Impulsivity is the enemy when dealing with someone in crisis. When one is living through a difficult situation, the mind is not functioning at full capacity. Resources are low, and the ability to cope with even minor frustrations becomes impossible. Therefore it is important to encourage those in crisis to wait before making any significant life decisions.
After graduating from Seattle Pacific University in 2000, I moved back to the bay area with my older brother Marcus. We had always been friends, and it seemed like a good idea to be with family as I plotted my next move. Shortly after moving in with him, he asked me if I would go with him to look at some cars. The lease on his Jetta was almost up, and he needed a new car.
We drove down to the local dealer in the evening, and looked at a few Honda sedans. Marcus covered a lot of ground that night walking down the rows of cars. There was one in particular that he liked. The salesman asked Marcus if he wanted to talk about how easily this car could be his, and Marcus said, “Sure, let’s talk.” The middle-aged gentleman ushered us into the inner-sanctum of the dealership with a smile. All the while telling us about his teenage daughter, and his love for fly-fishing. We sat down in over stuffed leather chairs awaiting the ‘Closer’ to come in. He finally showed up, and started talking about how much the monthly payments would be, interest rates, etc. “You look like a man who works hard for his money! I bet you’ve had to make sacrifices to get to where you are! You deserve this car,” he said.
Marcus told the man, “I think I deserve it too, but I’ve only seen the car at night. Before I buy the car I need to see it in the daylight. I’ll come back tomorrow and look at it again, and then I’ll buy it if I still feel the same way.” Now, we’ve all been in this situation. The car looks good, but we just want to think about it for a minute.
This of course was not what the salesman wanted to hear. He knew that most sales are completed when a person makes an impulsive choice. He did not want my brother to think about it. Just sign on the line! The special deal they were offering was only good for one night. “If you wait until tomorrow, I can’t offer you the same price.” After what seemed like hours, Marcus walked away without purchasing the car. He refused to become emotionally invested in the moment, and instead passed on the deal.
Living through a crisis is like walking around in the dark trying to see clearly. Life looks different in the ‘dark night of the soul.’ Wait. The light of another day may provide a new perspective. The warmth of a new day’s Sun may lessen the coldness in your heart. Don’t make an impulsive decision that may have lasting implications. Time is a double-edged sword. The good times don’t last forever, but neither do the bad. We are passing through this moment. I do an exercise with my patients that involves squeezing a tennis ball. I tell them, “Squeeze this ball as hard as you can for as long as you can.” No matter how strong a person is, there is a moment when their hand relaxes. You cannot maintain the intensity needed to squeeze the ball forever. The same is true of intense emotion.
I used to see patients every day who were brought to the Emergency Room ready to end their life. I would admit them to the hospital for a period of time to take a deep breath. After a few days, the vast majority of them left the hospital with a new hope. The intensity of the pain had dissipated, even if the trouble had not.
Thank you for reading.