Coping with a Major Personal Crisis
Painful and traumatic events in our lives can generate positive life transformations.
A "crisis" is any situation that causes you to experience unusually strong emotional reactions that interfere with your normal routine. Because life is not constant, each of us will face times of major turmoil, trauma, and life change. These life-altering events—the death of a loved one, an accident or devastating illness, divorce or separation, job loss, natural disasters, a change in financial security, relocation, being the victim of a crime—are types of personal loss. These life-altering events force us to go through the process of grieving, as they represent a loss of self. We were once shaped or defined by them, and they represented our place in the world until our "personal universe" crumbled. Despite the loss, the outcome of a crisis may actually result in growth and change.
There are, however, those who perceive daily life as nothing more than a series of dramas, or "crises." These people react to any event where the outcome does not meet their expectations as a catastrophe, and they choose to live each day from one crisis event to the next. This is not the universal concept of crisis as defined earlier.
Abnormal responses are normal to abnormal situations. People respond differently in, during, and after a crisis or a threatening situation—but every one of them is changed in ways he or she may not realize. Some feel the brunt of the experience immediately. Others appear to be strong or even numb to their experience. Often, victims of a traumatic episode become involved in helping others, as easing the suffering of others helps them feel better. The danger in this, however, is that if they become overly absorbed too soon following the event, the "helping" serves to avoid the personal pain that arises from coming to terms with their own feelings.
The most positive thing a person experiencing a crisis can do is express his or her thoughts and feelings in a safe and open manner. Discussing the negative situation with friends, family, or a therapist immediately following the event (within 72 hours) is a necessary first step toward coping with a crisis. People who are friends or coworkers of those affected can listen compassionately, but they may experience secondary trauma as a result of listening to others' experiences of an event.
It is normal for people experiencing a crisis to:
Here are some strategies for coping with the difficult, painful, and confusing times in your life.
How is it that some people are able to bounce back after a crisis and others stay stuck for indefinite periods of time? The answer lies in a person's resilience—his or her ability to draw from an inner strength. A crisis is a time for adapting to new situations and discovering one's tolerance to pain and distressing emotions. We all have the capacity to reorganize our lives after a traumatic event and achieve new levels of order and meaning. We can learn new methods of becoming resilient through professional help and a willingness to examine our inner qualities—thought, intuition, the spiritual self—in a new light that gives us the strength to endure the crisis.
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Carole Landis is located in Haverford, Pennsylvania (PA) on the Main Line in Montgomery County. Her service area includes: Philadelphia, Montgomery County (Haverford, Bryn Mawr, Bala Cynwyd, Wynnewood, Villanova, Rosemont, Narberth, Gladwynne, Penn Valley, King of Prussia, Ardmore) and Delaware County (Newtown Square, Broomall, Havertown, Upper Darby).
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