From another thread. I wanted to explore without taking away from the original topic.
Pd: one case I can share is the following family. Missing father (fighter for Frente Polisario) and a mother that could not take care of them. Environment of war, horror, and poverty in Western Sahara. They tried their luck emigrating to Spain. One stayed. The others returned.
1. Became a soldier at the Frente Polisario.
2. Became a drug addict and homeless.
3. Studied in Rabat and ended up becoming a university philosophy professor.
This last example surprised me. He managed to defy all odds and predictions. He managed to break what seemed to be his determined path. Not everything is as fixed as it seems, but the power that those "structural configurations" might have upon humans is a possible and, unfortunately, common reality.
My sister is really into those stories by people who have had horrific childhoods only to escape and break the patterns, like in your last example. This has raised the question in me that I've never really gotten an answer to. What makes these people so different, that they're able to do this with their lives? I think this is kind of what positive psychology is trying to answer, not just what our pathologies and traumas are that cause us misery and stress. But what are the positive qualities that bring people striving and flourishing.
If only looking for just the positive qualities its easy to miss the neutral or hide from the negative ones. I think its those regular neither positive nor negative qualities that lead to the striving and flourishing. Mainly the qualities of knowing and of heart release.
Two aspects of knowing come to mind that can help lead to positive change.
One aspect could be the knowing of one who's suffered one of the worst things imaginable. When you've experienced it, you know. You know when you've felt the worst thing possible, that you've felt it. You know it. That comes with a sort of power of knowing the experience of the thing. Others who've never experienced it can only know it intellectually. They have to imagine the experience and most are dearly afraid of actually experiencing it. People think about their greatest fears often. But the ones who've gone through it don't have to be afraid of the imaginations like others. They know. I think there's a relief that comes with that knowing where others feel anxiety. Its in that relief the heart has an opportunity to open. Because it already took the wound and knows it. It doesn't have to be afraid like others.
Another aspect could be the knowing of one who's experienced their greatest desires. Imagining and achieving greater and greater desires are what drive a lot of people. People have desires for different things but the infatuation and imagination is similar. Some people get their greatest desires. In getting their greatest desire there often isn't much else left to do but go for it again. Why settle for a lesser desire when your greatest one is accessible? So again and again and again until that greatest desire becomes meaningless. And then again. They know the experience of having their greatest desire in abundance and all the details of what that really means. People who haven't experienced it can only know it intellectually. They have to imagine the experience and many can't do much else but imagine the experience of achieving their greatest desires.
In both cases the neutral quality of knowing allows for a freedom from some of the mind's greatest fixations. Greatest fears and greatest desires. And when you free up that many resources, you can do a lot with em. Like focusing on striving, or flourishing, or just on the breath.