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02/21/2011

In a crisis, most of us make things worse. Here's how not to ...

Tao You’ve probably heard that the term “crisis” in Mandarin Chinese means both danger and opportunity. But how does that work, exactly?  How does a person change the next major crisis in their life and turn it into an opportunity to grow and thrive?

There is a dark omen around “crises,” and rightfully so.  It’s all too common for a crisis to lead to a domino effect and cascade:  the old adage suggests that bad things happen in three, and we all have stories. 

That’s because most people are surprisingly bad at keeping today’s crisis from snowballing into tomorrow’s.  All too often our urge to “problem solve” no matter what the cost is an over-reaction that only make matters worse. 

As Rollo May said, “It is an old and ironic habit of human beings to run faster when we have lost our way and we grasp more fiercely at research, statistics, technical aids…”

Similarly, in the landmark publication, Grace Unfolding Greg Johanson and Ronald Kurtz combine the wisdom of Lao Tzu with psychology and discover that the best way to handle crisis is to first create a sense of calm and flow inside. 

Johanson and Kurtz explain to the reader that change and movement result from acceptance of current experience and selfhood; knowing that the solution results not from the eradicating the problem but affirmative trust in the natural and creative aspects of the human. Healing, meaning, and purpose-filled ambition result from reaching into the dark depths of our inner and external “crisis” experiences, locating the fragmented elements of ourselves and bringing them into the loving light of awareness where new ways of relating become integrated into previous habituation and doings. The key lies in acknowledgement, acceptance, loving and empathic reflective inclusion of who and where we are—in order to move into more abundant existence.

That’s much different from a “fix it now!” reaction that causes us to clench tighter around the problem rather than open up to new possibilities and solutions. 

When you are lost, in the very depths of crisis, take care to slow down. Your problems, sufferings and anxieties will only be exacerbated by greater “doings.”

And, in the spirit of Tao-te-ching, “Withdrawal as soon as your work is done, such is Heaven’s Way…”

In case that’s too abstract, here are some practical tips:

1)    Cut down on your anxiety; in order to let the brain do its job: How? Glad you asked—pay attention and regulate your breathing and get the excess tension out on the treadmill.

2)    Sit down and evaluate the type and depth of your crisis: Pull out your mechanical pencil and start journaling. Keep it simple: a section on the feelings and emotion of your experience and on the logical reality of the situation. Be sure to use the eraser—if emotion gets in the logic column.

3)    Your friends are your best advisors: Unite the people around you and explain your situation. You are not looking for advice, but a sounding board.

4)    Keep in solution mode; avoid problem solving: use your energies toward life-giving solutions. Cut down on the pragmatics and do more of what has worked in the past—less of what has not during bad situations.

5)    Be aware: Crises evoke “busyness” as a way to avoid and escape the reality. Caution yourself against big decisions or the doing mode. Sit in mindful awareness to strengthen your capacity against reactivity.

-- Liz Schreiber

Posted at 07:04 AM in

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