Human Science

Life Response is the way life suddenly and abundantly responds to our change of consciously within. This article explains the dramatic response of life to people who make the effort to acquire psychological strength.

Overcoming Psychological Weakness

If we look back on our lives, and consider our most difficult moments, we will see that psychological weakness was often at the center of the problem. Consider for a moment several ways that we might express such weakness:

  • A business executive is afraid to stand up to an abusive partner.
  • A wife is afraid to speak up, fearing the wrath of her husband.
  • A parent has no control over his or her children.
  • A business owner does not make the effort to collect money due, fearful that he might lose the customer’s future business.
  • An overbearing boss abuses a shrinking subordinate.
  • A child is unable to stand up to a bully in the playground

Our inability to exercise our psychological strength is one of the great human failings in life. It not only leads to ongoing difficulties, but can also lead to tragedy. For example, we know that the nations of Europe could not muster the strength to stand up to fascism when it was on the rise before World War II, leading to the death of over sixty million people. In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, we see how the prince could not marshal the strength to act, even though he knew the identity of his father’s killer. As a result, he, and those he loved, paid the ultimate price.

In a similar fashion, we too have paid the price along the way because of our inability to be strong. If we think back on our lives, we can probably recall at least one instance where we felt helpless, vulnerable, and powerless; or otherwise did not have the strength to meet life’s circumstances and conditions. As a result, we suffered, and, sometimes, others suffered as well.

Hopefully, we have learned from such experiences, and now exhibit the toughness, courage, and fortitude to stand up to life. If not, then we are likely to repeat the same mistakes, even if they express in new forms. For example, if in the past you did not have the strength to stand up to an abusive boss, today you may be under the thumb of an abusive spouse or relative.

One particularly interesting observation is that the very best of people -- i.e. those who are pleasant, considerate, generous, and self-giving -- are sometimes those who suffer the most. That is the case because they have never developed the necessary inner strength to cope with the pressures and vicissitudes of life. Though their kindness, sympathy, and benevolence have created conditions for success, their psychological weakness have created openings to pain and suffering.

Perhaps you have watched a film where the mother of a criminal cowers before her son’s violent behavior. On the one hand, we watch in sympathy as the loving parent showers him with love and affection, while, on the other, we recoil at her inability to stand up to her child’s ruthless behavior. In this way, we see that even selflessness, self-givingness, and unconditional love cannot stand up to meanness, cruelty, and brutality when inner strength and toughness are missing. We should remember that even Jesus Christ himself -- who represented ultimate Goodness and offered the world unconditional Love -- did not have the strength to overcome those who sought to destroy him.

Fortunately, that is not our ultimate fate, for each of us have the capacity to overcome such psychological weakness and replace it with inner strength. If we understand the variety of ways we express our helplessness, powerlessness, vulnerability, and other signs of weakness in the past in the past, and then take steps to reversing ourselves in the present, we will not improve our chances for greater success and happiness in life, but under the right condition, we can evoke unexpected powerful responses from life.

A software company in California arranged with an agency to build a prototype program for a third, much larger company. The software company worked for months on the model, but foolishly never agreed to compensation, fearing that by raising the issue, they would jeopardize losing their long-term involvement in the project. After much hand wringing, the owner finally mustered the strength to discuss compensation with the agent. When he did so, not only did he resolve the future status of the project, but an excruciating six-month neck pain suddenly disappeared!

Standing up to a Partner

A number of dramatic life responses come as a result of a shift from weakness to strength. These powerful responses cross a wide spectrum of human activity -- from the sports world, to the world of politics and business. For example, in sports there are instances in which a weak coach was forced to take a tough stand, which not only resolved the immediate problem, but also attracted sudden good fortune thereafter -- such as the sudden availability of a very talented player from another team, or the sudden and unexpected demise of a competitor. Likewise, there are situations where public leaders have had to marshal new levels of inner strength that not only helped resolve an immediate concern, but also attracted a wave of good luck -- such as the freeing up of an important bill that had been stuck in Congress, or new sources of money unexpectedly flowing into state coffers. We can see the same phenomenon in business, where executives have to make tough decisions that not only resolved an immediate concern, but also attracted a spate of luck -- such as the sudden arrival of a big sale after months of inertia, or the unexpected release of a new product when everyone doubted it would ever come to market.

Two men were running a successful business together. One was strong, aggressive, outspoken, and crude. The other was conscientious, well mannered and polite, but sometimes lacked a certain inner toughness to stand up to his aggressive partner. The aggressive partner took advantage of the other man’s weakness to insist on behaving and doing things the way he wanted. One day the weaker partner realized that what he himself lacked, the partner had in spades -- strength. The partner had the strength to act, the strength to stand up to adversity, and the strength to take control.

So the weaker partner made a conscious decision that he too would become strong. He began to examine his attitudes, and then made the commitment to overcome his weak tendencies. In fact, the very first action he took was to stand up to his partner! As a result, not only did the partner immediately stop his offensive behavior, but he began to actually cower before his once-weak friend! In addition, a flood of good news poured into the company thereafter, including an unexpected surge in sales orders, as well as a big increase in the energy level and enthusiasm of the staff!

Heroes & Villains

Because we know that psychological strength is so critical for successful living, it would be helpful to observe it from as many angles and perspectives as possible. Interestingly, one of the best ways to observe inner strength is to study the behaviors and actions of ruthless people! If you examine the lives of some of the most notorious brutes, criminals, and scoundrels in history, you will notice how they demonstrate an innate capacity to exercise psychological strength. Though that power is more than offset by their despicable aims, we can learn to discriminate between their strength, and their false and evil intent. For example, take any villain in a film or a novel or in history, and watch how they exercise their strength. Notice their fortitude, their perseverance, their toughness, their willingness to act at all costs to pursue their aspirations and goals. Notice how their will, drive, determination, and persistence enable them to overcome many of the obstacles that come their way. Even as we reject their ruthlessness, their brutality, their mercenary ways, their heinous aspirations and motives, we can still learn from their demonstration of will, power, and fortitude, as they try to navigate through the vicissitudes of life.

Another way to observe strength in action is to examine individuals who have made the transition from out of weakness. One way to do this is to observe people in the public eye. We have all watched a famous movie or pop star fall on difficult times, only to summon the strength that gets back to the top. Likewise, some of us have seen how sports figures summon the strength to return from serious injury, or demotion, or from drug and alcohol abuse. Finally, we may have observed public leaders overcome a particular weakness, enabling them to prevail over challenging circumstances.

In addition to observing people around us -- such as friends, associates, or individuals in the public spotlight -- we can also observe famous people in history, or interesting characters in literature who have either demonstrated their inherent capacity for strength, or have had to make a difficult, even wrenching transition from out of weakness to exercise it.

Perhaps there is no greater example of such “intestinal fortitude” than that exhibited by the great Winston Churchill in the years leading up to and during World War II. In observing his life, we see how one man’s determination to pursue the truth awakens the disinterested peoples of Europe to the real threat of fascism. His unique combination of intellect and toughness not only brought the peoples of the continent over to his point of view, but also served to unite them in their struggle during the war to overcome the enemy. It was from that grit and determination that Churchill earned the nickname “old bloods and guts.”

Another example of the exercise of strength in history can be seen in the life of Martin Luther, who in the 16th century summoned up all his strength to overcome the oppressive tactics of the Church. Not only did he succeed in that goal -- forever allowing individuals to worship as they chose without church interference -- but it also sowed the seeds of democracy that would spread throughout Europe a century later.

Elizabeth the Queen

Then there are the extremely inspiring stories of individuals who have had to make the difficult transition out of weakness, often in the face of tremendously difficult circumstances.

There is perhaps no better example of a transition from weakness to strength than the extraordinary experiences of Queen Elizabeth I in 16th century England. History tells us that Elizabeth was the daughter of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, the second of Henry’s six wives. When Elizabeth was only two years old, her father ordered the beheading of her mother. When Henry died, his son, the nine-year-old Edward, who was Elizabeth’s half-brother, succeeded him. After Edward died, six short years later, Elizabeth's half-sister Mary became queen of England. Mary, who was Catholic, earned the name ‘Bloody Mary’ for her persecution of Protestants during her reign. Because Elizabeth was Protestant, and because Mary feared Elizabeth might plot against her life, Elizabeth was held in prison throughout most of Mary's reign. However, in the end, Mary reluctantly accepted Elizabeth’s right to the throne, and after the queen died, the very young Elizabeth ascended the throne of England.

Unfortunately, just at the time Elizabeth took the reigns, society was being torn apart by the conflict between the Catholics and the Protestants. With each side seeking to win favor from the young queen -- often accompanied by threats of retribution if she did not bend in their direction -- each day Elizabeth lived in fear that her regime would topple, and, worse, that she herself would be killed.

As portrayed in the film Elizabeth (1998), one day Elizabeth calls a meeting of the leaders of the two religious groups in an attempt to negotiate a settlement. Though feeling weak and in a precarious position, Elizabeth began the meeting by making the bold statement that no group had an exclusive claim on God. Gasps and shouts of “outrage” and “heresy” could be heard throughout the chamber. And yet, instead of cowering under the weight of these accusations and threats, Elizabeth marshaled the strength and courage to continue her presentation. She then went on to argue that that all sides had to work together for the sake of the people of England. In fact, she insisted on that point; that as representative of the people’s interests, it was her duty to bring the two conflicting parties to a settlement.

Quieted by her persuasive arguments, as well as her unexpected forcefulness and show of strength, both sides did in the end come around to her point of view -- with a majority voting to support her proposal for a common English church. This was in fact one of the great turning points in English history, as it harmonized and absorbed the conflicting non-secular interests, strengthened the central authority of the monarchy, subdued and weakened the power of the church, and increased the power of the people to determine the destiny of their government.

Still, despite Elizabeth’s considerable achievement, dark forces continued to gather around her. For one, the Papacy in Rome was very displeased by her actions, and, at one point, allegedly sent an emissary to have her killed. Though the plot was foiled, Elizabeth’s problems continued -- as members of her own cabinet had then’ begun to plot against her. Elizabeth’s life was still in danger; in fact, she was now threatened from nearly every quarter. With the circle of malice tightening around her, she knew that something had to be done. And so, she searched deep within herself for a solution. Then drawing on an unknown inner strength, Elizabeth came to the one and only conclusion that she could come to considering her current circumstance. Making perhaps the most important decision of her life until that point, she ordered her enemies arrested or killed.

Not unlike what Krishna demanded of Arjuna at the battle of Kurukshetra in the Indian epic the Mahabharata, Elizabeth did what had to be done -- what was right and just, despite its sometimes difficult nature. As a result of her action, not only did she establish security around her, but she also created the solid conditions that would enable her to reign for forty years. Because she overcame her weakness and exercised her strength, not only did she solve the current crisis, but in the years that followed, life also afforded her the opportunity to express all of her innate talents and capacities during a period that would come to be known as the Golden Age of England.

In all of these situations, we see the vast results that come when we move from weakness to psychological strength. Any attempt to do so, will not only bring about the higher levels of accomplishment and success that one might expect, but can also under the right conditions evoke magnificent responses from life!

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