Sometimes the crises we face are of a big enough scale to make the evening news, but usually they’re more personal.
I’ve had clients who made huge mistakes and lost their careers as doctors. I’ve worked with people so distraught by the loss of a loved one that they didn’t think they would survive.
Crises can be smaller-scale than that, though, too. It might be getting your first traffic ticket, or having your identity stolen, or finding out that friend of yours isn’t really your friend.
It’s a process or event—something with a beginning, middle, and end—that (1) marks some kind of change, (2) produces feelings of anxiety in you, as change often does for humans, quite naturally, and (3) provides an opportunity for new meaning or perspectives to form.
When you think about them that way, crises are just signs of life being lived. So, if you’re heading anywhere in life at all—experiencing change, getting let down or hurt sometimes, experiencing other kinds of setbacks, and experiencing victories, pushing your comfort zone, and growing—then crises are a necessary evil.
But are they really evil? Are they really bad at all?
Crisis: A Stage of Growth
When people talk about personal growth, change, or transformation, there’s a metaphor—an example from nature—that’s used a lot: a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly.
Now, in real life, the caterpillar is almost completely destroyed by that process—almost all of its body inside the cocoon turns to jelly and miraculously comes back together somehow in the form of a butterfly.
What's even more amazing is this: scientists have found that things a caterpillar learns, it remembers as a butterfly. That knowledge somehow makes it through that process of completely breaking down and reassembling!
I see the same thing happen with people—crises are a threshold they cross, over which they carry lessons learned and meaning made from things that came before.
Just like how you might have a keepsake of an important person or event in your life from long ago, we bring what was important to us through the crisis with us, and pick up new material of importance in the crisis, and then come out the other side, reborn.
Crises are a way significance and meaning are created in our lives, and while crisis may break us down sometimes, just like on the inside of that cocoon, it’s only breaking down the way things look.
The essential part of you not only survives, but can thrive in the face of crisis. They may not be pleasant, but crises are the way growth happens. So, while they might be unpleasant, and necessary sometimes, they aren’t evil.
Crisis Makes You Stronger, and Maybe Softer
You know, I was a homeless as a kid, and I was ridiculed by every other kid in school when they found out. I felt like my world was ending, but it wasn’t. I was being rebuilt.
That broken, demoralized Elementary School Me isn’t here anymore. He was dissolved in the cocoon of the crisis. . . but his tenderness and compassion for the underdog were passed along, and came through the other side.
I also had mental illness crop up in my family, as a teenager. For a time, life didn't seem that great anymore. I wanted to be done with it, and in fact attempted to end mine. But that Teenage Me was dissolved in the crisis, too.
That angst and hopelessness were soothed by the tenderness and compassion I’d carried with me from childhood. They helped Teenage Me hold myself gently and begin a long transformation, into happiness and self-worth. And so on.
I’ve been broken down, dissolved, and reborn a thousand times, in ways big and small. And most of the time, if not every time, I've come out better in some way. So have you, I’d bet.
Finding Benefit in Difficult Times
So why does crisis get a bad rap?
Well, obviously because it isn’t pleasant to experience, but also because the “after” picture doesn’t always look better, like a pretty butterfly, at least right away.
Sometimes you have to actively search for the opportunity for growth and transformation in that soup of ingredients that you dissolve into.
It’s human nature, of course, to avoid the pain and difficulty of it all and just hope that something good comes of your crisis, and just let time heal you. But sometimes that doesn’t work.
The alternative is staying present with and embracing the difficulty, guiding the process wisely, as best you can, and emerging on the other side of your crisis with a different and better version of you, however you define that. (Because remember, crisis is going to change you either way, so you might as well change for the better, right?)
Maybe you’ll emerge more sensitive, compassionate, assertive, successful, stronger, or whatever. In fact, you may find yourself feeling sure enough about yourself to *initiate* your next crisis.
Maybe you already trusted yourself to initiate a crisis, by taking bold action like changing careers, leaving an unhealthy relationship, or picking up and moving to the place of your dreams even though you didn’t know a soul there. Or something else.
But as for the ones you've already experienced, here's some good news.
It’s Never Too Late to Find Meaning in Setbacks
There’s no statute of limitations; no time limit on when you need to use the potential that was created from a crisis, whether that was last week, last year, or when you were a kid.
The crises you’ve been through have left a lot of ingredients for transformation floating around in your system, and they’re waiting for you to reassemble them in butterfly formation.
In other words, crisis doesn’t have to just break you down. It can break you open, so you’re ready to grow, undergo metamorphosis, and experience life up in the air.
P.S. I know that all of this can sound like a tall order, especially if you’re in the midst of a crisis right now and are just trying to make it through. If that’s you, then I have something that can help.
It’s called the Setback Survival Pack, and it’s a totally free PDF and video guide that will help you get through this crisis period—through the worried days and sleepless nights you’re experiencing—so you come out whole, healthy, and stable, and ready to decide wisely where to go next.
Just click here to get it.
P.P.S. If you’re not experiencing a crisis right now, but all this talk of using setbacks to your advantage has struck a chord with you, then you’ll probably find this related content helpful or interesting.
Also, you’ll want to be on my mailing list, because I’ll be announcing a new program of mine soon that will be right up your alley. There’s nothing like it available anywhere else, and I’m super excited about it.