Are you wasting your crisis? Paul Romer, a Stanford Economist, first asked this question. Now I’m asking you.
I remember working on a crisis hotline while in college long ago, training others to leverage callers’ crisis into changing their lives. There’s nothing better than a crisis to get someone’s attention. A crisis wakes you up. It forces you to feel, it forces you to look at things that you haven’t seen before the crisis.
What a crisis do for you
A crisis can:
- Show you that the past is no longer working
- Create a request for change
- Assist in breaking down old patterns
- Go beyond denial, escaping and projecting
- Create a portal – an opening for change
- Provide a request or an opportunity to learn
- Provide an invitation to a new place or experience
- Bring a death of the old and isn’t working
- Prompt the beginning of a new adventure – Campbell’s Call to Action
- Require something new from you
- Set up you for releasing old stress or trauma and a chance to heal
How to make the most of a crisis
After you deny it and then fight it – what do you do? You surrender – not necessarily to the situation, but to the experience. You allow yourself to slow down and shift out of the stress response of fight or flight to a place of mindfulness. I know this doesn’t seem like what you want to do; it is as if you’re asking to be hit harder.
By surrendering, you do first feel more discomfort. You feel what you were avoiding. For an instant, the tiger that was chasing you does catch you. The next instant you realize you’re still alive and maybe you will live. Now that not all your resources are oriented to surviving, you can start to use your more creative resources to fully evaluate the problem and perhaps transform it.
Given that you are not panicking and you see that there might be hope, you can start to leverage the crisis. You can use it as way to shift your life, learn a deep lesson or heal an old pattern. Once you know you will live, you can expand your scope of awareness and action to go beyond problem solving.
Ask yourself, what is the pattern? How is this crisis a repeat for you? Where has a similar crisis occurred in your life? In most cases, we tend to repeat a crisis until we learn what it is attempting to teach us. The players might be different – but often the theme will be similar. You might know someone who continues to end up in abusive relationships. His or her players change, but the theme of the drama stays the same.
If you can’t come up with your theme, ask your friends. Their perspective will be less biased. Once you get the pattern, step back. Look at it as if you’re looking at another’s pattern. Don’t analyze it yet, just feel it. By letting it sink in, you won’t be avoiding it anymore. This is what you were running from. Let your emotions catch up to you and feel what they have to tell you. It might be scary, but that’s okay. Keep breathing; these feelings will release.
As you’re feeling the full experience, let the images, sensations and memories surface before you release them. After much of the charge is released, expand your awareness by asking yourself what you’re learning. Buried in the drama and details is the lesson, the healing. It is possible you won’t get this awareness until after your crisis has ended; I’ve had the understanding come months later.
How to Use the Evolutionary Change™
This site is set up around what we’re calling the Whole Adventure, what Joseph Campbell called the Hero’s Journey. It is a process of unwinding down to a place of deep decision, the Catalyst stage. This is often the stage where a crisis intensifies – it is here you’re forced to decide. Are you going to keep doing it the old way or are you going to find a new way?
For some it is their dark night of the soul. That place where you are alone. You are in a void – not who you where and not who you can be. Your old behaviors will not serve you. Your mind will not serve you. You are brought to a place where there are only two doors – the door you entered in from and the new door with the unknown behind it.
The entire process of the Whole Adventure is about traveling this journey. Click on any of the five stages at the top of the page to learn more about the process.
Where to get help
Now that you have a frame of understanding to contextualize your experience, you can fully benefit from help. Friends can be a source of support with the caveat that if they have not gone through a similar situation, they might also be frightened. The more a friend has experienced his or her crisis or dark nights, the more likely he or she will be able to support you in a deep way. Friends always want to help. The question is, are they placating you or are they supporting the needed change? You will know. Simply put, don’t go to your bar for help quitting drinking.
Doing research on what is occurring can help. Often it will get your energy moving, and you’ll feel less stuck and at the effect of the crisis. The challenge here is not to over analyze the situation. Approach the research from the perspective of looking for an out-of-the-box solution.
Review the above list of the benefits of a crisis as a way to stay focused. Like all of us, you’ll want to escape, deny and project. Notice when that occurs; then come back and focus on accepting the present.
If you’re suffering the effects of a crisis, you might as well get the most from it. Use the crisis as a turning point for change. In holistic medicine and psychotherapy, this type of crisis is often called a healing crisis. It is where the body/mind detoxes or releases the past to create more space for the future. If allowed, the instability of the upheaval can evolve to a huge shift. Don’t waste the opportunity to deeply change your life.
Please tell us your experience in using a crisis as a change agent.
Photo by: dipfan