We can often make a bad situation worse by a lack of awareness of our own needs, skills and expertise to bring about a desired situation. Particularly if we’re overcome with emotion and are acting out our feelings. The intensity of our feelings can often be so deep that we ‘go offline’ or we ‘flip our lids’. Operating in this state of high emotional intensity is dangerous for a few reasons.
Firstly, our bodies are in a state of stress. When stressed our bodies release hormones (cortisol and adrenaline) into our blood stream and redirects blood flow to where it is most needed in an emergency, such as the heart, lungs and limbs. Our bodies do this to help keep us alive in the face of real danger to allow us to fight or flee the presenting threat, whatever it may be.
Being in a state of stress over a long period of time, means your body is receiving high doses of adrenaline and cortisol above and beyond what is necessary. This can lead to health complications in the short, medium and long terms. It’s not good. For example, prolonged exposure to cortisol can cause damage to the brain.
Secondly, going ‘off line’ or ‘flipping our lids’ means that we are no longer thinking clearly or rationally about situations. We are reacting instinctively. Reactive and emotional choices are flawed and can lead to poor outcomes. Sometimes the decisions we make under stress and duress, when we are in chaos can make things worse.
When we find ourselves in a place we do not know or recognise (psychologically and emotionally) we are in a state of chaos. It means we have been pushed beyond our limits and are being challenged by a set of new circumstances and demands. Often, our current set of skills, knowledge and understanding are not enough to make sense of the new realities.
We are rendered vulnerable and we are exposed to new and unknown threats. These threats, if you imagine a state of nature, may represent a vicious wolf pack, a rabid dog or deadly snake. The danger comes from what we don’t know and what we don’t understand. A good strategy is to start paying close attention to our own capacities and understand ourselves in response to crisis.
Newly separated dads often experience this chaos. Their world is often thrown into a state of chaos because they are locked out of the ‘city walls’ and are now faced with new unknowns. They have fallen into a deep hole. A sense of betrayal, grief and loss, fear and anger are all real and valid responses. However, these feelings won’t get you out of the hole. Stop digging and calm the farm.
What is needed now, in this time of crisis, is a new perspective and a new set of skills and new knowledge. It can be learned, over time, however, how long must one stay in the hole? What you need is a wise hand to reach in and pull you out. Or someone to get you to put the shovel down and stop digging.
Recognising that we are in a state of emotional turmoil is important, recognising that we don’t have the current skills and understanding to work our way out is an important step too. Sometimes we can turn to the people we love and trust, but they too often don’t have the answers we need, despite their love and good intentions.
There is help available. You need to be open to receiving help. Be open minded to learning new things about yourself that you may not like. Be okay with sitting with being uncomfortable and let the defenses down. Facing new situations with humility, openness and understanding your own vulnerability is the key to solving complex problems. We need to get back online.
Who then, in our postmodern world are the wise men? Listen to the wise men. What are they telling you? The wise-man is someone who has specialist knowledge and skills who can support and guide the hero along the way.