What? My crisis has an upside ?? What kind of do-gooder, Pollyanna optimism is that?
Don’t get me wrong. Every single crisis I have ever been through was heart wrenching, scary, and kept me awake on numerous nights when I desperately needed sleep.
I don’t like crises. In fact, I coined a little acronym for them that explains just how much I would like to avoid them. I call them AFGOs, which stands for Another Frickin’ Growth Opportunity.
And yet…..I grew. From every single one of them. Sometimes the growth was exponential—like finally seeing just how strong I was when my son and husband both had cancer within the space of three years. Other times, it was only in retrospect that I saw the impact of the crisis—the ability to buckle down and study in order to graduate with my MBA (something that was in doubt after the first two semesters in grad school.)
So, what are some gifts that come from crisis? Researchers in post traumatic growth have found five areas where many people report a positive change in their lives, in the aftermath of a disaster or crisis:
1) Greater appreciation of self. While I owned, finally, the strength and resilience that others had always seen in me, my clients have had similar realizations. Angela (name changed) discovered just how good her business instincts and decisions were when her husband was incarcerated. She handed over the creative side of the business to others and began handling the day to day running of the company. In the years that he was in jail, she not only held their fledgling company together but grew into a well known and respected business.
2) A different perspective on life and purpose. Crises put things into perspective. Suddenly, when a disaster happens, the fight with your spouse or the aggravations of work no longer seem as important as they did before. Researchers report that often people carry that shift of perspective or new view of what is truly important into their lives even after the crisis has passed. Or, as my son, Nick, and I like to say, “If it’s not cancer and no one is dying, it’s not that big of a deal.”
3) Greater appreciation of life, compassion, and empathy. In addition to gaining a different perspective on life, many of my clients report that the small things in life are more likely to get their attention—bird song, the smile of a grandchild, a sunny day, or a good night’s sleep. When a crisis threatens our lives, our families, our homes, our health, and anything else we may see as integral to our happiness, we tend to value it more. Many of my clients who have gone through health challenges tell me that they are significantly more patient with other’s mistakes or foibles than they were before their crisis.
4) Enhanced relationships. Crises are petri dishes for growth—especially within a relationship. When our lives are disrupted by the shock waves of a financial, personal, or professional crisis, the masks that we live behind are often dropped. It can take too much energy to keep up a facade when your life is crumbling. The people who remain with us, support us, and love us through those crises see us at our most vulnerable. And, like Brené Brown so eloquently says, “what has been seen can not be unseen.” Our relationships will likely never be the same—and that is usually a good thing.
5) Spiritual development. Religious or spiritual beliefs can be buttressed or buffeted by crises. One client lost all faith in God when cancer ruined her health and her finances believing that if God existed, he wouldn’t let these bad things happen to her and others. Robert, sole caregiver when his spouse was disabled from multiple medical events, found solace in the spiritual traditions of his youth. For those who use the crisis as a catalyst for examining our lives and our beliefs, the crisis can be the beginning of a deeper faith or confidence in their spirituality.
Questions for you to consider if you’ve recently gone through a crisis:
- Do I see life differently in any way, prior to this crisis? In what ways has life become more precious to me? Are there things or people that I appreciate more than in the past?
- Do I find myelf taking certain events or issues less seriously than before? More seriously?
- Do I find it easier to talk about my emotions, feelings, or struggles than before the crisis? Do I reach out to others more readily than before?
- How have the priorities in my life changed?
- How have my beliefs in God/The Universe/The Divine different than they were pre-crisis? How so?
I would love to hear from you with how your crises changed you. Please leave a comment below!