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Strength or Consequences

Psychological Perspectives


September 14, 2017

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Ken Silvestro, PhD

When people experience crises, such as the fire crisis in Seeley Lake or the loss of a loved one, there can be a variety of reactions. One of the most common reactions is to avoid their psychological needs and attempt to continue life as if nothing happened. People use phrases such: keep a stiff upper lip, cowboy-up, cowgirl-up or buck-up, to indicate that they are strong or should be strong, while experiencing crises. Ironically, this reaction is contrary to what people believe because it actually is a display of weakness not strength.

The so-called strength is nothing more than a lack of willingness or ability to meet one's emotions, to experience the vulnerability that always accompanies a crisis and to express one's emotions and vulnerabilities to others. This amounts to being unwilling or unable, to face oneself, which is certainly difficult. Often, we learn at an early age that experiencing ourselves with appropriate expressions is not acceptable to others. We learn to shut down or close off our natural human qualities. In this case, a healthy balance between facing our vulnerabilities and adjusting to a crisis is absent. Any human behavior or reaction that becomes one-sided or extreme is unhealthy.

There are many reasons to be realistic with oneself during a crisis. One of the most important reasons is to prevent ill health. When we shut down, or buck-up, we prevent the natural flow of physical and psychological energy from moving. We divert this energy from its natural path of expression. Consider a creek that becomes jammed up. Where will that water flow? Well, an alternative path must form around or to the side of the obstruction due to the energy of the water. The natural flow is blocked and an alternative path is developed. We can consider this to be what happens in our bodies and psychologies as well. Over time, consequences develop that are similar to the alternative flow of the creek. We develop unnatural conditions or illnesses, as a result of blockages.

With the death of a loved one, a natural reaction involves expressing the grief and a gradual adjustment to living without the person. In the case of a crisis, such as the fires, various emotions ranging from fear to anger are natural. Along with emotions, one's immortality and fragile existence while adjusting to the crisis are necessary and healthy expressions.

During this very difficult time and crisis in our hometown, hopefully more people will find their way to healthy expressions rather than attempting to just be strong.


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