Crisis, by definition, means our lives are presently in imminent danger.
Though most of us in the United States can attest to not living everyday in imminent danger, many of us operate as though we are. Through consciousness, language, mentality and nervous system re-patterning, we start to realize we're living in a very over-activated and disempowered fashion. We've all done it. I'm guilty too.
For self-awareness and regulation, I decided to make a list of some true crises I've been in so I could really compare and contrast the moments I want to go into survival mode:
1. Falling in a shark den during shark feeding hour.
My ex and I were on a trip in the Bahamas meandering through shark infested waters on a jet ski. Everyone warned us about swimming here and signs surrounded the marina indicating this was shark territory. At sunset, we pulled up to an over-water gazebo where locals and tourists would gather to drop fresh meat and fish into the water for these beasts to feast upon. We thought we'd take a peek at all of them swarming here for funsies. Peering down into the water, we stood up on the idling jet ski and watched these 8 to 10 foot carnivores whip around violently in the clear shallow-ish water beneath us. Chills ran up my legs all the way to my shoulders.
Looking over my left shoulder at a particularly huge shark under us, my partner did the same. Suddenly, in the slowest-mo kind of terror, I watched as the horizon line in front of me angled further... and further... and further. Although I repeatedly pleaded "no, please God" to all things holy, gravity and the laws of physics would have us in the open water, a football field away from land, in the shark feeding area during shark feeding hour with nothing but a now upside-down jet ski.
True fight or flight was activated here. There was nothing I could do but enter survival mode. He went his way (attempting to climb on the slippery, flipped jet ski and wait for someone to rescue him) and I went mine (swimming quickly, but silently, without splashing, 120 yards back to shore). I tell people that my heart beat so hard, I am sure that if I hadn't been 26 and healthy, I would've had a stroke.
2. Being in a car that that was driven off a cliff and was hanging on from rolling by a small tree.
One fine December eve, my dad huffily started reversing the car out of our treacherous, curb-less, cliffside driveway to go to a Christmas party he didn't want to go to. In one hasty, aggravated move, he turned the wheel too far and pressed the gas too hard. My mom, four year old sister and I helplessly dropped off the side of the mountain until our car landed sideways against a small tree.
I looked out my left window and saw blackness. I looked out my right and saw the dusk sky. My mom was hyperventilating from the front seat trying to piece words and instructions together. The car was gently creaking.
"Nobody move." My dad said firmly but slowly, "This thing could... roll."
We all knew what that meant.
Each moment was thick with heavy heart thuds and shallow breaths.
Everything was lopsided. Gravity was against us so we couldn't open the doors. Since everyone had to stay in their places, I was instructed to unstrap my little sister from her booster seat and lift her out the sky-facing window. My mom and I crawled out next. My dad last. By some miracle, the car stayed lodged for the night until a crane came to lift the heavy SUV up and back onto the pavement.
3. Being in a prop plane over the ocean that dropped in the sky due to engine failure.
Off the coast of San Diego, my entire family and a few others dropped a couple hundred feet out of the sky in a small plane. Many screamed. A woman started reciting her prayers, gripping her rosary. Others held their breath and gripped the armrests of their seats. The pilot came over the loudspeaker letting us know as calmly as he could: we had just lost engine power and we'd have to make an emergency landing just over the Mexican border.
The next ten minutes were a full surrender into the hands of the captain. We had seventy miles to find a place to land and thank god, we did.
I share all of these stories for entertainment of course, but mostly to remind myself and others what true crisis looks like. This is both a hard pill to swallow and a comfort: most of us are seldom in true crisis; Mostly, we are just in discomfort. Getting laid off? Discomfort. A relationship ending? Discomfort. Even losing a loved one. Discomfort.
I know. I promise I'm not gaslighting you. Fear and grief and agony are real. They are some of the greatest pains of living, but they are not synonymous. I implore you to make a list of moments of true crisis in your life to refer back to when you're feeling like going into crisis or survival mode. Take your power back. Reserve fight, flight, freeze and fawn for the moments it's most powerful in.
Need help regulating in this way? Bro, I gotchu. Let's work 1:1 on mindfulness, healing and emotional maturity.