How to Deal with a Crisis

Wednesday, 02 November 2011 14:15

At present there is one crisis after another in the world, and one way or another, many of these crises creates a crisis in our own life. We can't help feeling anxious. What can we do?

We don't have any control over these crises. The government cuts a service we use, the food we buy costs more each week, and there is nothing we can do to prevent these things from happening. However, there is one thing we do have control over. This is how we interpret we interpret, that is, give a meaning to each crisis. Always, what we do decide to do is determined not by what has happened but how we have interpreted what has happened.

You're facing a crisis. Do you see this crisis as a challenge that you will master or as threat that will overwhelm you?

Seeing a crisis as a challenge brings out the very best in us. We become courageous and optimistic. We are creative. We think of different ways in which we can deal with the crisis and choose what seems to be the best. We use our intelligence and all our different abilities to achieve our aim. We are prepared for setbacks, because we know from all the stories we have heard about people who have overcome enormous difficulties in order to succeed, that reaching your goal is a matter of keeping on keeping on. This might be a hard way to live, but you feel that you are at your most alive.

When we interpret a crisis as a threat that will overwhelm us we become anxious, and the longer we are anxious the more stressed we become. When we are in a period of prolonged stress the challenge of keeping on keeping on can be a hard one to meet. In such a situation we need to be determined not just to survive but to live as satisfactory a life as possible. We need to find something we can say to ourselves in order to remind us that we are not going to let ourselves be defeated. Some people say a special prayer; some people remind themselves of the courage of people they have known; some people have a few lines of poetry or a special saying they can repeat to themselves. The motto I have used throughout my life, 'Never let the bastards win!'

Being stressed is difficult, especially when the stressful situation goes on and on with no end in sight. Some people, losing their nerve, turn stress into mental distress by losing confidence in themselves.

We lose confidence in ourselves when we turn against ourselves and hate ourselves. Then, instead of valuing ourselves, we can see ourselves as being inferior compared to other people. We ourselves for being inferior. Now we can then decide that, because we are despicable, we do not deserve anything better than what we have got. From this point it is easy to decide that, when a disaster befalls us, we are to blame for that disaster. If the firm you work for goes bankrupt and you lose your job you tell yourself, 'If I had been a really good at my job the firm wouldn't have gone bankrupt.' You lose sight of the fact that the firm went bankrupt for reasons that have nothing to do with you. When you lost your job you were very unhappy. When you blamed yourself for losing your job you turned your unhappiness into depression.

Many people believe that we live in a Just World where goodness is rewarded and badness is punished. When their life is going well they can think that this is because they are good. However, when things go badly wrong they think that the disaster they have suffered is their punishment for their wickedness. Yet, if they looked carefully and did not lie to themselves about what they saw, they would see that the world is neither fair nor just but simply is.

How can we react to the current crisis? There are three alternatives.

We can pretend that the crisis isn't happening by ignoring the world and becoming self-absorbed. However, we can do this successfully only if we are rich. Otherwise, when we open the next electricity bill the world with all its bad news will press itself upon us.

Or we can become very frightened. This is the worst thing we can do. Being frightened stops us from thinking clearly. During the Great Depression of the 1930s the American President Franklin D. Roosevelt said to Americans, 'The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.'

Or we can get angry. Being angry is best because it gives us the impetus to make changes.

Wild rage is worse than useless, but clear, focussed anger allows us to see the situation as a challenge that we will master. We cannot put the world to rights but we can join together with other people to protest and make our voices heard. By using the internet and protesting peacefully we have the chance of bringing changes that would have been impossible twenty years ago, changes that we might never have expected. When the people in the Occupy the London Stock Exchange protest got together they could never have expected to unseat the Dean of St Paul's Cathedral and turn a bright spotlight on those churchmen who are more concerned with maintaining a close relationship with those who have money and power rather than with following Jesus whose views about money were very clear. When a rich young man came to Jesus and asked him how he should lead his life, Jesus said, 'Sell what you have, give the money to the poor and follow me.'

Last modified on Wednesday, 01 February 2012 00:59