In the Face of Adversity

The importance of resilience

Out of Tragedy, a Good Life

How you will confront life's difficulties is the question.

(Guest Blogger Talya Steinberg, Psy.D)

As a woman who has accomplished such prestige and power in her career, United States Senator Olympia Stone is worthy of great veneration. However, to learn about the adversities that she has overcome to get there makes her story all the more inspiring. 

In her recent column in The New York Times, Ms. Snow recounted how her immigrant parents died before she was 10 years old and she was raised by her aunt who struggled on her own to support Ms. Snow and her five cousins.   Well-acquainted with the virtues of hard work through hardships, Ms. Snow dreamed of making her way up the ranks into Washington one day and improving the lives of others.  She majored in political science, married a man in the Maine House of Representatives, and worked in local politics in Maine.  Her life was going well, albeit different from her original dreams of going to Washington, when tragedy struck again. At the young age of 26 her husband was killed unexpectedly in a car accident. 

Ms. Snow’s story is a testament to how some people now only cope with adversity, but actually find meaning and purpose through it.  According to Ms. Snow, she realized early on that it was her choice whether to become overwhelmed by tragedies or learn from them, and she knew that by having choice, she had power.  She viewed setbacks as temporary, not permanent, and had an enduring sense of faith.  Finally, she had family and strong social support.

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In the midst of her emotional turmoil as she grieved her husband’s death, Ms. Snow’s friends and political leaders began to urge her to run in the special election for his seat. She recounted in her column that such a perilous personal juncture could have been the end of her, but she realized that this was an opportunity for her to make something positive out of a tragedy.  She ran for the election and won, and the rest is history.

Ms. Snow faced a number of losses and hardships in her life, but through them had the courage and the faith to carry on toward her dreams.  She reminds us of an important lesson: it is not a question of whether you will encounter difficulties in your life; it’s really a question of how you confront them. 

(Olympia J. Snowe is a Republican Senator from Maine.  Referenced from The Portland Daily Sun, June 9, 2012.)

Bio Note:  Dr. Talya Steinberg received her doctorate in Clinical Psychology in 2011 and is completing her postdoctoral training in Portland, Maine.  She endorses positive psychology principles and teaches resiliency skills with Dr. Breazeale.

Ron Breazeale, Ph.D., is the author of Duct Tape Isn’t Enough: Survival Skills for the 21st Century as well as the novel Reaching Home.

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