Who hasn't experienced a life crisis at least once? Most of us surely have. And for those who haven't experienced any yet... you better be prepared, because nobody leaves this life without learning the art of recovering and moving forward.
There are many situations that can trigger a life crisis. Generally, they are temporary if we don't let ourselves succumb to them, but instead face them and work on them. Avoiding discomfort, masking sadness, or eluding anxiety only exacerbates the problem. That temporary solution may eventually become a volcano erupting with full force, demanding that we take control and responsibility.
Nobody leaves this life without learning the art of recovering and moving forward.
We tend to label crises as negative because they require us to change our ways of acting, our beliefs, and our circumstances. However, they are great opportunities to take a step forward in our evolution. Albert Einstein once said, "A problem cannot be solved at the same level of thinking in which it originated." Therefore, a difficulty compels us to move one step forward if we want to avoid falling or stumbling repeatedly in the same place.
A difficult compels us to move one step forward if we want to avoid falling or stumbling repeatedly in the same place
What types of Life Crises exist?
There are many types of Life Crises, and they can occur in various stages:
- The transition from childhood to adolescence.
- The transition from youth to adulthood.
- And midlife crises.
The latter are very common today and often come with the question, "What now? How does life continue after fulfilling what was expected of me?"
Uncertainty, confusion, and a melancholic feeling accompany this transition until a new order, a new sense of purpose is found. It becomes more self-determined if the person experiencing it dares to answer those questions that await a brave, honest, and mature mind willing to confront what is happening.
- Another life crisis related to age is the end-of-life crisis.
When we feel that there is a mismatch between what we desired and what we achieved, between what we projected and what we were able to accomplish. Resentment, anger, and blame are common feelings during this passage. If approached with dignity, healthy resignation makes room for re-signing what could have been and what couldn't, accepting and making peace with our ideals to find inner peace.
- Other types of crises do not depend on the chronological aspects of life but rather respond to a different logic and can occur at any time.
These crises often function as a kind of critical mass, the straw that breaks the camel's back, and suddenly we realize that we can no longer continue as before. Something within us cries out, "I can't stand it anymore." When we keep giving from what we no longer have, we dry up inside and run the risk of going on autopilot to avoid feeling and comfortably remain unhappy, secretly feeling cowardly for not daring to take responsibility for what is happening to us, or not having the strength to do what we know is best for ourselves. Within this type of life crisis, we can include crises related to separation, identity, vocational calling, the necessary radical behavior change, a general reevaluation of our way of living, and complex questions about the meaning of life and our own existence.
These Life Crises are also called "transition crises." This term reveals that navigating through them requires a lucid and awake attitude from us. Sitting back and waiting for them to pass magically is not a solution.
Do they require waiting? Yes.
Love? More than ever!
We could list four intelligent ways to surf the critical waves of life. Following these suggestions will not only help us stand up but also allow us to step more firmly and become more resilient.
What do we need to do when we are going through a crisis?
1- Face the crisis head-on:
Assume what is happening to us with complete honesty, without dramatizing it but also without disguising and underestimating it to keep going. Life crises begin with small signs, imperceptible to those always in a rush. That's why it's so important not to go too fast and ask ourselves more often, "How do we feel about our lives?" Just as a bodily symptom can turn into an illness if left unattended, the same happens with emotional pain and the pains of the soul. Sadness can become depression, and dissatisfaction can deepen into an existential void.
Having the courage to look at ourselves touches points of our most primal vulnerability. Childhood wounds (abandonment, rejection, humiliation, betrayal, injustice) may be reactivated, along with the fear of suffering again. Knowing that as adults, we now have resources that we didn't have as children helps us contextualize and update ourselves, avoiding the victim mentality that paralyzes us. It's not a time to blank out; it's a time to seek alternatives, generate new ideas, make decisions, and make changes.
2- Accompany the crisis to pass:
Like all processes, a crisis has a beginning, a development with a peak moment (the most challenging part), and an outcome that depends largely on how we accompany the movements of this emotional tide. Training our thoughts to remind us of the transience of these moments helps us not see the discomfort as eternal. A mantra we need to tell ourselves is: "This too shall pass..." Now, the question is: "What can we do in the meantime?" In the meantime... we must not "sit and wait." During that time, we need to assume a proactive attitude: change, modify, try new ways of acting, grow, dare, grant ourselves freedom, stop repeating what harms us, question our beliefs, move from where we are.
In this "meantime" lies the key to whether the temporary nature of a crisis works in our favor or becomes a disadvantage. Its transient nature is a double-edged sword:
- On the one hand, it helps us feel less pain, which is a great relief.
- On the other hand, the opportunity for real change occurs while the pain reminds us of it. When it no longer hurts as much or when we get used to limping along with the burden of discomfort, we remain in the same place, with the additional suffering of having gone through it in vain and having missed an opportunity for transformation. The outcome that the chaos of fragmentation produces depends on each individual: it can either shape into a better form or a worse one with clumsy amendments.
In the face of a crisis, the outcome depends on each individual: it can either shape into a better version or a worse one with clumsy amendments.
3- Leaving behind what we have already tried and didn't work
This means not repeating past solutions that we already know didn't work. It's not about stopping trying but rather about stopping trying the same thing. It's not about doing more and doubling down; most of the time, it's about doing things differently. Clinging to the past will only bring to light old tricks; nothing new. We do this to deal with the uncertainty of the new, but deep down, we know that change is the only option to break free from what has been hurting us. In these moments, we shouldn't look too far ahead but rather think one step at a time. That way, we'll avoid the vertigo of thinking about making leaps for which we don't yet feel prepared. Slowly, at our own pace, without forcing it but moving forward, step by step...
When we're in crisis, we shouldn't repeat past actions that haven't worked for us. It's not about doing more or doubling down; most of the time, it's about doing things differently.
4- Asking for help
Giving ourselves the opportunity to be accompanied in addressing what has overwhelmed us is not only an act of survival but also an act of intelligence. Sometimes, out of stubbornness, we suffer more than necessary.
Asking for help before we collapse, when we realize the discomfort or "smell" that things aren't the same, is highly beneficial to make the most out of a difficult moment and evolve not only emotionally but also spiritually, in our subtlest essence. Listening to the essence that lies beneath the vices and struggles of our limited personality is a virtue that will give us juicy fruits. Going one step further means turning the anecdote of a crisis into a revolutionary act of our deepest interiority.
Thus, life crises cannot be defined as good or bad but rather as functional or dysfunctional. In the context of a whole life, they are merely chapters within our grand script. They don't have to be dramatic or excessively harsh, nor should they be overlooked and ignored as if nothing happened... They require skill, time, and lucid action to rediscover ourselves but in a different way... more whole, evolved, and authentic!
A crisis occurs when the old doesn't finish dying and the new doesn't finish being born.
Each individual has the responsibility to give birth to themselves more than once in life. The process is painful, but when what is gestated is valuable, it concludes with the understanding that it's not good to suffer, but it is very rewarding to have gone through it.
One becomes wise with the passing years after each crisis becomes a beneficial and rewarding opportunity.
If you are going through a crisis, don't consider yourself an unfortunate person; make it your best fortune. You already know the attitude, what to avoid, and which decisions are best to navigate this stage. Move forward!