Sometimes we can be overtaken by things that happen in the psyche. Such events can leave a person in a very vulnerable place struggling with intense anxiety, depression or stress. Often these psychic events are triggered by events in our outer lives. Nonetheless, it is their psychological impact, the things that they cause to happen in our minds, that has the most fundamental impact upon us. It is the manner in which we perceive these events, and the meaning that we attach to them, that can led us into real difficulties.
There are many potential types of crisis. I have chosen just a few types to mention here, which are among the most prominent and difficult.
Betrayal is often one of the very worst types of crises. A negative experience at the hands of one who is loved and trusted can be one of the most profoundly shattering experiences in life. I will be writing a whole posting, or a whole series on this in the near future. Nonetheless, what is important here is that such an experience can shake a person to the core, particularly if the relationship in which the betrayal occurs is one that is fundamental to a person’s sense of identity (see below).
Fundamental crisis of identity. A fundamental crisis of this kind is an experience in which an individual’s sense of themselves is pulled out from underneath them, as it were, rather than the kind of gradual change in understanding of identity that occurs in aging and maturation. For example, consider the person who has 37 years in with the same firm, and who is unexpectedly laid off 2 1/2 years before retirement. Or the 47 year old woman who learns for the first time that she is adopted in her mother’s last will and testament. job loss. loss of a business.
Grief and or profound disillusionment. These two types of experience can be quite distinct, or else they can come together. Often the loss of a loved one can lead to some of the deepest soul-searching and questions in life. Sometimes grief, though, can also be associated with the loss of a way of life, or something that has provided a certain kind of meaning, such as a pattern of life that may be associated with living with a certain city or location, or in a certain community of people, when one has to leave it.
The sense of being fundamentally overwhelmed by external events.In my opinion, this is one of the most frequent kinds of psychic crisis for people in suburban environments like Oakville, Burlington and Mississauga. In fact, at certain times in recent years in our culture, I think that this kind of psychic affliction has been almost epidemic.
The effect of huge life events of these types is that they can cause some pretty fundamental upheavals deep in the individual’s psyche. These can lead to things in the unconscious getting very shaken up and emerging in consciousness, such as anxiety and depression.
However, it is important to recognize that contents from the unconscious might well be surfacing in an attempt to bring healing to the individual, also.
What do I do if I find myself in the grip of a crisis? Sometimes people keep on with business as usual, acting as if nothing has changed in their lives. They work just as hard, maybe harder. They are just as demanding of themselves as they ever were, maybe even more so.
1. Acknowledge that you are in a crisis. This can be hard to admit. All of us would rather not go through this type of experience, even though they are a fundamental aspect of human life. Sometimes the need to look good–to ourselves, or to others–can keep a person from acknowledging in a self-compassionate way that she or he has something big with which they have to struggle.
2. Take care of yourself. Carefully consider your sleeping, eating, working and stressful interactions. Are you putting more burden on yourself than you can manage in a healthy way? As in 1. , are you truly acknowledging what it is that you are going through? If you respond to the distress of a crisis by, say, trying to drown the pain through working harder, you need to recognize that the outcome may not be at all good for you or for the people to whom you are close.
3. Get help. Seek out a good therapist. You are going to need to process what is happening to you, to come to terms with the feelings, and with everything, such as depression, anxiety and perhaps even panic, that may be coming up from the unconscious. A skilled therapist who is aware of the deeper meanings of these types of events can help you to put them in a context where the psyche can start to make some kind of meaning out of them.
4. Ask whether this situation reminds you of anything similar in your earlier life. Is this particular crisis bringing up things out of the past for you? Does it connect with difficult things that you have had to deal with earlier in your life? Does it reflect patterns that you have experienced at earlier times in your life?……..
I’d gratefully welcome your comments and reflections on psychological crisis. Have you, like very many people, had experience of crisis in your life? Are you dealing with forms of crisis now?
My very best wishes to you on your individual journey to wholeness,
Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst
Website for Brian’s Oakville and Mississauga Practice: www.briancollinson.ca
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© 2010 Brian Collinson