Linda: Crises are inherent in our lives and in all of our relationships. Both our lives and our relationships involve growth and will sometimes be characterized by a sudden change. It is at these turning points that we have optimal leverage to change direction. When our relationship is in crisis, there are only two choices. The relationship is temporarily fragmented, so we don’t have the option to continue the way we had. The option of continuing business, as usual, is just not available.
The crisis forces us to choose between the possibilities of learning new ways of being or ending the relationship. Whether it’s the crisis of a move, a child being born, an injury, illness, loss of a job, or another form of breakdown, they each force us to adapt. The container that we had known has been shattered into pieces, and rather than throw it away, we can pick up the pieces and assemble them in a way that is creative and more beautiful than it was previously.
The danger lies in not responding.
The Chinese character for crisis contains two characters, one, which means danger, the other means opportunity. The danger that is inherent in every crisis lies in not responding consciously, where we risk experiencing a loss of the relationship itself, our health, or something else that is important to us. The opportunity that is contained in the crisis is one of creating a new reality out of the opened crack in the system. What is most important about a crisis is the attitude with which we approach it. The choice is whether we approach it with openness, a desire to learn, grow, and create, or whether we approach it with fear, dread, and resistance. We may try to put the broken pieces back together again just as it was, but that is never possible.
The option of changing the other person isn’t available either; actually, it never has been. We are being called upon to learn right now. Sometimes it appears that calling it quits is the simplest way to handle things. Maybe years of denial has created such a mess that it seems like it will take forever to recover from the damages. Maybe so, but whether we do the work in this relationship or another, one way or another, it’s got to get done
If we’ve created a mess together in our partnership, whether we stay together or not, it needs to get cleaned up. If we try to sweep things under the rug and walk away, we’ll just end up playing out another version of the same problem at another time until we finally get it right. It’s one of those situations where it’s either pay now or pay later. We can put off doing our work, but the work will be laying in wait for us to attend to it at a later date.
Learning and changing along the way.
If we learn the lessons that each crisis offers to us, we won’t find ourselves repeatedly playing out the same patterns time after time with different circumstances. This kind of learning requires us to cultivate the capacity for openness as a listener as well as a speaker. It requires us to be able to not only listen to each other but to learn from each other, even to become more like each other.
When we learn from our experiences, we won’t make the same mistake quite so many times. We accept the challenge of using what the relationship tosses up, not to validate our old belief system, but to establish more effective patterns. We will continue to move fluidly with change when we are tested by developmental and circumstantial changes in our lives.
Every transition has the seeds of opportunity for growth in it. The bigger the crisis, the more seeds for learning. When we learn how to learn from each situation, rather than attempting to avoid problems, we can equip ourselves with the inner resources to handle anything. Now that’s strength and confidence worth striving for.