Overcoming adversity: Finding one's calling in life

Hi, first of all, thank you for taking the time to consider reading this article. My name is Dave; now that we are figuratively on the same page, I hope you will understand why I am so passionate about my work. I hope the article inspires you to act for yourself in either your calling to our dedicated profession or your commitment to healing - allowing no one to deter you.


I am an honorary degree counsellor and life coach, plus a member of the British Association for Counsellors and Psychotherapists (BACP), but life did not begin in any academic background. I left school without qualifications as a person with dyslexia before they fully understood the condition. My understanding of life was far from what I hold of great value today: being fully qualified to assist others in finding a way to freedom from trauma and anxiety is not just a job but a privilege while treating clients respectfully and as individuals without judgment.

The first thing we need to acknowledge is that we are all unique. Therefore, how can a one-size-fits-all doctrine policy be applied if we have individual personalities and thoughts, let alone developmental history and lived experiences that differ? The organised church is a prime example of this one-size-fits-all and can range from ecclesiastical to outright cults that capitalise on vulnerability to swell their ranks and funds every week.

We need to go further upstream to examine where the problems arise. We must be seen as individuals with personal requirements, not some mass collective of non-thinkers told what to think or there will be consequences. The way forward is one of personal confidence and strength, rather than co-dependence on ways that do not address the needs of individuals approaching healing from a trauma-informed, safe environment.

I needed answers I could accept, not just to be told what to think or do.

There was a time when I needed to do some deep soul-searching. Vulnerability can be hazardous, with people waiting to spring upon the vulnerable and turn them into conquests. Our world has many off-the-shelf solutions to fix the problems we face today. The problem is that people want you to adopt their ideologies and show allegiance to their organisation losing yourself in the process while trying to solve your unique concerns.

Give it, God, they tell you, as they shower you with praise but where is the healing of deep-rooted trauma or self-work, not to mention personal growth in this approach? Indeed, it bypasses the issues we need help with, including often harsh judgments from people who know little about historical trauma and are often out of touch with reality themselves. 

The only benefit seems to be that the collection plate is passed around weekly, swelling the funds, even with card facilities in many churches now before even touching on widow's wills or other bequests.

It's the same as the million-dollar question when it comes to God. Even the best scholars can't decide the infinite answer for or against the issues presented since time began. Let us hope the final verdict is in our favour as we marvel at creation, in whatever our interpretation, wherever peace and happiness may lay for you I wish you well.

Now, spirituality is an entirely different matter. Never confuse organised religions with one's personal beliefs, something everyone is entitled to hold. The time we spend reflecting within will reflect on our outer life and quality of existence. 

However, it is a personal choice, not a decision that should ever be forced. Do not allow anyone to tell you anything different. You are your own values and beliefs. Not someone's conquest. I was even told on one occasion not to show emotion unless it glorified the church in a London service. You do not have to follow family traditions or feel required to people please anyone.

You are responsible for your own happiness in this world. Allowing anything else or anyone to direct your life is setting yourself up for a rude awakening of who you truly are.

We become our true selves by finding the strength to take our stand in life. In this, we find peace, a sense of achievement, and lived purpose in our minds. If you have had a bad experience, I can help you recover your life on your terms if you have been left disillusioned or traumatised by your church.

The Methodist Church GB eventually dismissed me for being dyslexic as a lay preacher, regardless of many requests for assistance to take part in study from a fair chance position. No it would seem, and I challenge this, the Methodist Church has no place for the neurodiverse. I later passed a university degree with honours.

As a note of interest, I am not the only one in the UK who has fallen victim to this total lack of neurodiverse neglect in ministerial training from this organisation where bold claims are made that everyone matters until such times you don't.

I discovered logical solutions. 

In the words of Victor Frankel, "Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way." These words came true and served as an anchor of hope and a signpost to something far better.

Undeterred by my treatment, I followed up with university study, where neurodiverse provisions were adequately provided. I passed my Integrative Counselling BA (Hons) in 2021.

Here's the most significant thing: counselling encourages free thinking and does not take its direction from any agenda or creed, apart from the client's authenticness and the client's wish to resolve the unique problems presented in the client's time frame from the client's lived experience as a unique individual. Working ethically with the correct therapeutic conditions present can transform someone.

If you have experienced a troubled life, you will understand that it takes time to feel ready to speak of your troubles. This can only happen once trust has developed in the working relationship.

The way problems of trauma and anxiety should be addressed is not in a let-it-all-out at-once approach or cast your burden, but working in safety from experience and professionally, knowing how little or how much to deal with in one session. Until this training is completed, you can risk re-traumatising the client. Therefore, you work beyond your competence if you lack the correct training.

The same can be said for addiction and other social issues. It is a place for dedicated professionals. Healing is much more than handing out a cup of soup, although all these things help those most in need. You have to provide safety before healing can begin, and you certainly will not heal in the environment that caused the trauma.

The need to make information available.

Having passed the Gold certification of Thrive London and other trauma and anxiety training awards, I felt compelled to assist those struggling. There will always be problems in life; it's how we learn to handle them and, as a counsellor, I do much of my work based on psychoeducation. This work aims to ease or prevent damage in the body from a lack of knowledge of what is taking place.

Psychoeducation empowers clients to make informed choices and understand on a deeper level the implications of what each of us uniquely struggles with on a one-to-one level, not crowd speculation.

It's all about our relationship with ourselves

We determine our future not by what others think of us or how they treat us but by never giving up on ourselves in the face of adversity. Obstacles will be placed in your way during this life, and you have to adopt the approach that you will not allow it to be your stumbling block but a challenge to be embraced and overcome.

If anyone asked who you are or what you represent, would you have a ready answer? Not many do. We get caught up in rushing through life without thinking about how we genuinely feel and then wonder why anxiety hits. The work to avoid anxiety does not require hours a day, but we must check in with ourselves daily, notice what the body says, and reflect before working within the body.

Developing a relationship and optimistic internal dialogue involves self-awareness and self-acceptance, improving mental and emotional health. You do not need external dependence to feel good in a healthy relationship with yourself. You truly value who you are without external validation. You become more available to enter healthy relationships because you are functioning authentically.

In nurturing your inner dialogue, note how you talk to yourself during the day. When negative thoughts and self-doubt creep in and you feel down, focus on what you have to be grateful for; most of us have something. Examine the evidence of your negative thoughts and feelings.

Take care of yourself by utilising regular self-care. Know yourself rather than be told who you are, both in strengths and weaknesses. In doing this, you will enjoy the relationships meant for you, improved mental health, and more productivity without co-dependency. Think just how much you can achieve with a clear head.

Developing confidence

The bottom line: Self-confident people are always more successful. Yes, I hear you say, but how do I acquire confidence? You start by learning to believe in yourself. It's not about what happened to you. It's about finding the courage to overcome obstacles. It's all about fading the critical voice while developing a new vision of self.

You will begin to accomplish these steps in your journey once you can honestly believe you can achieve them. Confident people know how to hold it together under pressure and set goals. They become known and recognised, thriving under pressure in what they do best. Many people have turned life around from little hope, and you can be one of them with the proper support. Anxiety does not have to be a lifelong issue for you. The keys to your best life await you with commitment to the process of reconnecting.

Finding your purpose in life 

Purpose anxiety happens when we wonder if we will ever have a purposeful life again. This can happen in two stages. The first is while trying to discover our purpose in any stage of life. The second is the steps we need to take to achieve our objective.

Having a goal can help with anxiety. This is because individuals with a strong sense of purpose and meaning in life tend to have better mental health and overall well-being. They remain focused rather than drifting or becoming lost in the crowd. 

Yes, it's a question as old as life itself. What is my purpose in life? What is important to you in a world where everyone wants your attention? Everything calls you to develop; if we are not progressing, we are regressing.

Instead of allowing ourselves to be pushed into corners where we don't fit, we first find ourselves and begin our developmental journey from there.

The one thing that will prevent you from finding yourself is limiting beliefs. If you are stuck in a place, either physically or mentally, for so long that you begin to believe this is all there is, it will become your core belief. The belief that we are not good enough can hold someone back an entire lifetime.

Sadly, we will remain stuck where we are until we begin to work on these matters. The good news is that we can grow and develop at any age. Once you know what you want, you can achieve your goals and grow in confidence. No matter what you struggle with, everything you need is within you to change your world and find your purpose before someone finds one for you. I'm always happy to talk. Take care.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London E1 & E14
Written by David Pender, MBACP, Integrative Psychotherapy | Specialising in Anxiety
London E1 & E14

David Pender is a mental health advocate/ writer and qualified integrative counsellor registered as a member with the BACP. David has extensive knowledge of anxiety, depression, and trauma. As a coach, David has a range of tools to keep you engaged with promoting your best life. Unsure try a free discovery call from this site.

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