The Chinese word for "crisis" is composed of two characters.
             The first means "danger" and the second means "opportunity".
             To use a crisis constructively in our lives, we must see both
             the danger and the opportunity which are present.

A crisis is a threat of loss or an actual loss which arouses anxiety, grief, guilt, anger, depression or craziness.

Such a threatened or actual loss in itself might not be so catastrophic except that it exposes an identity problem within the individual which might otherwise remain hidden. Therefore, the crisis, although painful, can be used to confront one's own identity dilemmas and enhance self-awareness and personal growth.

However, because of the pain provoked by the crisis, it is usually very difficult for the suffering person to look at the self clearly without support and guidance. The sufferer wants to run from where she is and retreat to some old familiar place of safety, wants to cling to old dreams and favored behaviors without facing the new dimensions of her identity which need to emerge in and through the crisis.

Reactions to the loss, such as the grief reaction, come not only from losing a beloved person or status, but also from losing one's old identity and dreams: grief tempered by the understanding that a new identity is born out of the ashes of the old. If a crisis is to serve its evolutionary purpose, the sufferer must see the opportunity to shed the cocoon and learn to fly. If grief turns into resistance the opportunity to move to the next step is lost. Through awareness she can learn to cooperate with the birthing process of new consciousness and allow grief to perform its true function.

Likewise, only through understanding can she use her anger, guilt, or anxiety to make her crisis and its pain into a passageway for new self- awareness of her whole person: body, mind, soul and spirit.


Each crisis occurs at the point where the old is holding on and the new wants to emerge. What was once our security or even delight is now becoming a chain around our neck. Insensitive to our tremendous potential for development and expansion, we keep settling for less. When an old dream or lifestyle has reached the limits of its value, a crisis occurs to tell us we are ready to move on. We have unconsciously helped to create the crisis, and we must consciously de-code it if we are to detect our needed change of direction. We must move into the new (unknown) dimensions or stagnate.

Crisis is a time when all our ego games and normal supports are stripped down to nothing. We feel isolated from important others. We are tossed back upon our own resources even though we may not know what those resources are or how to use them. We have been wrongly related to others and in our solitude we have to discover something within ourselves before we can return to the community of relationships with a new attitude. A mini-community or bridging person must somehow help us to understand the meaning of our crisis. A guide for such a sufferer must be one who has faced her/himself and who understandshe potential dangers and opportunities of a crisis with regard to one's very identity. To support our courage to search the depths of the pain for the treasures therein.


Crisis is not just an annoying or destructive mishap to be gotten rid of. Crisis has to be seen as a door-opener, a time to look and reevaluate ourselves.

If we can decipher the lesson of this experience, we can go with it rather than oppose it. Usually, however, people make the crisis into a problem to be endured, ignored, gotten over, anesthetized, drugged, hypnotized away or cut out. Seeking solutions by focus on alleviating symptoms is seductive. We feel cheated, helpless or undone, and others conspire to rescue us from immediate pain. But we must allow the message to help us transition to the next level of unfoldment. The crisis is an assist towards change, a chance to see dependencies and become free of those attachments which limit our aliveness, love and freedom. What we hold on to, holds on to us.

We rarely reach the point of arranging for our own self-change, and so life must give us an assist toward change, often in the form of a crisis. If we feel cheated, helpless or undone, remember that sorrow is transcendence in disguise.

It is usually primarily our own inner beliefs and attitudes about ourselves that trap us rather than another person or outer situation handicapping us. A crisis occurs when the outer fails and we have not yet discovered the power of the inner.

We are angry that our trip has been interrupted. Only later do we realize that ahead of us in the darkness was a precipice.

The felt danger of a crisis is that we have lost the fulfillment of our dreams. The actual danger is that we will not discover who the dreamer is, nor know our true spiritual nature. Thus the time of greatest loss is also the time of greatest potential awareness.


edited and gender-corrected 1992 San Francisco