Key Patterns to Watch Out for When Your Life is in Crisis
Elizabeth Carney shares the key patterns to watch out for when your life is in crisis
When you find yourself in crisis it can be a challenge to get up in the morning, know what day of the week it is, or understand how you can break out of the situation you find yourself in. As individuals, we react very differently to events in our lives. One person’s crisis is a mere bump in the road for someone else. Crisis is generally the result of your own perception of an event or situation in which you find yourself. It’s the point at which whatever is going on exceeds your specific resources or coping mechanisms – resulting in a situation of intolerable difficulty.
There is a whole spectrum of crisis that includes:
A period of intense difficulty or even danger
A time when you have to make a difficult or important decision
Being in a situation that has reached a critical phase
Sometimes though, we get so caught up in our daily routines that we don’t even recognise we are in crisis. Chances are that who we truly are has been eroded over time. We hide behind the various masks that we create to maintain order in our lives, with our families, friends and also at work – indeed, with anyone we interact with. It can be a very subtle progression, that requires an extreme event to shock us back into conscious awareness that something needs to change, or it may just be a dawning realisation that your life is not exactly as you thought it was. Crisis does not need to be dramatic. It does not even need to be the response to a specific external event or series of events. Crisis can be internal and existential . It can be the response to answering the question – who am I?
When you realise that for whatever reason, you have become virtually invisible in your own life, that your masks are no longer needed because the people or situations you created them for no longer need you, then the reality sinks in. The crisis is not the actual events, it is your response to them – but how do you recognise the patterns that have built-up to this moment?
Through research and working with clients for over a decade I have identified the following key patterns:
This is a given. Your life feels as if it’s not actually what you thought it was, even if you can’t put your finger on exactly what’s wrong.
Keeping up appearances is vitally important, often at the risk of not facing the reality of your situation. You’ll dress up and show up, putting on your ‘game face’ and telling people everything is fine.
You start to question who you are, wondering if you know anymore. For so many years you have hidden behind the masks of your roles as partner, parent, boss, colleague and so on. Now perhaps you are no longer working for whatever reason, your kids have left home and your parents are ageing and sick, maybe dying, then to top it all your relationship breaks down. I am no longer surprised at how many people go through versions of this scenario.
It’s easier to fit in than to stand out; your own individuality is suppressed as you become your roles – parent, partner, worker. Who you are and what you want has long ceased to be important as you manage the demands of other people.
You accommodate the needs of others at the expense of your own, sacrificing your personal inner integrity in the process. It’s time to acknowledge what’s inside of you, your beliefs and choices and be true to you.
You believe that nobody listens to you anymore and so your opinions do not matter. When you simply ‘go-along’ with the majority it becomes harder to express yourself and be heard.
Apathy sets in; you disengage because there is no point in doing certain things, or perhaps in doing anything at all. When you believe nobody listens and you don’t matter, it is easier not to participate.
You lose touch with reality as your imagination verges on paranoia. You can’t think straight or conceive of a way to change the situation. You are in overdrive, imagining what you could have done differently, making up imagined scenarios that probably never happened, blaming yourself for everything and becoming incapable of visualising a clear way forward.
Unplanned independence throws you into a crisis of vulnerability and confusion; alternatively, you are unable to break free of the circumstances that have enforced your dependency. You are either stuck in the same old situation or you have been thrust into a new one not of your choosing. Neither situation is aligned with what you really want.
You become unable to see or hear the messages of your own intuition, and you make decisions that are not in your best interests. You may have closed your intuition down entirely or knowingly refused to listen to the messages which you know are signposts to a better, more positive or alternative situation that is likely to be closer to your truth.
Why not have a think about where you are right now. Most people I know will see themselves in one or more of these patterns. Many will repeat them for years, externally putting on a show while internally struggling. Often, others who know us will see the crisis in play before we are ready to admit it to ourselves. Sometimes those ‘others’ are part of the problem and it is only when they are gone that things become clearer.
If you have spotted yourself in these patterns, what can you do to move forward? First, by acknowledging there is a problem, you have taken the first step – often the hardest. Next, it’s important to establish the scale of the crisis – how bad is it really? Then, it’s time to take responsibility. This is a two-pronged approach. You need to ask yourself what part you played in getting to the current situation and accept responsibility for it – letting go of blame and being the victim of the scenario. After this, you take responsibility for making the changes you want to create in your life. To create change, space is required. Both the obvious and the underlying patterns need to be deconstructed and reprogrammed. Only when there is space can you create the life you want – on your terms. And finally – don’t be afraid to ask for help. You are never alone.