This article discusses what is means to experience crisis and dealing with crisis. The word, “crisis” has its Greek origin, krinein, which means, “to judge”. In Chinese, the word for crisis is 危機– the first word 危 means danger and the second word 機 means opportunity. This indicates that to be in crisis is to be in a state of having the possibility to make choices. This requires evaluation and re-evaluation of what used to be, or what we have been used to.
To be in crisis, is to experience a loss or a possibility of a loss of something that was important, that had a meaning in your life. The loss can be something that is tangible, like the loss of a loved one or loss of health, or something spiritual / mental, like loss of trust in someone/something.
Dealing with crisis is a process of creatively adapting to the crisis situation.
The Change Process in Dealing with Crisis
The loss usually translates into very meaningful changes for the person in crisis.
It is possible that such changes are impetus for growth; though that is not always the case. Experience of crisis can be extremely disturbing and anxiety provoking. When we go through crisis, there is also the feeling of being very alone in it.
Types of Crises
A crisis may be the result of loss of one’s previous identity or role. The loss of (or the expected loss of) a significant person, often changes how the individual sees him/herself in his/her world. The loss of health or a body part impacts likewise.
Crises occur with the natural course of life: puberty, leaving home, emigrating, having a child, getting divorced or approaching middle-age. These are some events in life in which people find themselves leaving familiar territory and having to make choices.
Getting Help in Times of Crisis
Help, to a person in crisis, is not a matter of giving advice or providing treatment. The best form of help comes in the supporting of the person through this difficult time of change.
Time is a main and stable resource. Stressful experiences occur when we expect a quick way out of the difficult feelings. Effective help comes in the form of one who is patient enough to be present with the person in crisis till he/she can fully integrate with the losses, and can come to terms with his/her new way of being.
This is also the “paradoxical theory of change” adopted by gestalt therapists.
Dealing with Crisis with Someone’s Help
If you are going through crisis yourself, find others who are able to provide you with the support to integrate the new meaning into your life. You can help them to help you, by telling them what you need and what you don’t need.
If you, for example, do not find the advice/consolation of well-meaning friends useful, say to them (if you can muster it), “I need you just to be with me, we do not have to find solutions right now.” Find someone to speak with about your difficult feelings of anxiety, guilt, sadness, grief, etc.
Certainly, getting professional support from a therapist or counsellor is also a good option.