Mental Toughness and childhood adversity



"Childhood adversity. The toughest I know from the rugby field and contact sports grew up on farms with strong competition from siblings and friends. So, I use the term 'childhood adversity' liberally. Yet, in essence, there is something fundamental here that cannot be learned later on in life". -Alexander M. Wathne (Oslo) MSc, Norwegian national teams Rugby/AFL and Qwon Ki Do-

Asking several successful people about aspects underlying mental toughness, my eldest son responded with this statement. Differing greatly from other answers, I couldn't let it rest. He delved into something fundamentally significant. 

Having ploughed through weeks of research and theory regarding adversity, more specifically childhood adversity and mental toughness, I abandoned most of it . Why? Well, because there are a multitude of historical psychological perspectives, concluding with well-known consequences such as PTSD, among others. 

Much is geared towards the harmful consequences of adversity and applied therapeutic methods. I searched for the balance, which was integrative and growth-oriented. Of course, it was important to be mindful of adversity frequency, magnitude and restitution, and experienced competency throughout perceived adversity.

But, bottom-line. Does most childhood adversity more often than not lead to negative psychological consequences? That question kept churning in my mind. 

Potentially, perhaps. Perhaps not.

What about childhood exposure to natural and TOUGH elements that are grounded in and lead to that intangible bit of grit:

*Hard work and an inner sense of mastery/competency
*Contribution to a unit of larger community and purpose than oneself
*Daily routines and rituals that are grounded in a commitment to realistic necessity.
*Natural competition to be recognized and noticed
*Problem solving through daily challenges and expectations


If you ask me, the above fulfill the four components of Mental Toughness:

Commitment
Control
Challenge
Confidence 

Furthermore, the world is filled with great athletes and success stories that know this scenario, well. A type of childhood that didn't necessarily originate on a farm, rather from alternative tough childhood circumstances. Single-parent families sometimes with one parent absent, other tough socio-economic circumstances, etc. It can be a past of neglect and abuse. Sometimes it springs from resilience to cope and survive with an innate threat present, definition true. Yet, it evolves into a mental toughness with a strong drive to not only thrive, but grow and develop. 
 
One area of research that has often been neglected in the growth through adversity literature showing that the antecedents of genius, creativity, and leadership are often to be found in early childhood and adolescent experiences of adversity (Simonton, 2000). 
Well, hm...

Let's just leave this here.

Stay safe and warm wishes,
Tamera Daun 

 

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