I live in Nashville, Tennessee. Our city experienced an E3 tornado just weeks before Covid19 hit our area. The tornado devastated parts of our city. In the aftermath, we were incredibly proud of how our community responded. Many people came together to help survivors. Sadly, the work was not finished when we learned we needed to self-isolate to prevent the virulent spread of Covid19. This was crisis x2. Therapeutic literature refers to this kind of crisis as situational crisis—uncommon or extraordinary events that an individual has no way to forecast or control (Kanel, 2019).
Krisit Kanel (2019) described a state of crisis as involving a precipitating event that provokes a perception of threat or damage which invokes emotional distress and thus, results in impairment of emotional functioning due to the failure of usual coping methods. Each of Nashville’s precipitating events presented significant life change. Consequently, it’s safe to assume many in our community both local and global are in a state of crisis.
On those grounds, I’d like to discuss how we can help ourselves. In part 1, I talked about concentrating on things we can control to improve mental health. Concurrently, the path toward increased emotional functioning also involves this concept. In the above description of a crisis state, there is one element over which we have control, perception.
Ergo, perception presents the brass ring—the means by which we can return to equilibrium. When my kids were growing up I used to tell them, “If you can change your perception; you can change the world.” I said this to them because it can be hard to change perception. Yet, it’s fundamental to success and health. However, knowing this isn’t enough. We need to implement the elements of change.
Danger / Opportunity
To that end, let’s break down the components of crisis. According to Kanel, (2019) crisis can be seen as both danger and opportunity. Our ability to increase emotional functioning after a crisis event involves identifying which one of these components gets the lion’s share of our attention. Both danger and opportunity are present—it is the dichotomy of crisis. However, if we can identify opportunity and acknowledge danger without being consumed by it we can alter how we view the precipitating event.
Therefore, we must recognize danger and reinforce opportunity. We must hold both realities in tension while giving the limelight to opportunity. This is key to changing our perception. It’s also how we acquire new coping skills. Directing our attention to opportunity is a rudimentary ingredient for perception change. And, I think gratitude gives it staying power. Gratitude helps us remember what remains of value—it intrinsically focuses our brain on the good. These are the building blocks of the formula to increased emotional functioning—change in perception of precipitating event and acquiring new coping skills which lead to a decrease in emotional distress which facilitates an increase in emotional functioning (Kanel, 2019).
It’s important to note there’s a secret weapon which can sway a person from being crisis-prone with a focus on danger to crisis resilient zeroing in on opportunity. The secret weapon is help—it makes a difference. When an individual is in crisis they’re typically more open to help than they might be when in a steady state. Help is a pivotal factor. In part 3, I will talk about practical resources we can access. Remember, we need each other. We can give and receive help.
Kanel. (2019). A guide to crisis intervention (6th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage.