It was 26 March 2020. My country stood poised on the eve of its first-ever national lockdown. Hospital scenes from what looked like a post-apocalyptic World had been flashing for weeks across our tv screens. China, Italy, Spain, the US… and now it was here. My country had seemingly also succumbed to this new deadly enemy. As a nation, we were gripped with fear.
The anguish within me was exacerbated by the knowledge that my much-beloved husband’s services as a Family Physician would probably be in great demand over this time. I knew the statistics and I knew the dangers. I felt overwhelmed by a future I could only imagine but not control.
It took the wise advice of my sage-like older brother to bring back hope and courage in the face of an uncertain future. His words to me were a simple “Never Waste a Crisis”.
I pondered upon those words late into the night as I counted down the minutes to the final locking down of our borders and our people. “Never waste a crisis”. One sentence, one command but a maxim so pregnant with potential.
Life is full of crises…divorce, separation, the loss of a job, financial devastation, family disunity. These are all crises of monumental magnitude.
The issue is not so much how do you survive your crisis, but rather how do you thrive despite the overwhelming negativity of your crisis? How do you make the crisis work for you?
The answer is not in action but in choice of attitude.
From a mediator’s perspective, we would define this as a “reframing” of the crisis. This is simply the process of bringing a new perspective to an existing situation or problem. It is like putting a new frame on a painting where we are suddenly able to see that piece of art in a new light. How we frame a situation inevitably impacts our response to that situation.
In other words, a loss of a job while soul-destroying can be reframed as being an opportunity to find a new line of work. Tensions between spouses who wish to remain together can be reframed as learning opportunities for spousal likes and dislikes. A divorce can become a catalyst for new positive ways of living. A lockdown can be reframed as an opportunity for family re-connection, whilst seemingly endless time at home can be reframed as a chance for re-discovery of self, for spring-cleaning and new skills development.
How we respond to the challenge of a crisis is the key to whether the crisis will overwhelm and destroy us, or whether we will triumph in the face of that crisis.
Every crisis brings with it a unique opportunity for change and upward momentum, the challenge of a crisis is to embrace it rather than run from it and to work towards the positive outcome present in every crisis. Never Waste a Crisis.
Tracey-Leigh Wessels is an Attorney and Mediator practicing in Durban South Africa. Tracey-Leigh was admitted as an attorney in South Africa in 1997. In 1998 she obtained her accreditation as a Family & Divorce Mediator through SAAM (The South African Association of Mediators). She has since 2011 been focusing predominantly on Family and Divorce Mediation matters.
image by matthew t rader – unsplash.com