronted with various impediments. In fact, each of them has had different attitude to those hindrances. Some people see them as threats. Others consider them as a puzzle to be solved, as an opportunity to grow. Obstacles can be seen like laundry machines. They whirl, they twist and knock us around. But after that people come out cleaner, shining and in a better condition than before. From a scientific point of view, obstacles, which work on both physical and mental level, have the power to make people’s minds and bodies stronger. This is why people should understand that “the struggle we are in today is developing the strength we need for tomorrow” (Robert Tew).
Generally, obstacles are related to stressful situations or some sort of physical activity. In both occasions impediments influence our body and make it stronger. According to the National Institutes of Health in the United States, obstacles, in terms of physical activity, improve our health status and help our organism build up a fortress, which prevents us from cardio-vascular diseases and reduces the risk of premature death. All types of physical activity tenses up our muscles and increases their strength. Oxygen is more effectively used by muscle fibers that adapt to training and thus more force is produced. Moreover, in the field of health and fitness, stress is beneficial for the growth and development of new muscle tissue, improving fitness, and increasing muscle strength. And when the body is placed under new stressors, it has to adapt to cope with the demands associated with that stressful experience. We all feel stressed sometimes but the curious thing is that our body is designed to react to it. Anxiety has an impact on human muscular system. The fact that stress influences us in a positive way is supported, also, by Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP), which has found that by undergoing short trauma or stress, our body creates stronger cells that are better prepared for future, more stressful problems. Firdaus Dhabhar, a professor of psychiatry states that ‘the type of immune response that could help you fight a cold or infection is enhanced by short-term stress’. In fact, the body needs just fifteen minutes of a stressful event to activate pathogen-fighting cells in the bloodstream. Consequently, we can come up to the fact that obstacles really make us physically stronger. However, they are also associated with improved psychological well-being.
Exposure to obstacles usually leaves a trail of negative effects on human beings. However, impediments may also raise subsequent resilience, with improvement of our mental health and well-being. Stressful experience such as a bereavement or a physical attack can be mentally damaging. However, experts from the University of Buffalo found that some presence of trauma make us more resilient and psychologically stronger. It is believed that people who have suffered are able to develop coping mechanisms more intensely. Dr. Mark D. Seery states that “in a multiyear longitudinal study of a national sample, people with a history of some lifetime adversity reported better mental health and well-being outcomes than not only people with a high history of adversity but also than people with no history of adversity.” This means that the people with some previous obstacles in their life were the least affected by recent adverse events. So, the study mentioned above approves the claim that the presence of some obstacles in our life can contribute to our mental well-being.
Of course, there is a rising skepticism to the idea of obstacles being helpful to humans. People relate hindrances to stress and pressure, thus, they do not believe that a certain thing that makes them unhappy, disappointed, anxious, worried, and mentally deranged can somehow be beneficial for their well-being. In fact, this approach is supported by the theory of Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which expresses the condition of some human human-beings unable to cope with lifetime adversaries. By definition PTSD is a mental disorder caused by exposure to some traumatic event – either experiencing it or witnessing it. The American Psychiatric Association claims that in the United States about 9% of people develop this mental disorder at some point of their life. The symptoms comprise of flashbacks, nightmares, physical sensations, such as pain, sweating, feeling sick or trembling, harsh anxiety along with uncontrollable thoughts and behavior. Also, a common feature of PTSD is destructive behavior – such as drug abuse or alcohol misuse. In fact, people with Post-traumatic stress disorder are in danger of suicide and intended self-harm. Statistics from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs national screening program indicates that the percentage of veterans affected by PTSD varies between 11 and 20 percent. However, every case has exceptions.
The story of Sgt. Jeffrey Beltran, who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan, published in New York Times, reveals post-traumatic stress disorder’s surprisingly positive flip side. It is called Post-traumatic growth, or PTG, and claims that survivors of events related to obstacles cannot only heal from their trauma, but may actually grow into a stronger, more driven, and more resilient person because of their impediments and experience. Along with all the other injuries Beltran suffered in a bomb attack in Iraq in 2005, he also got a slight traumatic injury of the brain, which damaged his short-term memory. The bomb explosion, the Post-traumatic stress disorder and the impediments he met changed him. And he assumes that the obstacle he has overcame was for the better. In an interview with Jim Rendon the soldier shares: “This whole experience has helped me to be more open, more flexible.” Jeffrey Beltran is one of the many people who developed Post-traumatic growth. In fact, this mental condition is discovered in 1995 by Richard Tedeschi, a psychologist at the University of North Carolina, who developed an “inventory to track and measure the phenomenon”. Tedeschi asserts that experiencing growth in the wake of trauma is far more common than Post-traumatic stress disorder and can even co-occur with it and overcome it.
Post-traumatic growth is also supported provided by a research on Holocaust survivors in Israel. “It has exposed that the common result of massive psychological trauma on the victims was not necessarily post-traumatic stress disorder, but more often better mental health and resilience. Survivors, including those who overcame long-standing continuous atrocities, presented evidence of post-traumatic growth”. For some of them, meaning-making strengthened their motivation to rebuild their lives in a positive manner after the Holocaust in terms of raising families, being involved in social activities and, as a whole, having normal life. Holocaust survivors report high self-esteem, a sense of self-coherence and the obstacles they have faced have made them stronger.
Overall, facing obstacles is beneficial for strengthening human body and mind. Impediments harden our muscles and make them powerful. They can also influence our cells in way which increases their defensive function against infections. Moreover, hindrances affect us on a psychological level. They are able to develop resilience and mental strength in us. Although, there is skepticism to this topic, there is powerful evidence proving that some pressure and stress can make us stronger. Overcoming impediments can show us new roads, new inspiration to stand up every time we fall. Thus, “do not waste a moment staring at obstacles blocking your way, they will not remove themselves. Life is about creating new paths”.
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