Throughout his storied career as a research psychiatrist, Dr. Norman E. Rosenthal has searched outside the box for ways to help people struggling with depression and other mood disorders. This search led him to diagnose and name seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and develop light therapy as a wonderfully effective treatment while at the National Institute of Mental Health. He went on to write several books that brought alternative, non-pharmaceutical treatments straight into public awareness, including “Winter Blues,” “St. John’s Wort: The Herbal Way to Feeling Good,” and, most recently, the New York Times bestseller, “Transcendence,” which explores the power of Transcendental Meditation in healing and transformation.
In his new book, “The Gift of Adversity: The Unexpected Benefits of Life’s Difficulties, Setbacks and Imperfections,” Dr. Rosenthal shares personal stories of adversity, as well as case studies and lessons he has learned from his heroes. Less scientific than his previous books, “The Gift of Adversity” is part memoir, part inspiration, and thoroughly enjoyable to read.
Adversity is an irreducible fact of life. Although we can and should learn from all experiences, both positive and negative, bestselling author Dr. Norman E. Rosenthal, believes that adversity is by far the best teacher most of us will ever encounter.
Whether the adversity one experiences is the result of poor decision-making, a desire to test one’s mettle, or plain bad luck, Rosenthal believes life’s most important lessons—from the value of family to the importance of occasionally cutting corners—can be best learned from it. Running counter to society’s current prevailing message that “excellence” must always be aspired to, and failure or mistakes of any sort are to be avoided at all costs, Rosenthal shows that engaging with our own failures and defeats is one of the only ways we are able to live authentic and meaningful lives, and that each different type of adversity carries its own challenges and has the potential to yield its own form of wisdom.
In this excerpt from the interview, Dr. Rosenthal shares with Bob Roth the gift he received from a very adverse situation early on in his life.
There are many reviews and interviews coming out on The Gift of Adversity and with Norman Rosenthal. Here are a few of them on Huffington Post and elsewhere: The Gift of Adversity: A Book Review by Lloyd I. Sederer, MD on HuffPost’s HealthyLiving. Norman Rosenthal on the Surprising Benefits of Life’s Biggest Challenges on Bookish. Norman Rosenthal posted an article on HuffingtonPost: The Gift of Adversity. Norman wrote Your Mind, Your Body, How to live a happier, healthier life, for Psychology Today. Jeanne Ball posted 3 Ways Meditation Helps You Deal With Adversity also on HealthyLiving. The TM Blog posted an article by Dr. Norman Rosenthal: From Transcendence to The Gift of Adversity. And this excellent review by Jane E. Brody in the Personal Health section of the New York Times titled, Life’s Hard Lessons.
Norman Rosenthal was interviewed on Writers’ Voices: Looking for the Silver Lining with Dr. Norman E. Rosenthal and “The Gift of Adversity”. Dennis Raimondi on his show Speaking Freely asks Norman Rosenthal about his new book, The Gift of Adversity on KRUU-LP 100.1 FM (23:51).
Norman Rosenthal was booked on the Diane Rehm Show to discuss his latest book, The Gift of Adversity, Wednesday, Sept 4, 11:00am to noon ET. Listen live on WAMU 88.5 FM or online.
As it turned out, Diane was on vacation, and guest host Susan Page, American Journalist and Washington Bureau Chief for USA Today, conducted the interview. Visit their post to read an excerpt of the book, Dr. Norman Rosenthal: “The Gift Of Adversity”, and listen to a replay of the interview on their audioplayer.
He was also interviewed by Dr. Sherrill Sellman on her show What Women Must Know – The Gift of Adversity with Norman E. Rosenthal – 09/26/13.
As I continue to read this wonderful book I find myself quietly reflecting on my own life’s experiences and lessons learned, triggered by reading Dr. Rosenthal’s and those of the people he discusses. Each chapter has a takeaway point, something to reflect on and learn from the transforming alchemy of adversity.
I am reminded of two quotes that beautifully encapsulate the message of the book: One by Buddha: “Every experience, no matter how bad it seems, holds within it a blessing of some kind. The goal is to find it.” And the other by Tom Bodett: “In school, you’re taught a lesson, then given a test. In life, you’re given a test that teaches you a lesson.” Dr. Rosenthal looks for and finds the blessings and lessons that adversity has brought him and the subjects in his book. It should be required reading for young adults to help them build empathy and understanding, preparing them for their journey through life.
Dr. Rosenthal also gives us hope when he says that the stressful experiences of adversity can also lead to growth. Quoting Friedrich Nietzsche’s famous dictum: “That which does not kill us makes us stronger,” he tells us of the dividend of PTG from the payment of PTS, the post-traumatic growth that may come from the post-traumatic stress we’ve endured. And he also gives us the tools to deal with the stress, mentioned in his earlier books, like “Winter Blues”, using light therapy to chase away the winter blues, and from “Transcendence”, his most recent bestseller, extolling the healing and transformational virtues of Transcendental Meditation. Discovering what Dr. Rosenthal says in his books is like finding a thoughtful friend who dispenses wise advice.
On December 20, 2013 he spoke in New York at TEDx: Norman Rosenthal on The Gift of Adversity in which he describes the three kinds of adversities, and mentions his three heroes.