It’s impossible to go through life crisis-free. Of course, everything is relative, and what is a major crisis for one person could be just a bump in the road for another person. While some say that we can’t control our reactions, nothing could be further from the truth. It takes training and practice, but it is possible to learn how to step out of reactive mode, governed only by emotions, and into our personal power and a way of being in which we choose how we react. By doing this, we can harness our power to manifest what we want instead of what we don’t want.
This is not to say that we should switch off our emotions, but rather that we can learn how not to be governed by them. Let’s say something makes you angry. You can just go with it, let yourself explode or shout or whatever you do when you are angry. Or, you can train yourself to stop yourself for a minute, count to 10, or 20, or 100, or 1000, depending on how angry you are, and then choose how to react. When you are angry, a surge of adrenaline floods your system, which makes your heart beat faster, and quickens your system overall. Once you are in this state it is very difficult to get out of it because it’s chemical. But, if you can learn to step back at the first sign of getting angry, and analyze where it’s coming from, decide if it is an appropriate response to the situation or not (because sometimes it is), and then channel it appropriately, you will be coming from a place of personal power, rather than being a slave to your emotions. A quote attributed to the Buddha says: “Anger is like a chariot careering wildly. He who curbs his anger is the true charioteer. Others merely hold the reigns!”
The same is true of fear. Most crises create the emotion of fear in us, whether it’s a health crisis, worry about a loved one, an accident, financial ruin, or the end of a relationship. If you can step back and ask yourself what you are actually fearing will happen and why that is so frightening to you, you can often diffuse the fear. Let’s say you hear about the illness of a parent. You will, naturally, feel fear. If you step back and analyze what you are fearing, you may be surprised at the layers: I’m afraid that they will die. This means that I will be abandoned and alone. I’m afraid of being alone. I’m afraid that if I am alone this means no one loves me or will ever love me. Or, perhaps: I’m afraid they will suffer. I don’t want to watch them suffer. Seeing their suffering hurts me because I can feel it in myself because I am empathic. I feel others’ emotions and therefore I get overwhelmed because I’m dealing with their feelings as well as my own. Or even: Seeing their mortality reminds me of my own, and then I realize that I am afraid that I haven’t done all the things in my life I want to do and that I haven’t been following my own Soul’s path because I’m afraid of not making enough money or seeming strange to other people. I have been afraid of not fitting in, of being an outcast, or of being disapproved of by those I love. Now I realize I’m getting older and time may be running out for me to do the things I want to do in this life…
Do you see how this works? By stepping back and looking at what is really being triggered in you by the crisis, you can gain a greater understanding and perspective of your psychology, and will be less likely to stay in reactive mode and make decisions from that place.
So, the first thing to do is to step back and gain some perspective. If it’s the health crisis of a loved one, look at the actual risk to them. Are the doctors saying he/she is going to die? That he or she might die? That he or she should be fine after a while? These are three very different scenarios that require different responses. If they are going to die, then the best thing to do is accept it, make peace with it (we all die, and death is a natural part of life), and make the most of your remaining time with that person. A perfect example of this is Miss Norma.
Miss Norma became famous through her Facebook page. She was 90 years old, and had been diagnosed with cancer. Instead of going through the usual chemotherapy treatments and all the suffering from them, she chose to “hit the road” and explore the U.S., visiting all the places she had always wanted to see with her son in an R.V. If you look at the photos of this inspiring woman, you will see her and her family happy, beaming, enjoying life as she goes for a ride in a hot air balloon, tries new foods, rides a horse, doing all the things she had never given herself time to do. She turned what most would consider a terrible crisis into an opportunity to celebrate and enjoy life. She died at the age of 91, surrounded by loved ones, happy, and at peace with no regrets.
Did you know? The limbic system is the part of the brain that is the most primitive, generating the “fight or flight” response to a crisis. The prefrontal cortex is the more developed part of the brain and is the seat of reason. The two parts work together to create your response to extreme situations.
© Copyright 2021 Anna Pavlakis
Driving Miss Norma, written by her son Tim Bauerschmidt, is now available from Harper Collins publishers.