The household was in an uproar. Everyone was yelling, to be heard above the others. No one was communicating. Ranting was rampant, pent up emotions exploding.
Time for a “talking stick”, a tool that indicates the speaker, with the rule that no one else speaks at the same time, until the talking stick is passed on to the center or to someone who has raised a hand for receipt. The din becomes listening time. Tempers still simmer but everyone can catch their breath. Unless of course, someone throws the stick.
Why do these eruptions occur? A couple of basic and significant factors need to be examined: fear and expectations. (1) What are you afraid of? (2) What are your expectations?
Most people are, on some level, afraid of death. Either their own, or of someone close to them, of a relationship, a job, or some other form of security. Often the only way to learn your way through such an event is to experience it. Finding out that you can survive it, as they say, for better or worse, is crucial to a healing process. The chances are very high that you will survive it. The better or worse part depends on you and how you look at life.
Then the questions are: how did you survive it? What did you do? How did you prove to yourself and others that you can survive a crisis? How do you show that you can move on from a crisis?
Most recently for me it was a sudden loss of water. Standing in the shower, suds-ed up, conditioner on my hair, and then no water. No gradual tapering, no warning, just no water. Fortunately, I keep a large jug of water beside the toilet for when the electricity fails. In a rural area, if electricity fails, there is no water and no heat. Electricity starts the well pump; electricity sparks the furnace. You need to know how to cope.
A week later, there was a loss of heat. 16ºF outside, and no heat. The furnace went on furlough. Fortunately, there is a reset button which flashes red when it needs attention. But you need to know what to do.
It’s the same with other types of crises. You need to know what to do.
The first step is to take a deep breath; then breathe steadily, in and out, focusing on your breath and nothing else. Acknowledge any intrusive thoughts and let them drift away. Go back to focusing on your breath. In. and. Out.
The crisis may, however, be the result of built up emotions rather than the loss of physical comforts. You can’t fix it by repairing the part. Or can you?
The part that needs repair is your psyche. That’s where the questions come in – what are you afraid of, and what are your expectations?
Disappointment is almost always a result of expectations that were not met. You expect someone to behave in a certain way, or supply certain comforts or conditions, and that doesn’t happen. Are your expectations realistic?
What is important is how you respond to disappointment. Look for a pattern to your responses over time. Do you yell and carry on like a mad rabbit/rabid raccoon? Or do you stop and breathe, step back and assess where the underlying difficulty is?
If you are young or caught up in intricate emotional territory, you might feel trapped. When you feel trapped, what do you do? The usual response is fight or flight. Fight is where a crisis can escalate, particularly if there are other people involved. Flight gives you space, even if only temporarily, space to decide what the best next step is for you.
Words are tools. In a crisis, words take on a life of their own. As humans, we tend to remember the criticism and harsh words. Statistically, it takes a lot of positives to right a negative. The negatives tend to stay with us a long time, unless we choose a different response. The adage “sticks and stones may hurt my bones but words will never hurt me” is wrong. Just wrong.
Moral? Choose your words carefully. When you go into fight mode, choose words you are not going to regret later. Amen.
A tactic I’ve found useful when someone flies into a rant, is simply to watch. Not say a word, just watch. Let the rant run its course. Without fuel from you, eventually it will slow down. There are a couple of exceptions found in pathological conditions but in general, the rant will die down when you don’t fight back. Just watch.
If you are seasoned enough, this is what you do: you stop and assess; you breathe.
There will be crises in life. Learn how to deal with them.
Choose your responses.
See Finding The Tiger, A Coming of Age, pp. 46 & 48.