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Why Do I Thrive in Crises?

Have you ever wondered why everyone comes to you to put the fires out? Why you are so adept at handling chaos? I find myself thinking of those who knowingly put themselves in situations or even find themselves in places that are seemingly always out of control. These situations or places could range from your profession, your relationship, to your household, and more. I know so many people who knowingly engage in and put themselves in circumstances that are highly stressful. It's known that people have the ability to repeat what we don't heal, but why does this mean we do well in the crappy situations we find ourselves in?

According to trauma expert Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, “Many traumatized people expose themselves, seemingly compulsively, to situations reminiscent of the original trauma. These behavioral reenactments are rarely consciously understood to be related to earlier life experiences" (1989). The environment you grew up in, in addition to being the parentified child or the person who had to 'fix' everything, is traumatic too. As humans we seek what is comfortable even if this means consistently putting ourselves in unhealthy situations. And this repetition makes us experts at the totally disorganized, disorderly world we live in.

Reasons You May Thrive In Crises

  • It's literally all you know. When your life has been filled with traumatic events and hardships, it can feel almost foreign when things are too calm. Think about it - you've constantly been fighting some sort of battle for as long as you can remember. It would make sense you can handle times of chaos well if it's what you've grown up knowing, learning, and getting used to.

  • You're resilient. This term gets thrown around a lot, but resilience is one of the most important things we have. After disorder comes our ability to grow and live despite our struggles. Maybe you're good at handling crises because you've become resilient enough to handle them effectively in itself. Now pat yourself on the back for it!

  • You're using avoidance. Are you thriving and handling crises or are you numb to what is happening around you? Using avoidance means having the protective part of our brain handle situations without being mindfully aware of what's going on. It means growing numb and/or giving into fight, flight, or fawn mode immediately. It may feel like you've handled the mayhem successfully, but did you handle it or avoid it?

  • It doesn't feel like a crises to you. Maybe you take on all the dangerous jobs at work because it feels normal. Maybe you think that your relationship is typical despite the emotional abuse present. Maybe the fighting in your household is all you know. There's a possibility that your environment could be considered chaotic, but you don't even realize it. Sometimes when we are in a certain situation it's hard to gain perspective until we're out of it.

  • You might not feel good enough. If you find yourself in the same situations over and over again, have you considered that you deserve more? The reason you may find yourself in crises and thriving in it is because you might not think you're good enough for a different environment.

  • van der Kolk BA. The compulsion to repeat the trauma: re-enactment, revictimization, and masochism. Psychiatr Clin North Am 1989;12(2):389-411.


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