Scott Seigel


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How has enduring some extreme hardship profoundly impacted your life?

Twenty years ago, the death of my best friend allowed me to cry after the Army had "trained" it out of me. Recently marital separation has caused me to evaluate and refocus my life on deeper, more valuable things than pleasure, power, status and wealth. Voluntarily living to serve and care for others transcends logic and selfishness. It's benefits far surpass self-serving forms of love. Whether you are "paying it forward," "doing as you'd want others to do for you," or "creating good karma," personally making the world a better place probably benefits the doer most of all. Furthermore, the more you're willing to endure and suffer, the better the result.

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    May 7 2012: Hi Scott, I've been hit more than once but the worst. Primary Progressive MS. It started with numbness in my right, little toe 13 years ago. One by one I lost my cherished running, volleyball, biking and it keeps coming for more. I am currently locked in my chair with failing abdominals, hands and well, I could go on.
    The journey has been both physical, mental and most importantly, emotional.
    One lesson I have learned is that we decide how events will affect us emotionally. I have often cried and will again but alone and not for long. Beyond the stuff I need to do I have decided that life is for loving and laughter. My second lesson: Press On
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      May 7 2012: Brian,

      1 thumbs up isn't enough!!! Thank you for this powerful sharing!!!

      You are on my wall of heroes.
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      May 7 2012: Brian, Thank you so much for sharing!
      Your comment hits especially close to home. The job I had before I resumed teaching was in-home caregiver (CNA), where I worked with quite a few people with MS.

      My dear friend Eric Barnes had MS. He was a botanist and an avid outdoorsman. He loved to climb, fish and trek through the back-country here in Montana. We met when I was assigned as his CNA (in-home caregiver). He had worked as a chef and loved to cook. Together we had so much fun playing in the kitchen (he taught me a lot)! We also shared watching his body fail, so I may know a little of the anger and mourning and dismay and frustration you feel. Eric's courage never failed to inspire me. Though he died last year, more importantly, he lived! Not everyone can say that. He faced a hardship and gave it his best.

      Another friend, Michael, is still fighting the MS fight after more than 20 years! I know no one else with as much fighting spirit. He skied and played music at a professional level before these were taken from him. Like Eric, Michael has lived and lived well. He continues to live and pushes himself hard every day. Michael should probably be running an international program to encourage and challenge others with MS. He often says, "I may have MS, but I'll be damned if it'll have me!" I'm definitely going to send this thread to him.

      Never, never, never quit! ~Winston Churchill

      ...and Lindsay is right--MEGA THUMBS UP!
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      May 7 2012: Brian,
      You say..."Press on"

      I say...WOW.....YES!

      You say..."we decide how events will affect us emotionally"

      I say YES!

      OH...I have to stay on topic!
      Near fatal head/brain injury, cancer, degenerative disc dis-ease, were/are a couple of my biggest challenges, from which I learn, grow and evolve:>)
  • May 6 2012: Scott, for me hardships and suffering have made me a better person, that is, once I embraced the hardship.

    This is a great subject, because the underlying topic starts to get at the heart of where I believe a society goes wrong and destroys itself.

    Innately we want to reduce suffering, first and foremost our own. Secondly we reduce the suffering of our kids and family members, then we move on to reducing the suffering of strangers. This creates a society where policies are implemented and charities are created under the pretense of alleviating suffering. However, in many cases they ultimately only postpone or extend suffering and create a dependency that is destructive to the human spirit.

    You nailed it when you said, "Furthermore, the more you're willing to endure and suffer, the better the result." This is why I believe we must be careful how we help others, because we can easily deny them the opportunity to experience the euphoria of overcoming their own obstacles; though I do believe in helping GUIDE people through their difficulties.

    It seems to be much easier to just do it for them (Of which I think is very selfish.) instead of taking the time to teach them how. (Which requires more energy and dedication.)

    Thanks for the topic,

    W.P. Baldwin
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      May 7 2012: As an educator, yours is the perspective I hope mature high school graduates and many college graduates will develop. What I see around me in the way of laziness, entitlement thinking and a short-cut mentality supports your points poignantly. I'm presently teaching more math than anything else, and I notice a general trend toward "good enough to pass," and "so what if I don't understand" mentalities. Even the threat of repeating a class doesn't motivate attitudinal change. The idea that the hardships that do not destroy us make us stronger is valuable and provocative. The idea that "everyone deserves...[fill in the blank with something of value / cost]" is socially, economically, and practically untenable. When help truly is required, the highest goal of the helper must not be to totally meet the need, but to assist the recipient to overcome the need and move toward greater independence. If we give everyone a fish, we only have fewer and more exhausted fishermen. If we teach everyone to fish, everyone can eat and rest (until the fish start to run out). Interestingly, building on the fishery depletion idea and a bit of market theory, crowds manage resources more wisely than individual or elite groups. Also, large, relatively poor populations lack the capital investiture and infrastructure needed to effectively over-fish. This raises interesting questions for me.
      1) Can governmental, academic and business "wisdom" outperform market wisdom?
      2) Do society and the environment benefit most when the means of production are most widely and evenly apportioned?
      3) How do we encourage a broad social move TOWARD embracing hardships, facing challenges and intentionally doing hard things?
      Here's MY challenge to everyone reading this: one or more of you pick up some of these questions, make them your own, throw back a few starfish and start changing lives!
      • May 7 2012: Scott, you make a good point.

        When a sector of the economy becomes more industrialized the authority to manage that sector falls into the hands of a select and, or ambitious few, along with the money of course. This power gives them access to the world stage in which they can jump from one country to another as resources run out. Therefore, going off of your fish idea, they are more liable to overuse and abuse.

        This industrialization concept parallels the topic of helping people. They have industrialized compassion. Now people do not have to directly help their fellow man, they only have to give money to a charity and, or pay their taxes to help people; basically the people do not have to get their hands dirty anymore. This creates a disconnect between the giver (payer) and the recipient (or taker) and any amount of accountability on both sides. I believe industrializing compassion has distorted the real meaning of what compassion is.

        1) I do not believe government can have wisdom. The power they can achieve intoxicates even the strongest of individuals, ultimately corrupting the system. Market forces can have a greater wisdom, but there are many variables; like the type of government that is in place.

        2) In most cases, property owners are going to take better care of their property than if the property is collectively owned.

        3) This is the most difficult. To encourage people to embrace hardships goes against human nature. In most cases, people will do what comes easiest. The people will have to be immersed in the difficulty through a natural order of events; an event where they realize that they had been their own worst enemy all along.

        Thank you,

        W.P. Baldwin

        P.S. I was born at Ennis and lived at Melrose until I was eight.
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      May 8 2012: BTW, Here's a coincidence for WPB: I was born in Atlanta!

      "It's a small world...but I wouldn't want to paint it." ~Steven Wright
      • May 8 2012: Scott, isn't that something. What are the odds of that.

        And I am sorry that I didn't have a good answer to number 3. I have been contemplating that very problem for a number of years. In a democracy the people will not vote themselves into an environment that would require more sacrifice from themselves, only from others.

        Anyway, I wish you well and thanks for the back and forth,

        W.P. Baldwin
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    May 14 2012: Watching my mother battle a horrible cancer and succoming to it at the age of 59 was life changing for me. I recall asking her if "she was scared to go?" My mom smiled at me, then calmly said "Nope, not at all. It's a plan that God has and who am I to ask why. I've had a wonderful life." Witnessing her grace and strong faith at a time when many of us would have crumbled taught me so much. If you can remain that calm in death - the other "stuff" life throws at you can be managed.
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      May 14 2012: Hi Tracy, I'm sorry for your loss, but what an amazing gift she gave you. Fear of death is still such a social taboo, many children never get to discover their own parents point of view about it. I hope her faith gives you strength.
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      May 18 2012: Tracy,
      Your mother's inspiration isn't wasted here! My own personal triumph, more than anything else, has been getting closer to God. It's impossible to really take others into that relationship, but they can see it and they sometimes pursue it for themselves. For most of them it takes a hardship to get moving. Without God I would be dead. With Him I'm able to help others--that's what my life is all about.
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      May 18 2012: Heather and Scott said it best, but I'd just like to add an Amen!
  • May 13 2012: Financial hardship has taught me that I can survive on very little, to be unafraid of having nothing and having to rebuild a life. Long term health problems have taught me to be unafraid of death, to know that depression can be beaten day by day, to accept that there are a lot of goals that are unimportant for me to reach.
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      May 14 2012: Very inspiring in these times of austerity. I too lost my career a couple of years ago, and have actually enjoyed simplifying my life - I take it as a personal challenge to see how little I can live off! I can't believe how much of my former salary was spent on total, pointless junk! Just think, if we all stopped wasting our hard earnt money we could all afford to work fewer hours and job share.
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      May 18 2012: Thanks Jennifer!
      I'm with you in the financial hardship Jennifer. Life has been pretty meager in the last 3 years--and yet in many ways these have been the most transformational too. Who knew that the great value is in the making of the lemonade when life gives you lemons, not the drinking.
  • May 9 2012: having cancer and not being able to eat food for ten years and not being able to talk for three years kind of sucked? While this sucked it has allowed for tremendous growth and now as a father of a five year old I am able to make the changes needed to provide my child with a healthy childhood. Too many parent are not investing enough time and energy into raising healthy kids. I am lucky to have both the time and the insight needed to be a good parent, without my extreme hardships I am sure that I would not be half the parent that I am today
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      May 10 2012: Excellent comment Sean, thank you!
      What an amazing challenge you've endured! I know your child will benefit immensely from your growth. When my wife was in the Army we moved to Korea without "command sponsorship." As a result, there was no room in the schools for our kids. I began to home educate them both. (I'd begun this with my daughter about a year earlier to address some situational problems, but we planned for them to attend traditional DoDDS schools in Korea.) Almost 10 years later I finally sent my younger child to traditional school. No other man I know is so close to his children. I was directly blessed by this adversity--and it's always the same story. I did some things well, and others not so well. But I know that they know how much I love them. I think it's taken a few more hardships to bring me to the place that I have the insight I need to parent well--now what I lack is time and proximity. Enjoy your kids while you can!

      But those early years were good ones. We happened to build an excellent foundation. Our kids are the ones facing hard things now. Both loved the book, "Do Hard Things" by Alex & Brett Harris. ( I see them going so much further than we did. It's a wonderful encouragement and confirmation that not only are the vast majority of problems surmountable, we're better people for facing them!
  • May 9 2012: 6 years ago, my form wife came to me with a list of reasons why our marriage wasn't working for her.
    After a year of therapy, we decided to divorce. I was crushed, we had 2 children who I love dearly.
    We agreed to focus on the kids happiness through the divorce.
    In parallel, I took on as much personal growth as I could handle.
    Today, my former wife is one of my best friends, we share custody of 2 wonderfully happy boys, and the personal growth work has lead to me finding a wonderful supporting tribe, a love for my career, and a body that's healthier than I was 20 years ago.
    I'm also re-inventing for myself what it means to be in relationship with women and how we can contribute to each other's well being.
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      May 9 2012: Way to go Bill!
      For me, this has been mainly a spiritual journey, but I've also found myself getting more fit and active, building a new core group of people, and re-discovering teaching--not just a career I love--a chance to make a lasting difference!
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    May 7 2012: This is one of my favorite hardship was not as challenging as Brian's, a very advanced cancer with a very agressive treatment that 5 years later I am just getting past..

    I think what the extremes of suffering and loss do is strip us of everything that is ego and superfiial and non essential . It is not a recommended course of action to get to what matters most , what is really at the ground of our being, but there is no question it can be a short cut.

    I love Brians description of losing one thing after another..each new symptom further limiting what we have been accustomed to having and enjoying and his description of marking and accepting each loss. That was my expereince thing after another lost , each loss requiring a reconciliation with the loss, an acceptance. At each stage my process was "no I can't do this I won't do this I don't accept this" and then somehow one does and magically something else within us comes forward stronger and clearer than it ever was.

    And somehow strangely I felt happier and more within the ground of my being after each reconciliation with each loss.

    That is very beautifully brought out in the memoir/auto biography "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"..he actually became more fulfilled, more able to be really present to the world and to others after his devastating accident..and he realized that.

    I am amazed to finally be coming back into normal life, normal health and ormal function but I hope I will continue to live from the ground of my being

    .....too early to tell
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      May 7 2012: Lindsay,
      You (and everyone else who's responded) are such an encouragement to me. I think this topic is SUPER important. I think we have to DECIDE to push ourselves and keep growing and never give up--or else we are just marking time--dead without knowing it. The topic's been bouncing around in my head for a long time. Seemingly unrelated to that, I've spent the past few years deeply pondering and trying to understand the value of being a teacher, a caregiver, a car salesman, a Walmart manager, a dad, and a military spouse (and wearing a few other hats besides). Somehow your answers have really helped me understand myself more. Thank you SO much!
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        May 10 2012: Scott here is a quote and one link from one source on the physical chnages in the barin that can ocurr in PTSD or other witness to horror and atraocities:

        "Research on the disorder strongly suggests that trauma causes physical changes in the brain. These changes include shrinkage in the area of the brain associated with certain kinds of memories, increased activation in the area responsible for emotional processing, and decreased activation in the area responsible for language processing"

        I believe V.S. Ramachandran. host of several TED Talks, also has done some studies and work in this area.

        Other work suggests that it shuts diwn the oart f the brain associated with empathy and compassion.

        The trasncendant experiences many are rpeorting here may not be availble to someone who has witnessed horrific things and suffered actual chnages in the brain as a result.
  • May 7 2012: The hardship I've been through is that of being bullied severely in school. Most people to whom I say this tell me that it is a small thing, but it is not. For very long bullying has crippled me in my social life and my own development. It nearly broke me. I wanted to be like everyone else but I couldn't, because of what had been done to me.
    But when I went to college things changed and I noticed that there were people who didn't give up on me. Gradually I grew back into myself. Now I have become myself again, this may sound stupid but it is how I feel it. I have learned to be myself and although I am still a little crippled I feel I can meet the world eye to eye at last.
    I know that I will always have trouble with dealing with certain situations because of the bullying. But rahter then letting the memories control me, I have learned to use them and my weaknesses of the past have become my strength. Despite my problems with facing groups I have now a teaching degree and even though people made me believe I was stupid I will graduate as a history major this year.
    I turned the memories that haunted me into my motivation. That's how hardship changed me: I learned to see hardship, not as problems, but as opportunities.
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      May 7 2012: Beautiful Kim, what an encouraging comment! Pursue things that give you wings. I hope you love teaching as much as I do. One of the best things I've had occasion to teach is that bullies come in all shapes and sizes. I like to teach my classes (and smaller groups) to stand up to bullies. Fear, both social (rejection, ostracism, ridicule) and physical (personal welfare & property safety) are the tools bullies use. The trick is two part: empowerment and compassion. First I prepare and equip the majority of students to respond with unity and confidence (solidarity) whenever they see injustice. Next, I teach them to have compassion, (by understanding the insecurity of bullies), rather than to escalate things (by rejecting and/or assaulting bullies right back). This is NOT typically encompassed within standard, best practices. It takes a bit of confidence on the teacher's part too!
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        May 7 2012: Excellent point Scott!
        Those who bully others are insecure. As soon as everyone is aware of that fact, the bullies will lose their power/control.

        Glad you have the confidence to teach what you are teaching is needed in our world:>)
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          May 8 2012: Ausum Scott!!
          loved you description and it conveys your student do love the way you teach them!!
      • May 8 2012: Scott,

        your comment on empowerment and compassion reminded me of a small incident I witnessed when I was studying to get my teachersdegree. As part of our education my school had us guide mentally challenged teenagers through the capitol. None of my students had ever been to Brussels and had many prejudices against begars ("they are all frauds and they spend their money on drugs and alcohol). I disagreed with them and I was a little upset that they looked at beggars this way since I knew what it was not to be accepted. So I talked to them for most of the day about the problems that beggars faced. Even though they listened to me I did not have the impression they were actually learning something from it.
        However, when we were having lunch in a hamburgerrestaurant (we let the kids choose) I noticed that they were consantly leaning towards the window onto the street, as if they were watching 2 beggars that were sitting there. After lunch I asked them what that was all about. They told me they had given half of their lunch to the beggars.
        That was a proud moment for me as a teacher. :)
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          May 8 2012: Thanks Kim! We teachers have a great job indeed. :-)
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      May 7 2012: Dear Kim,
      Bullying is a horrible experience. I watched my son be bullied much of his school life because he liked music, theater, literature, and things that did not seem to "fit in" with the other "guys". It was painful to observe, and painful to him as well. It is NOT a small thing Kim. Bullying can indeed cripple people, and we have seen many suicides caused by bullying.

      You say..."it nearly broke me"....."nearly" is the operative word my friend. What you say does not sound "stupid" at all, and I'm grateful that you shared this information, because it is so needed in our world. When you can meet the world "eye to eye" as you say, you are NOT crippled at all.....remember that.....believe it.

      What I observe in my son, is that because of the bullying, he is a very considerate, compassionate, empathic person. He realized the ramifications of bullying, and does not repeat that behavior. It seems that you recognize this as well.

      I believe that understanding gives you more strength to deal with others AND yourself, So, how about believing totally in yourself? You are very wise in knowing that your "weaknesses of the past have become your strength". Actually, what happened in the past was not YOUR weakness, but rather the weakness of the you see that?

      Kim, you are VERY WISE to see challenges as opportunities. My respect to you my friend:>) I wish I could give you MANY thumbs up, and I am only allowed one:>)
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        May 7 2012: Colleen is right, Kim, here's another thumbs up from me :-D

        Colleen, thanks for sharing this. It's no coincidence than the words "teen" and "mean" rhyme. What teens need is to be attended to, heard and challenged. They are NOT children and we err terribly in coddling and condoning immaturity in them. They are also not fully adults. In order to call greatness out of them, we need to help them stretch and grow. That means they need to push their limits. The question is which ones. If we neglect to lead them, selfishness prevails. But we mustn't discourage their curiosity either. Each teen is a unique jigsaw puzzle. Our job is helping them figure out how to make their pieces fit together to create the best picture of who they will become. So many bullies mess up the other kids' puzzles because no one has yet helped them solve theirs.
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          May 7 2012: Scott,
          You've said a LOT here that is not specific to only teens.

          We all need to be attended to, heard and challenged. We all need support and encouragement as we stretch, grow and maybe push our limits. We all need to figure out how to make the pieces of the life experience "fit", and it is a LOT better if we can do it as teens, rather than wait untill we are older!

          True..."so many bullies mess up the other kids' puzzles because no one has yet helped them solve theirs". Unfortunately, this very insighful statement applies to adults as well!
    • May 9 2012: I can relate Kim. I had no self esteem, I now like to say I checked it at the door when I was born. I lived most of my life afraid of who I was. This resulted in being severely bullied, not having boyfriends, financial struggles, feeling isolated, beating myself up mentally daily, I could go on and on. The sad thing is I continued living with this perception of me as nothing, even after those around me saw me as successful.

      The wonderful thing,I was brought to a space 5 years ago where I thought I was going to lose everything, my family, my home, my money. When I was in the darkest space I felt bliss (weird I thought) I began a journey of self exploration where I learned to feel love for myself and let myself shine. This led me to developing fully my intuitive abilities and I now help others heal their own self sabotage. I am now the person I only used to dream I could be.
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      May 14 2012: Kim, You'll make a fantastic teacher because you will teach more than history - you'll teach kids about respect and being open minded and open hearted about other people. If you hadn't suffered at the hands of those insecure bullies, you may not have learned the life lessons you so obviously have. Good luck :-)
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    May 15 2012: breaking a marriage, losing my father whom I loved deeply and separating from a newfound love a lifetime, all that in 18 months made me realize the following things:
    - life is short, shorter than we'd want it be, don't waste it on a material pursuit of fake happiness
    - you will never give enough to the people you love, the simplest compliment does matter
    - sharing your (deeper) emotions has no price, people will always be touched and start to share
    - to find your calling is the most important thing in life. Be happy, and you can make someone else happy. It's not about money, status or whatsoever, it's about what you feel is good.
    - and finally, yes, the more hardships you've been through and overcome, the more joy and happiness you will experience, simply because the small things become enjoyable.

    Great topic Scott, thank you for posting this.
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      May 18 2012: Wow Bruno , you are really an inspiration to many folks out here . I too have a similar story but definitely not so profound..
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      May 18 2012: Great reply Bruno! I am confident that no matter what comes your way, you are ready to face it and find more joy and happiness in it!
  • May 9 2012: Thanks Scott for starting this conversation I was going to list all the hardships that helped me to grow but after reading everyone else's I realized mine were the same, at least in theme. Death of family and friends, sickness, divorce, the suffering of oneself and others and injustice. Rather than feeling dispare about everyone having the same problems I feel more encouraged and connected because on a fundermental level we are all the same, some lessons are best taught through hardship. Our own suffering in our story helps us to be empathic to the suffering of others. This reminder for me came at the right time, thanks again Scott :-)
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      May 10 2012: Right on Mathew! I'm glad this thread encouraged you! It's fascinating how our response to hardships matters more than the hardships themselves. I've thought a lot about writing a book on this and all the TEDers who've participated have sure given me a lot to think about. I'm looking forward to where this will be in 4 weeks--and I'm glad I chose a long timeline. Tell your friends and...


      P.s. I know someone with your name. Did your family live in Los Altos, CA and later in Portola Valley, CA?
      • May 12 2012: No not me, sorry, grew up in PNG and Australia.
  • May 7 2012: About four years ago, I was a lazy, unproductive, foolish teenager who didn't have a care in the world for the betterment of my character. I thought that so long as I kept my grades up in junior high (took easier classes in school to avoid any challenges) I wouldn't have to worry about being a morally good person, so I went about my way doing just that. And then my brother took his own life.

    The last memory he will ever have of me is the childish argument I had with him over a trivial matter. When I heard of my brother's death, everything came crumbling down on me. I was an absolute mess of a fourteen-year-old.

    The thought above caused me to look at myself through a clearer lens, and I realized how bashful I truly was. I began to resent the person I saw in the mirror. As time went on, I slowly began to remodel myself, focus on the things that were truly important. I made myself a more humble, patient, and tempered individual than I was before.

    I still mourn the loss of my brother, but the suffering I endured had forced me to change my ways. I am a better person now.
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      May 8 2012: Thanks Alan. It takes a lot of courage to share such a story. I believe it honors your brother to share about coming through such a hard trial. I doubt he set out to hurt anyone in his act. The saddest thing about suicide is that it most hurts the people the suicidal person loves the most (and who most love them): spouses, parents, children, siblings, extended family and friends. I'm so glad you were able to grow through this!
      • May 8 2012: I appreciate your words, Scott, I really do. I agree with everything you've said, except about the saddest part of suicide. What pains me beyond words is the fact that a vast majority of those who commit suicide do so thinking that they're doing it for the better of their loved ones. This is obviously not true, and as such creates despair and devastation in those involved.

        Suicide is such a heartbreaking thing in our society.
  • May 6 2012: wow,...I can relate,...i bagged on of my best friends,..and the others I watched them be put on a chopper in bag's,...I know i am hard,..but i also know the time will come when it will come back,.....I guess it as effected me by becoming emotionlly numb,....but i think that comes with the job...........I hope i touched on your topic.....
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      May 7 2012: Abel,

      A very extreme situation..war time I gather...

      I think possibly it is much harder to witness the suffering of others..or the unbelievable mutiliations and ravages of war or accident than it is to encounter accept and overcome our own suffering.

      What you have witnessed is much harder I think than one's own suffering.
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      May 7 2012: My wife's 15 months in Iraq definitely changed her. I believe the end result will be great inner growth, but I think it may have destroyed some very precious things about her as well. Nietzsche said, "'What does not destroy me, makes me stronger." I think the point at which hope disappears (even a little) is where hardships begins to "destroy" us.
      • May 9 2012: Scott, the precious things about your wife have been buried, they cannot be destroyed. With time, patience and nurturing they will surface again. If I may be so bold to say I think a common link in all of the stories here, and this held true for me, is a missing element: feeling love for oneself. As I continue my learning/teaching adventure of life I see this to be true in every patient I work with. A core belief in our culture is it is selfish to put your own happiness first.

        Yet loving yourself and being happy, being SELF-ish is not the same as being egotistical. It is a way to fill your tank so you have plenty to give and the ability to receive.

        Pick up a mirror and look deeply into your eyes until you look back at yourself with love. It is a powerful step in healing all areas of life.

        I hope I haven't stepped off topic here.
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        May 10 2012: Scott and Jenni,
        My experience is in line with Nietzsche's quote..."What does not destroy me, makes me stronger."
        I also agree with your insightful statement Scott..."the point at which hope disappears (even a little) is where hardships begins to "destroy" us". Although the hardship cannot destroy us, our perception of the hardship certainly can lead us to feel like we may be "destroyed".

        I agree Jenni, that some precious things may become buried, and with patience, nurturing and unconditional love of ourselves, can surface again. I also agree that it is common to believe that we should not give to ourselves. It is the practice of looking at one "self" honestly, with love, caring, patience, compassion and empathy, that we allow deep feelings to surface again.

        We may be trying to bury some of the feelings that emerge, and may not like what we see. However, with the feelings we may not like to experience again, will be the feelings that we are trying to uncover.

        When we bury feeelings, we bury ALL feelings. When we put up protective walls, masks, defense mechanisms, it prevents us from feeling. It's important to "peel back the onion", and when we do so, it takes courage because some of what we experience may not be desirable. However, that is the only way to get back to the core, and truly look at our "self" with love.

        We cannot give to others something we do not have in ourselves, so to rediscover all parts of our "self"...'Know thyself" on the path to turning challenges into experiences from which we can learn, grow and evolve as loving human beings. As you insightfully say Jenni..."It is a way to fill your tank so you have plenty to give and the ability to receive"...well said:>)
        • May 10 2012: Dear Colleen,
          Any type of healing comes in layers.. When buried emotions or memories are ready to be released they surface and it may seem as if we are regressing, and it can be a very difficult time leading us to bury the emotion again.

          When the "peel back the onion" concept is understood, one can say okay, "I'm peeling off this layer" and let yourself feel and release. It is also important to understand that at the same time the good feelings, happiness, joy, peace, are around us. They may be buried by the layer being peeled off.

          Use this knowledge to make a choice. Example: You feel depressed. (a) You can immerse yourself in the depression to the point you can't do anything but feel depressed.( b) You can understand it is a layer being released and flow through it, choosing to feel the depression for a few minutes at a time and then remember memory that brings up joy and choose to stay there. (c) Or for the more advanced, bring the happier you over to hold the depressed you as you would a hurting child and comfort yourself.
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        May 10 2012: I agree Jenni, that healing comes in layers, and when buried emotions or memories are ready to be released, they surface, and it may seem as if we are regressing. I believe that is what keeps people from exploring painful emotions and memories. When we can get past the pain sometimes, it takes us to a new level of understanding, courage and strength in ourselves.

        The more we do it, the more we realize the benefits...don't you think? I agree Jenni that we can make choices regarding what we allow ourselves to feel at any given time. Once we know that, the exploration is not so difficult or frightening, and in fact, enjoyable, in my perception. I know now how much joy and gratitude I experience once on the other side of another layer:>)

        When we have compassion, empathy, and unconditional love, we can indeed give strength to the part of us that is not doing so well. Well said Jennie:>)
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      May 10 2012: Dear Abel,
      There are times when we become "emotionally numb" to protect prevent our experiences from destroying us. You seem like a very insightful person, because you also recognize that it may be part of the job, and the most important and insightful part of your comment, is this...."but i also know the time will come when it will come back".

      I totally agree Abel... feelings that you wish to return, will come back. I hope you are talking with a trusted person, and I also sincerely hope that you have patience, compassion, empathy and unconditional love for yourself. My thoughts and love are with you my friend.
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    R H

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    May 6 2012: The benefits of suffering have been documented by faith-based belief systems for centuries, yet it's the last thing anyone wants to look forward to. The 'no pain no gain' mantra of fitness can apply to experiences also, in my opinion. For me, extreme hardship has never occurred. I've never been tortured, never been a refugee, never been experimented upon, never lived in a shanty and ate garbage, never suffered through debilitating illness, was never racially segregated, never faced the choice to die for what I believed in. The 'hardships' I experienced I hold up to these. I'm not trying to minimize the pain that anybody faces. You asked how hardships have impacted my life. This is what my hardships have done for me. Exposed me to empathize the suffering of others in our world.
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      May 7 2012: Great list RH! Torture, being a refugee, being experimented upon, living in a shanty, eating garbage, suffering through debilitating illness, being racially segregated, facing the choice to die for my beliefs are broadly unfamiliar to those of us with computers (we're among the world's wealthiest people). I discussed such insurmountable hardships a bit in my reply to Johan.
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        May 7 2012: Scott & Abel,

        I wish I had better recall of details and an actual link but I recall brain studies showing through brain imaging that when we witness the unimaginable..extreme cruelty horrible devastation, it actually causes a physical change in the brain..exactly as if it were a physical injury to the brain. To protect the whole being, the brain shuts off the the empathic response..and the "forgets" to turn it back on when we are out of the place where we are actually witnessing the horror. That is why, the research showed, PTSD people also often have attachment and relationship problems.
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          May 8 2012: Yes, You may have surmised that this is "where I live." Trust and empathy are finally re-emerging after over 3 years. What I'm seeing is that PTSD slowly (i.e. VERY slowly) resolves to some degree. Extreme patience is required on the part of loved ones. Again, I must come back to my faith. Without it, this would have been impossible for me, and she might never have come so far.
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    May 6 2012: I've had my share of hardships. I went through a divorce about 4 years ago when my parents split up. The situation changed me, mostly to the better but for me, the hardship wasn't the reason it changed me to the better.

    It could have easily went to the negative instead, the reason it didn't was that I knew how to handle the situation, and I recieved a lot of support from the school I went to and from various other people. If that support hadn't been avalible to me, or if I was stupid enough to decline it, the hardships would have turned me into a horrible person.

    Hardship alone does not make for a positive change, one has to add some level of support from the surrounding, and intelligence to reflect upon ones actions to the equation as well.

    I do not believe enduring hardship for prolonged periods of time adds to the result in a positive way either, but that's just according to my experiences. A person with different experiences may say otherwise.

    It was an interesting topic :)

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      May 7 2012: Life is complex, unfair and very unpredictable. I believe a large part of why you prevailed is because you believed you could, made good choices and continued to hope. Rather than the point of dehydration, starvation, exhaustion or injury, I believe the point at which hope disappears is most often the point at which a hardship "destroys" us. If we DECIDE to make it through (most things), then we can. Having the strength, courage and determination to persevere is greatly enhanced through appropriate coaching, support, and/or mentoring.

      [PERSONAL NOTE TO JOHAN] I think there are things which are truly insurmountable--major tragedies and many addictions come immediately to mind. There, I think a higher power is required to get through. After looking and dabbling in almost every spiritual thing out there (I grew up in California and founded a spiritual seekers club at UC Santa Cruz) the only higher power I've found that really, permanently, powerfully changes lives for the better is a personal relationship with Jesus. It's important that I contrast this with "religion" in the sense of denominations and labels. Such religion mainly involves other people establishing rituals, making and enforcing rules, and mediating and directing your spiritual life. I bring this up because I feel you may still be rather unsettled in your crisis, and I truly believe this is the best answer when we are not strong enough on our own. (P.s. This is MY experience only--nothing more nor less. I am not trying to use TED as a pulpit, and not interested in engaging in religious or metaphysical debates.)
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    May 19 2012: Seems to me, that the more you live life, the more hardship you will encounter.
    Sadness is a colour of the rainbow, such as blue, happiness might be yellow, anger red, vitality green -
    there are no bad colours.
    The colour exists in today - tomorrow has no colour, yesterday is any colour you choose to paint it.
    Hardships? I can list a few:
    Violent upbringing fistfights, gang wars, bullying
    Car accidents, 2 failed marriages, a few failed carreers,
    Brother died - fall from a cliff, mother's rape-child appearing after 30 years
    Wife developed MS, son Autistic ..

    I consider myself to be the luckyest guy on teh planet.
    Through all this, my eyes have been opened and I can see so far, sure, it gets lonely observing all the silly assumptions that people retain simply because they haven't been there .. get a bit angry sometimes, and I've learned how to respect anger in others .. the rainbow. Learned to accept and admit my own shortcomings.

    But the rainbow .. ah the rainbow!! All that pain and joy!!

    More please!
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      May 20 2012: Whether to answer a poet or just enjoy his words...

      Thanks Mitch!
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        May 20 2012: Thanks for the opportunity Scott.

        It's an honour.
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    May 18 2012: Thank you for opening this discussion Scott.

    I have been very fortunate in my life but can also relate to this topic. My most extreme hardship was almost losing our daughter at birth. This was extremely difficult at the time. Thankfully my hardship has a happy ending and she is now a healthy almost 2 year old.

    If it were not for the staff present at the time and the resources we had access to, I know it would have been a lot worse. For example, if I was in a hospital without the resources to manage such a situation (and there are so many women in this world who give birth without these basic resources), not only would our daughter not be with us, but I would not be either. In the face of extreme hardship, we were very fortunate.

    The way that this has impacted on my life is that I look back and realise how lucky we are to be here, and how lucky we are to have access to basic resources that saved our daughter (which so many women worldwide, sadly, do not have access to). I am so thankful to have had the staff and resources available to us. And I am so thankful that our daughter is with us, and that she is healthy.

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      May 18 2012: Linda,
      Your appreciation for the amazing blessings of your life inestimably improves it. Thank you. I've discovered that after counting my blessings, it's hard to remember why I ever felt sorry for myself, shortchanged, poor or in some way disadvantaged. Somehow each one of us has an advantage--the most inspiring replies have been from people who've snatched victory from the jaws of certain defeat. I am certain I've gained more from this discussion than anyone else!

      Thanks to you (and everyone else) for so many great comments!
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    May 18 2012: An excellent topic Scott
    Well Here are the list of my setbacks
    -Lost my father at an early age of 15
    -family financially broke
    -Hardly any friends to make due to our financial condition
    -Chose engineering since that is the only field that gives you decent income despite having keen interest on Clinical Psychology and Music.However now I am good financially .
    -Had to end a beautiful relationship with a girl only because we are bound by so many rules in India
    -Failed twice in CAT exams which is rated one of the toughest competitive exams
    -Diagnosed with typhoid and almost survived a battle with death

    My Success stories:
    -I have a healthy income
    -I made good friends with people on TED
    -TED videos were always my source of inspiration and now I am planning to give a TED talk myself
    -I am planning to take up the role of a venture capitalist at an early age of 24
    -My family loves me the same way now just like I am a 6 year old (which is very essential to anybody)
    -Fixed strained relationships through my skill of clinical psychology.
    -Working on taking music professionally

    So this is my story

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      May 18 2012: You, sir, are an overcomer--well done! I expect that you inspire many people around you. Reach out to the ones who also have hardly any friends due to their financial condition. Tell them your story! Encouragement is one of the greatest gifts we can give--and it costs us a little time and a small effort to be kind.
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        May 19 2012: Respected Sir,
        If we come up with such similar Topics we can encourage everybody in the world and show them the proof that we are always close to achieving what we always dreamt of . I want to inspire people more so that tomorrow we have a much more beautiful world for everyone.

        Best Regards,
  • May 13 2012: As I was growing up I had to deal with other kids constantly picking on me, other parents in the neighborhood not allowing their children to play with me (I was not part of their church so was considered a bad influence, a heathen) and an abusive father. It all culminated with a gang rape when I was 15. I fell apart completely. I had been going to therapy for 6 years at that point and none of them were able to help. My mother finally got me to a crisis center and I got yet another therapist. This one, however, told me "all of the therapy you have been through was trying to make you okay with who you are. It is obvious to me that that can't happen because the person you are was created in response to an intolerable situation. This person needs to die... and you need to create someone new, someone you WANT to be." It was a watershed for me. For the next six months I spent a couple of hours a day with him twice a week. He taught me so much. From how to spot the manipulations of my own mother to how to decide what color was really my favorite. I learned how to spot the lies I told myself and discovered the person I was supposed to be. After that six months I never went back to therapy... and I have never faltered from my path. I am now a happy person with true friends, a satisfying career, many good memories, and a significant other of 20 years that I love deeply. None of it would have been possible if I hadn't hit rock bottom and gone to that crisis center.

    What I came away with was that you can't let anyone else determine the person you should be. Its your choice.
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      May 14 2012: Your story is inspiring Karen. It just shows how one person (in this case your last therapist) thinking outside of the box, can help you find the path you need to take towards healing.
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      May 14 2012: Wow! You hit rock bottom but got a fantastic therapist to put you back together again - better then before. Too many people consider we are who we are because of our genes - I don't. I believe it's 80% nurture - If you feel dysfunctional its probably because of your up bringing and early life experiences. So yes, perhaps most of us need to reframe who we are. Good luck
    • May 18 2012: Thank you so much for your inspiration Karen. To die and be reborn, easier said than done. Glad you had the right therapist in the end. I have longed for that experience all my life, now 48 and still looking for that. Maybe one day but I'm not getting any younger. I shall try to use this idea though, even though I don't have the tools to do it. I read about all these happy endings and I still have hope.
      Thinking outside the box : ) thanks Jeanelle
      Dysfunctional has been my life Heather and yes I believe due to lack of nurturing.
      Ok so I'v just joined this site and hopefully you'll see me grow over time : )
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      May 18 2012: Karen,
      Yours may be the best story I've seen here so far because it contains so much. It contains a crucial answer to any hardship: become the person you want to be. While it's not The Answer for every challenge, it certainly was in your case and your triumph has been really amazing--WAY TO GO!
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    May 12 2012: Bullying and alienation, the deaths of loved ones, and living below the povety line for over 15 years.

    I don't count those as the hardships that have been the worst in my life.

    Nothing has caused me as much pain, grief, and restriction as having the mental illness I have.

    It's suffering I can't make sense of. Illness makes me strong enough to just tread water most of the time. My progress in everything is severely hindered - my recovery has been in microscopic steps. When I'm more well, I can do more, when less well, I can hardly thank the people who get me through. When I'm less well, my progress actively goes backwards - I lose memories and skills. When I'm more well, I can usually just not quite regain my faculties.

    Still, I'm grateful for my carers. I'm grateful for the brief peaks of happiness.

    I think about death every day. But I'm grateful to myself that I keep on trying.
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      May 18 2012: Wow Anastasia,
      You are so courageous to persist. I'm with you and grateful that you keep on trying too! Churchill said, "Never, never, never quit." I think you embody this. I have never endured anything so hard. I hope that you have a sense of inward peace that there is some value in all this, because it sounds like your mental and physical life is really a perpetual challenge. Have you considered inspirational speaking as a career? People who have and are actively overcoming great challenges can be highly sought after.
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    May 11 2012: Dear Scott

    Hardship and tragedy has made me realize that life is a gift, this moment is a gift. It has taught me that I am always stronger than I think and that I am endlessly resourceful.

    I have learned to look at myself and know that I make choices... I choose to learn, grow and thrive. I have learned that no matter what comes my way, I can always find something to be grateful for. Gratitude is the ultimate resource and Appreciation is the gift that keeps on giving!
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      May 16 2012: Hi Aneesah, Have you red Hemingway's books 'For whom the bell tolls' "Fiesta"? Hemingway preached the entire world about the value of true grit in times of adversity but he himself chose another track. Life sure is a gift but its always more pleasurable to give a gift than receive one.
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        May 16 2012: Gurinder,

        The paradox of life!

        It sure can be bitter-sweet!
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      May 18 2012: Thank you Aneesah,
      Your reply also supports my thesis--that we grow the most through hardship. The "easy life" isn't really worth a hill of beans (though it'll cost you all you have).
      I appreciate your comment,
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        May 18 2012: Dear Scott,

        thank you. Yes "hardship", rising to challenges in a resourceful and generative way, all types of challenges even those we set ourselves (positive) to get stronger and more resilient.
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    May 10 2012: Loosing 2 boys aged 3 months and 2 months to neurological disorder in the space of 3 years and at the time we were starting a family, had a profound impact on my life. God why us ? was the question that assailed me as I was a helpless witness to the suffering and aggressive medical treatment of my boys and our mental agony.

    However, in their death which was not in vain I have enriched myself in many ways in the years that followed. Empathy - Spirituality - reaching out - accepting 'what 'is' - understanding - contemplation in short become more humane is what my boys have gifted me. Their deaths and our mental suffering and agony has profoundly impacted my life. I can feel and empathize with the suffering of others.

    I have also learnt to soldier on and undertake social service with passion. My story LUCY ME will help in understanding what my 2 boys have contributed to my life. It is in respect of the community eating initiative started by our Spiritual Head.
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      May 10 2012: Asgar,

      Such a loss...such an agony..such a triumph that your spirit instead of being crushed flowered.

      I was a seed in a crack in the concrete, sun and water came and I became a flower and I sent my seeds out , with the help of the wind to better soil where sun and water came and they became that garden over there which feeds this village

      Asgar, your inspiring story and blog ( where I found the seed for the above) speaks of what happens almost universally to those who come to the ground of their being through suffering.

      .they turn outward to the wolrd they turn outward to service to the world and for the first time they know in the ground of their being what it means to be human..what humanity is all about, what our place in it is.

      A radiance of blessings to you Asgar.
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        May 15 2012: Dear Lindsay
        thank you for your radiant blessings and heartfelt comment
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      May 14 2012: The marvelous richness of human experience would lose something of rewarding joy if there were no limitations to overcome. The hilltop hour would not be half so wonderful if there were no dark valleys to traverse.
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      May 18 2012: Asgar,
      Empathy is so and so often lacking in our world. You are an inspiration, thank you for sharing!
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    May 7 2012: I would like to be able to honestly claim that I experience 'ramp-style' growth: consistent and gradual growth, willingly and wisely carried out with a healthy self-discipline. That's what I'd like to say!

    But my life is characterized by 'staircase-style' growth: highly incremental and dramatic growth, often unwelcome and delayed until my nose hits the riser of the next stair step! For the deepest and most meaningful life changes, this is how I roll!

    Like many - and maybe most - people, I can become comfortable with (or settle for) the status quo. We've all heard sayings like "on autopilot" or "with the cruise-control on", I think that hardship, and many other lesser crises, may be the impetus we need to break our inertia, to reinvigorate our stagnant lives.

    During my twenties, I too endured the loss of a close friend, in a light aircraft (civil) crash. The suffering that followed profoundly impacted my life: I rejected the masculine reticence expected of men in the subculture of western part of North America. Connecting with emotions long-ago subverted in childhood was itself confusing and difficult, but it certainly made me a more valuable and supportive friend to others (and to myself). I have to thank Carl Jung for his brilliant-yet-scary teachings!

    Another apparent hardship was the deflation of energy prices precipitated by the near-collapse of the financial system a few years back. My accounting consultancy in the energy industry - and the healthy income it provided - quickly disappeared. After nearly a year at a third of the income, and following my eventual bankruptcy, I realized that accounting had been a terribly bad fit for me as a person! Ironically, I had been squandering most of those fat consulting cheques on vacations and a fancy lifestyle that dampened my deep sense of dissatisfaction.

    Thanks for your highly provocative question, Scott!
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      May 7 2012: Great story Scott!! Thanks!!!

      Parallels my own experience and that in many other accounts of suffering that we somehow discover that we have been living quite a distance from who we really are in our core.

      I am happy for your discovery

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      May 7 2012: Thanks for your rich and thought provoking comment! I really understand. I used to be a manager at Walmart. I often tell people the greatest thing they did for me was to fire me!
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    Jun 1 2012: Scott, I would love to read your answer to your question.
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    May 26 2012: Recovering from unexpected brain bleeds is as tough as my life has ever gotten for me and the most poigniant lesson for me is quite clear. I am amazed, impressed and humbled by the courage and tenacity of the human spirit.I have literally seen people with half their brains removed go back to their lives. I have seen bright beautiful babies who were born in hospitals where their dad was in a coma and women love and adore their husbands just as though they remained unchanged by the events. Humanity is one awesome and strong species.
  • May 21 2012: Some truly inspiring and moving stories here, thank you for the topic Scott. In terms of my own life, the setbacks, difficulties and hardships I have survived have simply made me the person I am today. Maybe not completely 'healed' but I think moving in the right direction. I have that over the years I am able to accept what has happened and forgive. Made it easier to move forward.
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    May 16 2012: Everyone is a survivor in one way or another. Everyone gets to reach the end of life without much efforts. Most people never get everything. I have endured traumatic experiences & till i live there could be more of it. Whenever i am in difficulty i tell myself that i could not be alone so take that in stride. Some people become bitter for some time after going though a bad phase and then revert to their true self. I don't believe that everyone learns lessons from their experiences good or bad. There are people who are so self centered that no experience ever changes them as they have a predetermined outlook.
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    May 12 2012: My plaque is reversing less than a year after my quadruple bypass surgery.

    I have outlined some of the pitfalls of filling our guts with guts; how the sun will shine brighter and the water will taste better if we eat lots of plants. I have not shared results.

    I am due for my next checkup at the Cardiologist in the next month. The results of my carotid artery sonogram are here:

    Anyone can pick apart how long humans have been eating meat or how or brains would be the size of peas without animal protein. There are thousands of studies and experts that will refute any effort that promotes focusing your diet on grains, vegetables & fruits.

    I take 10mg of Crestor a day. Maybe that is the cause of the Plaque reversal? Maybe it is the baby aspirin? Maybe it is the 30 mile run I ran on Sunday? Maybe its the aluminium foil hat I made myself to avoid cosmic radiation…

    I say: try it. Try eating nothing but Plants & Grains for a week. Two weeks. One month. Don’t tell anyone, do it for yourself.

    There is no downside… only upside.

    The proof is in the non-dairy, no fat, pudding. (Try chia seeds, rice milk, honey)

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      May 18 2012: Excellent! I have been pursuing a juice fast as in the movie "Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead" on and off for the past three months. It's been a great experience, I feel SO MUCH BETTER--and I've dropped 30#. I have sworn off grains and refined sugar, but I do drink milk eat dairy. The results seem comparable. Interesting--a change toward healthy eating takes a sacrifice, but it makes a big difference. The biggest challenges are uncooperative people. Some are well-meaning, but there are some not-so-well-meaning folks. All want to get me back into eating garbage because:
      a) They are being generous,
      b) My diet makes them feel guilty,
      c) The way I eat SEEMS too expensive for them, and / or
      d) My progress makes them angry because it disputes their expertise, refutes their conceptions about me, or shows them up because they are following something "more scientific/professional/expensive" and having a weaker outcome.
      Thanks & keep it up!
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    May 8 2012: Hello gentle people,
    and thank you for your warm feedback.
    Scott, I have found many friends with MS and only know something of the challenges your friends faced and are facing. Some nerves are damaged and symptoms depend on how and where the damage occurs. MS presents differently in every person. MS is just a name but it's cool that we become friends so quickly. I guess there is nothing like common interest.
    Perhaps there lies a lesson. Find that common interest and we all become friends.
    Hurry, before some one starts another war and that becomes the common interest. Sorry, I can digress.
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    May 7 2012: Thanks Scott!
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    May 7 2012: The hardship by which i went thru made me what i really wanted to be in my life .................. when i was struggling in the woods of life to find my way from where i went thru my place but the hardship gives the perfect way which i deserve.