I got a queasy feeling checking my brokerage account this morning. For one thing, I could have sworn there were more digits in my account balance when I last checked it a week ago. Like many investors, my portfolio has taken a hit from the recent market turmoil. Knowing that my freefalling stocks also signal bargain opportunities elsewhere in the market doesn't make the experience any more pleasant.

Still, once I remind myself that I'm investing for the long haul, the thought of a continued roller coaster market -- perhaps even a much-dreaded recession -- actually starts to look like a blessing in disguise. Recessions can definitely hurt, especially if you lose your job or endure a pay cut, and we shouldn't sugarcoat or ignore the tough times that may await us. But we should also view them as a rare opportunity to capitalize on a cyclical market, making big, solid investments at prices that will seem seriously low once the smoke clears.

Let's look at the rebound some big-name companies made after the last recession, which essentially ended in late 2002, after the company emerged from an overheated tech bubble and the economic and political shocks of the Sept. 11 attacks:

Company

Return since last recession

Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT)

294.4%

UnitedHealth (NYSE: UNH)

154.1%

Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO)

139.2%

Altria Group (NYSE: MO)

221.9%

Disney (NYSE: DIS)

112.5%

Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-A)

83.6%

Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG)

76%                                     

S & P 500 Index

67.2%

*Return since Oct. 1, 2002.

Clearly, the biggest long-term returns follow periods of market pain -- particularly recessions. I'll freely admit that the stocks on this chart have been cherry-picked at the absolute bottom of the market, with the advantage of hindsight. But I won't try to predict whether a recession will occur, nor how long it might last if one does hit. Neither should you.

For all the pain they cause, recessions and other market stumbles provide investors opportunities to enjoy huge returns several years down the road. That's a time frame every good investor should have in mind. The events of 2008 remain completely up in the air; we can only hope to be properly prepared for any one of a slew of possible situations.

Heck, I'd say I'm hoping for a recession, if only because it'll give me a chance to double down on my favorite investments. After all, a market that did nothing but rise would provide no opportunities for market-beating returns. As long as none of your investments end up with a permanent loss of capital, diving in when the economy falls ill can set you up nicely once the market begins to recover.

Recession? Bring it on. I'll be waiting hungrily.

For related Foolishness:

Berkshire Hathaway, Disney, and UnitedHealth Group are Stock Advisor newsletter recommendations. Berkshire and UnitedHealth are also Inside Value picks. The Motley Fool owns stock in Berkshire Hathaway and SPDRs.

Fool contributor Morgan Housel owns shares in Berkshire Hathaway and Altria Group. Morgan appreciates your questions, comments, and complaints. The Fool's disclosure policy is all about investors writing for investors.