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The 7 Kinds of Adversities We Face, and How They Affect Each Other

Updated: May 18, 2023


The following is adapted from Your Real Life.


I woke up in my New York apartment on the morning of September 11, 2001, turned on the TV, and learned that a plane had hit one of the World Trade Center towers. I ran outside the building, saw the smoke, ran back inside, and watched the second plane hit live on TV. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. My brain asked me if this was real or a movie.


The rest of the day happened in slow motion. My brain was like, “Panic! Panic! Panic!” What were we going to do? Death and destruction were everywhere. Phones were knocked out. There was no communication. Thousands of people were missing. The man I was dating worked downtown as a banker. It would be days before I knew whether or not he was alive.


Meanwhile, my job fell apart. The dot-com bubble burst and retail sales became unbearably sluggish. I was developing exhaustion from the travel. And then, over the course of a couple of hours on the morning of September 11, international travel became questionable altogether. It was no longer what I wanted. The company and I mutually agreed to part ways.


My existential crisis resulted from a cocktail of adversities: emotional, physical, mental, and financial, too. I felt low self-worth and high self-doubt. Now, multiple adversities were intersecting with one another at once to keep me down, and it wasn’t until later that I learned just how connected the different adversities are.


The Seven Types of Adversity

There are seven categories that make up the main areas of wellness we are all working to fulfill every day: physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, social, environmental, and financial. Think of the seven adversities as the challenges that block us from meeting the needs of those areas. Those challenges can usually be categorized as one of the exact same seven areas.


#1 Physical Adversity

Physical adversity is something that affects the senses or the body. When someone’s been in a car accident, has a medical condition that causes chronic pain, or is born with a physical disability, that person experiences physical adversities. Every single one of us has experienced forms of adversity that affect us in a physical way.


#2 Emotional Adversity

Emotional adversity affects our feelings and has to do with our state of mind (the right side of the brain’s frontal lobe). These adversities disrupt our emotional selves; they interrupt or distract us from building positive feelings of self-worth and self-love. They can also lead to things like rage or sadness in response to emotional events. Emotional adversity isn’t a negative event itself so much as the feelings that emerge from that negative event, which can prevent or disable us from having control over our emotional selves.


#3 Mental Adversity

Mental adversity is the other dimension that affects our state of mind (typically on the left side of the frontal lobe). It’s often connected to mental problems, whether that’s a mental illness or just something that interrupts our mental processes. This type of adversity is associated with deeper psychological developments: things that affect our mindset, our flow of logic, and even our neurotransmitters, the chemicals our brains use to tell our bodies how to respond to things.


#4 Spiritual Adversity

How I look at spiritual adversity—and how I teach my clients to think about it—revolves around the faith that you have in yourself. That’s important for all of us to have, regardless of our religious or spiritual beliefs. Faith in yourself is connected directly to purpose—whether you believe your life has a purpose and choose to pursue that purpose (and pay those costs) if you do. Spiritual adversity often stems from not being clear about your sense of purpose, your values, or your core strengths.


#5 Social Adversity

Social adversity is probably the category we face most often in today’s society of being socially connected in all kinds of different ways. As humans, we require social connections—they are critical to sustaining human life. Adversity in this area is a conflict of not being able to have those meaningful human connections, whether personal or professional. When someone doesn’t know how to show their empathy, or how to communicate with others, or maybe gets cut off from their circle of friends or a professional network, social adversity is sure to follow.


#6 Environmental Adversity

Environmental adversity is exactly what it sounds like: it stems from aspects of the environment around you. Even though it’s an external factor of our state of being, the environmental area of wellness is especially important to us because it heavily affects the base levels of our hierarchy of needs (food, water, shelter, safety, etc.). And as the hierarchy of needs demonstrates, when we don’t have the most basic of our needs met, it can be extremely difficult to overcome adversities in other areas of our lives.


#7 Financial Adversity

Financial adversity is the last of the seven dimensions of adversity. This refers to any situation that impacts your ability to pay for the things you need. A financial adversity is any that disrupts your financial security. This can affect people of any socioeconomic status; if you’re living from paycheck to paycheck to survive, the adversity there is obvious. But even if you’re more secure, yet still unable to afford the lifestyle you want, that’s a form of financial adversity too. Adversities in this area can take the form of poor money management, overspending habits, or just not knowing how to invest or plan for the future…which can all lead to further financial adversity.


Intersectionality of Adversities

The frustrating part about the adversities we face is that they rarely affect us in only one area at any given time—and rarely do we only experience one adversity at a given time. We often deal with intersectionality of adversity because of the interconnected nature of our bodies, minds, and external environments in these seven areas of well-being (or adversity).


We are complicated creatures; the human experience varies across cultures, ethnicities, races, sexual orientations, and genders (to name just a few). Adversities (which tend to hit us in multiples at any given time) affect us all in different ways based on this three-dimensional intersectionality of individual experiences.


The adversities we experience are also affected by the intersecting prejudices people in society face. For example, menopause is only experienced by women and AFAB people, but a white woman and a black woman are going to face different social circumstances while going through menopause. Our experiences are layered through so many variables, which is why it’s so common for adversities to wind up impacting us differently at every level.


For more advice on how to overcome adversity, you can find Your Real Life on Amazon.


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