5 Emotions that Come with a Personal Crisis

31 October, 2020
An analysis of the different emotions that come with a personal crisis can give you ideas on how to move ahead from a negative situation. Adequately managing these internal realities means that you can be resilient.

The emotions that come with a personal crisis have the potential to paralyze you. That sudden and unexpected change in your present circumstances can sink you into negative emotions that you might not be ready for psychologically. Pain, anguish, uncertainty, fear…. Understanding the role that these internal realities play can help you work around them more effectively when they come up.

OK, so how can you do it? If there’s something that most people know it’s that, when they’re involved in a personal crisis, there’s little time for reflection, and for that mental clarity you need to make good decisions. When some kind of adversity strikes, fear is the result. This is normal and even likely.

It’s good to remember that the human brain still works mainly based on instinct and primitive defense mechanisms. That’s why, when you perceive, sense, or detect a threat or a change to your internal state, the common reaction is this: the desire to run. Fear controls everything and you’re barely capable of reasoning with balance and good judgment.

Firstly, it’d be a good idea to pause for a moment and define what “crisis” actually means. This term comes from a Greek word and has various meanings that converge into the same idea: decision, judgment, resolution, and discernment.

This definition can help you understand a simple truth. A crisis forces you to face your fears and work around them so you can make new decisions. Thus, you’ll be able to start a new page in your life.

Before getting to that point, however, it’s necessary to understand the makeup of a crisis and to know what emotions are involved. Let’s delve a little deeper into the concept of a personal crisis first.

“A crisis happens when the old doesn’t die and when the new hasn’t yet come into being.”

-Bertolt Brecht-

A path into the woods.

What’s a personal crisis?

Albert Einstein used to say that, without crisis, there’s no merit. He showed that it’s during these trying moments when the best from inside us can flourish. In every crisis, the wind is like a caress that can encourage us to continue. This may sound evocative. However, although these ideas can inspire and motivate us, it’s clear that it isn’t easy to face these moments when instability, uncertainty, and fear are trying to control you.

On the other hand, something else that everyone is also aware of is that not all crises are the same. Some are clear threats to our physical or emotional balance (Goldenberg, 1983). Other times, though, they’re sudden occurrences that create change. In the face of this change, it’s necessary to produce some type of response (Rosenbaun and Calhoun, 1977).

Of course, the concept of a personal crisis is complex and can include many different situations. This is what a study by doctors Donald Coates and Katherine Eastman explains. These temporary states of change and challenge have infinite origins and can affect us at any age. In the same way, something that’s found in many cases is the appearance of the same internal realities or emotions.

5 emotions that come with a personal crisis

1. Fear (I’m not ready for this, I’m afraid)

Fear is an emotion that’s regulated by the brain’s amygdala. This emotional watchman’s job is to produce the reaction of fear when it detects some kind of threat. It can also create fear at unexpected events that threaten to change your normal mental balance.

For instance, dramatic changes in your life such as losing employment, a friendship, a family member, or leaving behind something that was important to you can open the door to this overwhelming emotion, fear.

2. Anger at the personal crisis (Why is this happening to me?)

Sometimes, apart from anger, you can also feel indignation and confusion. The person who’s going through a personal crisis can’t stop asking themselves: why me? The process of feeling this emotion is really a normal process. It’s common to experience anger at change, refusing to accept that it’s happening, and even feeling misunderstood.

Little by little, the desired state is acceptance. But before that stage, someone going through a personal crisis will feel surges of anger.

3. Resistance to change (I feel powerless, I can’t do anything)

Another of the emotions that can come with a personal crisis at the beginning is powerlessness. Apart from anger and confusion, there’s the idea that you won’t be able to change anything of what’s happening. For instance, if someone’s partner has left them, they might think “The world’s ended for me, I’ll never be happy again”.

If someone’s lost a family member in death, they may think: The world has stopped and there’s no going back, it’s all over”. These are recurring ideas in the first stages of a crisis. The best thing is to avoid clinging to these thoughts or make them permanent. Rather, allow yourself to be helped by others, so you can make changes in your perspective.

Resilience comes from enduring the emotions that come with a personal crisis.

4. Emotions such as shame and discomfort (I want to stay away from everyone and everything)

Some feel shame when they see themselves in certain situations. Others feel uncomfortable and tend towards rejection of everyone and everything. It’s common in almost all cases to want isolation, want to stay away from the immediate reality, or be alone.

Self-recognition and introspection can be positive during a limited time after a personal crisis. They can help you to reorganize your ideas and start the process of adaptation to the new reality. However, it’s necessary for your recovery to be able to gradually open up emotionally to others.

5. Emotional pain (I feel hurt, anguished, and paralyzed)

It’s possible that you might be told that pain is a part of life. However, when you live it out in your own case, you realize that it’s unjust, unexpected, and can sometimes even seem too big to be able to endure so much suffering.

Really, the other emotions that come with a personal crisis are those that make up emotional pain. Such things as sadness, anguish, and desperation are evidence of an internal wound that is always hurting you and you don’t know how to get relief.

What can help you to think clearly, accept, and recognize the existence of this emotional pain and validate it? Psychological coping strategies can help you to regain your balance. Letting all of these internal emotions flow and decrease little by little will give you relief from your suffering. It can also help you to form some new resolutions to move past the trauma.

A hand with the sun shining through.

To conclude, understanding all of these emotions that come with a personal crisis will help you to strengthen your resilience. It’s not an easy or quick process. You don’t get over a crisis in just a few days or weeks. You need to go through the process of facing these painful emotions.

However, at each tough step forward, your skin will get thicker, your heart will become calmer, and your mind will become more flexible, receptive, and creative. Sooner or later, you won’t only find relief but also new and wonderful paths.

  • Wainrib, Rubin. Barbara (1998) Intervención en crisis y respuesta al trauma. Edesclee