Linda Lewis Griffith

‘Why me?’ or ‘We’ll survive.’ How to handle yourself in a crisis

Are you a “Why me-er?” How we respond during periods of personal upheaval speaks volumes about who we are,” retired San Luis Obispo therapist Linda Lewis Griffith says.
Are you a “Why me-er?” How we respond during periods of personal upheaval speaks volumes about who we are,” retired San Luis Obispo therapist Linda Lewis Griffith says. The News & Observer/MCT

I have a humongous blackberry patch.

Every June, it yields buckets upon buckets of berries. My pantry is stocked with jam; my freezer crammed with bags of frozen berries. I bring bowlfuls to potlucks and meetings. And there’s still enough to top our morning granola.

Yet, however generous the vines, they operate on their own terms.

This spring’s unseasonably cool conditions meant the fruit didn’t ripen until mid-month, a full two weeks later than usual. When my family descended for our annual berry picking gala, they found only a fraction of the usual crop.

We managed to cook just one cobbler, far below our standard berry repast.

The berries are a microcosm of life. We so often plan for one desired outcome, but are forced to punt when things go awry.

Sometimes the changeup is relatively minor. A wedding is moved indoors because of a freak, late-season storm.

At other times, the consequences are devastating. A couple’s plans for a happy retirement are laid to waste when he receives a serious diagnosis.

These unexpected turns are an inevitable part of the human experience.

It’s not a matter of if we’ll face adversity. It’s a matter of when adversity strikes.

Of course, snafus come in all shapes and sizes. They can be psychological or physical. They can be life-threatening or merely inconvenient.

They may change our families forever or be mere hiccups from which we easily regain our balance.

The common thread is that snafus show up when we least expect them, often arriving at the worst possible time. It’s the suddenness that is so disconcerting.

We’re forced to think on our feet. Call an audible. Ad lib. That’s never a satisfying way to run our lives.

How we respond during periods of upheaval speaks volumes about who we are.

“Why me-ers” feel victimized by personal turmoil. They question, “How could this ever happen?” And “What did I do to deserve this?”

They feel powerless to improve their situations. The well-meaning sympathies of others confirm their passive, persecuted status.

“Ain’t it awful-ers” think every mishap is catastrophic. In fact, it’s the most disastrous event anyone has ever suffered.

They feed their angst by speaking in superlatives: the most devastating, the hardest to get to, the most serious, the most contagious.

They also throw around woe-is-me phrases, such as “We’ll never recover from this,” or “Can you believe this is happening to me?”

“Ain’t it awful-ers” are also prone to depression because they tell themselves adversity is ruinous.

“We’ll survive-ers” take hubbub in stride, as another challenge to be faced.

They contain collateral damage by controlling negative emotions and thoughts.

They recognize that crises are difficult for everyone, so they do their best to remain upbeat. They use good-natured humor to ease tension.

“We’ll survive-ers” solve problems rather than waste psychic energy on anger or blaming.

They experience the same traumas as their peers. But the amount of damage is kept in check.

They know this storm will eventually subside.

Linda Lewis Griffith is a retired marriage, family and child therapist who lives in San Luis Obispo. Reach her at lindalewisgriffith@sbcglobal.net.
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