What is Crisis?
We think that crisis arrives as a sudden explosive disruption but that is an illusion. The roots of crisis move slowly. There is a chipping away and we adjust, and a chipping away and we adjust, always doing what we can to act as if everything is normal. Each time we adapt to less and less or more and more, we fuel the inevitable crush.
Crisis is a painful, radical interruption that provides an opportunity for full-scale transformation. It is any circumstance or condition that stops you from the life that you have practiced. You can’t pretend anymore that everything is the same. It can be personal or it can be collective. It can be about the realization that you no longer believe whatever story you grew up with, or put all your faith in, or it can be about the Civil War that moves you and millions around you, out of your homes.
Crisis is painful, because it is a form of amputation. You are severing a relationship that you have relied on for a long time. The severing can take many forms: someone you love has broken your trust, a loved one dies, you lose your faith in a belief, a government or yourself. What you once relied upon is now unpredictable and flawed.
Crisis is radical because it is far-reaching and all encompassing. It means that all of the connections in your life have somehow disconnected and it is now up to you to figure out how to reassemble them. Or perhaps, it is your work to find a completely new place to connect. This applies to your communities as well as your beliefs and assumptions.
You can no longer rely on your past to guide your present. There is no clearly marked road to follow. You are usually completely out of your comfort zone and everything feels unfamiliar. Foreign. Dangerous.
The usual signals that help you in decision making no longer apply, or appear to rely on a new rule book — one that you do not currently own. In fact, the usual signposts and signals that used to help you make decisions no longer work. You are not sure anymore what is safe and what is dangerous. It may feel as if your own spirit has failed you, or maybe, the God you served for so many years, has betrayed you. You are lost.
Your feelings will be disrupted. The ones you have tried the hardest to ignore, or the feelings that you pretend do not belong to you are the ones that will arise with the greatest force. You may feel frozen, or you may have an explosion of feelings that you cannot process. They will often feel terribly dangerous — grief, rage, wrath. Or maybe you will feel helpless, weak, and ashamed.
Every part of your life is somehow altered. It is the breaking of a promise that life would take care of you. Your ability to view your life as “normal” is over. It is the mother of all interruptions. How are you supposed to find your way home when everything you have relied on has been taken away? How do you find your way home when you are cold, naked and blind? If it is not a punishment, what is it?
The Great Undo
The truth is, the seeds of crisis are sown over a very long period of time. In fact, before your crisis begins, there are many smaller cracks and conflicts that come before the crisis. Every small crack alerts you of your coming crisis. These small cracks can happen to you individually, and they can also happen in groups. Countries and communities in crisis follow the same pattern as personal ones, only with greater force. Because of their sheer size and scale, they often take longer to change. Terrorism, war and revolutions are all examples of large-scale transitions that take place on a global scale. The shifts can take years, generations and lifetimes to unravel.
Your own personal crisis takes place over long period of time, slowly building steam. It may feel like an explosion, but in reality, there were a series of small fuel leaks that contributed to the devastation. The knitting knots gather over small repeated twists and turns that do not receive attention.
My clients often report that their crisis hit them out of nowhere. They didn’t see the divorce coming. They didn’t see their child’s drug addiction, or their husband’s financial crisis, or the affair. Yet crisis comes to you in small gradual increments. The bankruptcy is sudden, but the groundwork for the bankruptcy took place years and generations prior to the radical disruption. Your beliefs around money and your beliefs around abundance brought you, over time, towards the bankruptcy. Spiritual and financial bankruptcies take years to happen.
There are many clues that will indicate that you are heading into crisis. We are very good at pretending everything is “okay”. There are cover-ups or Band-Aid patches that help you carry on and act as if no radical change is required, so you move forward — with worry, but still not ready to make a change. You will work very hard not to notice or ignore the signposts and signals until it is too late. It is important to understand the role each of these signals play in setting the stage for your impending crisis. The more you understand each of these signposts, the better your chance of navigating and moving through your crisis. In some cases, you might even avert your crisis altogether.
Clues that your crisis is coming arrive in your repeated conflicts, in the repeated feelings that hurt, in your distractions and addictions and in your physical, mental and spiritual exhaustion, and I will discuss this in further blog posts.
This blog post is adapted from material in, “Your Beautiful Trauma — a practical guide to help you convert crisis into full scale transformation.
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