What is considered a crisis?

I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts. These wise words were spoken by Abraham Lincoln over hundred and fifty years ago and they withstand the test of time with great ease.

So what is crisis? Crisis is a critical event or point of decision which, if not handled in an appropriate and timely manner, may turn into a disaster or catastrophe. Sometimes a lack of reaction can cause even more devastating effect. I'm sure you've all heard expressions like make or break, do or die, the moment of truth.

Even in 49 BC, a famous army general had a similar dilemma. He came upon a river, which was a border of Italy. Crossing it meant civil war, choosing not to cross meant surrendering to his opponents. As he gave the order to start the campaign, he spoke "Alea iacta est". Literal translation would be the die has been cast.

The river in question was Rubicon, hence the phrase "Crossing the Rubicon" which means passing a point of no return. A general who said those eternal words was none other than Julius Caesar. And so the most powerful nation in the world at the time fell into national crisis. If we disregard all the technology, not much has changed since then – everyone still has a river to cross (or several of them).

The definition of crisis
Common perception of a crisis is a sudden unexpected negative event of huge importance. Car accidents, business collapses, earthquakes, fires, natural disasters, murders, rapes, can all easily be defined as crisis. On the first glance there are colossal differences between them, only thing in common is the intensive instinctive human reaction. The nature of crisis varies and the ways in which people react to them. In mental health terms, a crisis refers not necessarily to a traumatic situation or event, but to a person's reaction to an event. One person might be deeply affected by an event, while another suffers little.

A crisis usually presents an obstacle, trauma, or threat. In reality it also presents an opportunity for either growth or decline, the turning point in our lives. The people give meaning to the events that happen in their lives. Each of us witnessing or participating in the same event will experience it differently, in regard to our unique life experiences. Therefore, crises can range substantially in type and severity. Sometimes a crisis is a predictable part of the life cycle, such as existential crises.

Personal crisis perspective and emotional influence
There isn't a person on this planet that didn't stop at one point to think about his goals, dreams, successes or failures, life purpose and direction. Any life event can take on crisis proportions if it is experienced as sudden, intense, unexpected, or highly emotional. Most of the people find themselves lost, without means to cope or to adjust. Situations beyond our control tend to leave feelings of helplessness and confusion.

A crisis can be the tip of an emotional iceberg, as wave after wave of emotion sweep the human mind. With the passage of time, the pain, fear, and other emotions diminish. After we regain the understanding of situation and a sense of control, the crisis becomes manageable.

Nature shows a perfect example, no matter how dark the night is, the sun will still come in the morning. Everything changes, it just takes time. The crises represent the opportunity for those who quickly adapt to new conditions. While the Western economies tremble over the economic recovery, countries like China, India, Brazil, and several others try to use the chance to become important global players.

Ironically, while the "safe" West awaits more uncertainty, people in the developing world who lived with uncertainty for decades, if not centuries, are now moving in the opposite direction. Changes that drive our society are often crisis inspired. The best anyone can do in a crisis is to accept the changes, make some changes of their own and let the time take care of rest. When a new balance is achieved, every crisis ends.

Written by:
Bojan Baretic, MA in Economics

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1) What is considered a crisis?
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