Family Crisis or Opportunity

When in crisis, families hyper-focus on events instead of patterns. Most of the time I hear families describe the problem as a past event. Invariably, there was something that happened years ago, like an accident, death of a loved one, drug overdose, an incident of domestic violence, betrayal, or job loss that affected the family in a powerful way. In other words, they identify a very serious past event with an ongoing emotional impact or “Because of that event, we now have these problems.”

The events families describe to me are very serious. They are noteworthy. They are meaningful and influential to the present. They are deeply emotional and important to acknowledge AND they are not the root of the issue.  In honest moments, family members recognize their issues had been present for some time. The crisis event made the long-standing issue an unavoidable reality.

For example, think about building a fire. You start with a small flame, but it’s not big enough to provide heat or to cook with, so you add fuel. Lighter fluid goes onto the fire and—whoosh!—the fire is going strong. The lighter fluid did not create the fire, but it did intensify the flame. Major events that happen in the life of a family are like the lighter fluid—they don’t cause the problems, they just intensify them. When you put all your focus on the crisis event, you aren’t dealing with the cause. Marshalling efforts to fix the crisis may lead to a short-lived relief,

but inevitably, because the cause has not been addressed, a crisis will reemerge.

If you want to see long-lasting change in your family life, as a family you need to identify the real problem, the cause, which lies beneath the crisis event. Herein lies a beautiful, redemptive opportunity. That long-standing

problematic, toxic pattern of behavior, which for many families is easy to ignore, can no longer be ignored. The problem can now be dealt with. The weight that has slowly dragged your family down over the course of years, can now be removed. And in its place is healing, change, growth, and strength. How amazing is that?

The opportunity hidden in crisis is not just a beautiful theory, it is a reality for many families. Take the example of Troy and Terri. As parents they started struggling with their teenage son, Nick, when he experienced legal trouble after committing vandalism in his neighborhood. The family’s reaction was severe, which led to conflict, and ultimately provided key insight into this family’s bigger issues. The family blamed the vandalism as the start of everything. And if only the son hadn’t done what he had done, they wouldn’t be fighting like they were. Because the family held to the idea that it ignited the family distress, I had to work to confront and demonstrate to the trio that the family issues were at play before the son’s vandalism. The incident magnified the issues already present thus presenting an opportunity. The incident escalated the family’s issues to the point that they recognized the need for outside help and for changes. In fact, the family admitted that they would have never sought out a counselor if the incident had not occurred. They would have continued “putting up with it.” But now that everything was out in the open—the real problems now being obvious and undeniable—they had the chance to work on them and hope for positive change, something they very much wanted.

The crisis helped bring Troy and Terri’s family issues into the light which provided the opportunity for growth and change to occur. But this didn’t happen on its own. The family looked, as uncomfortable as it was, at the deeper, underlying issues which caused the crisis event. And with great courage, honesty and openness, committed to change. Over time, they saw positive results. It’s not easy, but your family can experience long-lasting change too if you are able think of the crisis event as an opportunity to achieve long-lasting change and not merely a fire to put out and ignore.

To learn more about how you and your family can achieve growth and long-lasting change when faced with a crisis, check out Daniel Bates’ new book Family Crisis Guidebook available now on Amazon in paperback, Kindle and Audible.

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