Man is not imprisoned by habit. Great changes in him can be wrought by crisis – once that crisis can be recognized and understood” … Norman Cousins


As a flame purifies metal, so crises can purify us. But not everyone comes out of “the heart of darkness” unscathed.

The Mandarin word for “crisis” (weiji) is formed from combining the characters for “danger” and “critical point” (not “opportunity” as is popularly believed) – representing both a threat and a point of choice – offering an opportunity to despair or to grow.



Physical crises and the response to them take many forms, the impact of which varies from person to person and community to community. Imagine the emotional, mental, social and spiritual impact of a physical rape. Or incurable cancer. A national financial meltdown. Or natural disaster and the loss of property, lifestyle, possible even the very food and water you and your children need to survive.

However, as noted above, there are two sides to the currency of crises.

Physical hardship forces people to re-evaluate the context of their lives – the difference amongst what they “want, have and need” to survive. It brings out the real character within them – leading to either despondency or inventive resilience by recognizing that they always have a personal choice.



Most crises are created by man, being it financial, political, environmental, moral or otherwise, all of which will eventually impact on a person’s or a society’s economic sustainability, security, environmental and thus societal frame – such as unemployment, financial hardship, homelessness, loss of self-esteem, depression and even crime to mention some seriously major ones.

We not only live in interesting times. Our times are also quick-changing and often stress-riddled. People might be out of work for years and despair that their plight find no resolution or sympathy within the existing political framework or even the system as a whole.

But taking another look at the meaning of “crisis” we note a “critical point” – an opportunity to exercise a personal choice. The past is not the future. Every day is a new day with new discoveries, surprises and pathways to explore. And refreshingly the sun that shone on all the great artists, philosophers, and spiritual leaders, is the same sun that shines on us every day.

Look up! Stay focused. Steer your life – don’t let it steer you. Self-made opportunities abound, as has been shown with monotonous regularity. Much depends on your perspective and outlook. Review where you stand, work on your legacy goals and use them as stepping-stones to re-energize yourself.



In mental health terms, a crisis refers not necessarily only to a traumatic situation or event, but also to a personal or a nation’s reaction to the event.

Humanity is not a global village in terms of how it handles crises. Individuals and nationalities handle them differently – as was quite evident in the way that the Japanese handled the impact of their tsunami and how similar catastrophes have been handled elsewhere.



A crisis may play out in different theatres i.e. global, national, local or personal and in various forms, such as war, storms, typhoons, earthquakes or a personal breakdown. People may weather a global or national crisis but succumb to a personal one. One of my long-standing friends was experiencing a personal crisis as I wrote this and she would go and sit in the sun to “warm more than my skin”. These few but intense words say so much: the need for physical, mental and spiritual warmth and a light to shine in a very dark place where even the soul is cold – but to hopefully emerge whole, if not intact.



A resilient spirit and soul is what conquers crises – not just an avalanche of money and technology which are often thrown at challenges in today’s world.

Needed is a mix of vision, foresight, expressed goals, but also a flexibility to navigate through troubled terrain. And a confidence in your ability and capacity to face a crisis, live through it and not succumb in the process.



Spiritual crises often follow a major personal upheaval such as the death of a beloved, news of a life-threatening disease, near-death experience or major accident. However, it can also follow the commitment to a personal spiritual journey and engagement in related events which may change one’s frame of reference and system of meaning – one’s purpose in life, values and beliefs, goals and attitude and even one’s identity and destiny.

Mind-body-soul is a unity, and the outcomes of spiritual crises and thus opportunities will affect you physically, mentally, emotionally, socially and even intellectually. It may thus be wise to postpone any life-changing decisions whilst living through a personal crisis.

Engage with Nature, read uplifting books and poetry, listen to meaningful music and envisage despairing thoughts as clouds that melt away. Make a positive choice! And live it.


Key Principles

  • Physical crises take many forms and the impact vary from person to person.
  • Most crises are created by humans, but remember every day brings new opportunities and choices.
  • Humanity is not a global village in terms of how it handles crises.
  • People may weather a global or national crisis but succumb to a personal one.
  • A resilient spirit and soul is what conquers crises.
  • Spiritual crises may follow both personal upheaval and commitment to a personal spiritual journey.


Action Steps

  • Re-evaluate the context – during a crisis define what you “want, have and need” to survive.
  • Stay focused. Steer your life – don’t let it steer you. Let your goals re-energize you.
  • Rise above the turmoil by drawing on both your inner and external strengths.
  • Appreciate emotional warmth.
  • Create a vision with expressed goals and a flexibility to navigate through crises.
  • Treat despairing thoughts as clouds that melt away.



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