A crisis—Aghhh! Who of us enjoys problems? Issues? Conflict?
We go to great lengths to avoid it and the confusion, loss of control and angst that it brings. Around the Christmas season when friends and family are about to enter our home, we spend enormous amounts of energy putting things in place, the right gifts under the tree and arranging our family around the dinner table to make the day go smoothly. Don’t we? Or do we just hang around the barbeque, chugging down the beer, or sipping wine, depending on which suburb we come from, hoping and praying everyone enjoys themselves.
I think we can all relate to times when the day doesn’t go to plan and we need to tackle some issue or conflict.
Actually, I remember when I was twelve and right into psychology, after a couple of years seriously searching for extra-terrestrials in the state library and our encyclopaedia. I mean, researching the possibility of life out there in the universe. Anyway, mum, bless her, gave me what I wanted, a self-help book (and boy, did I need it), I’m OK, You’re OK by Thomas Anthony Harris (1969).
My dad, a fine Christian man, who had no qualms about my search for the “truth” out there in space, lectured me about the book. Popular psychology was verboten (forbidden) in our household—cast out with popular music, and such popular television shows as The Box and Number 96. Yep, the ‘70’s, those were the days. I recall mum and dad debating over the book; Dad wanted to toss it in the incinerator and burn it, while mum defended my freedom of choice to read it. The drama tainted Christmas day. I think Mum eventually saved the book from a fiery end (too hot in the Australian summer to use the incinerator, anyway), and she stored the book in her private book collection next to Love Story and Anna Karenina. And I spent those warm summer days reading the “contraband” book from cover to cover.
So, back to crisis, because the truth is, life is full of it, and we can’t avoid it. And whether you are a writer or a reader of stories, crisis creates the character and develops character. A person in a story, confronted with crisis, is then presented with an opportunity to resolve the conflict, and to grow and change as an individual. The central thread of conflict and resolution run through every novel or story.
Questions trigger in the reader’s mind: How is the character going to overcome the challenge? Why did the character choose a certain action? What will happen when opposing characters clash? What are the results of a character’s choice of behaviour? And so on, keeping the reader turning the page.
So a novel with its characters facing crisis and overcoming crisis, cause the reader to reflect on their own lives. As they ponder on the character’s journey, the reader may ask of themselves: What is my challenge? What are my opportunities? What are my choices in this situation?
Similar to characters portrayed in novels, it would be fair to say, our lives are not a Christmas letter where we sail from success to success, with perfects pets, delightful children who love school and blitz the exams with straight-A’s, and then become doctors and lawyers and never get into trouble. And of course our marriages are perfect and the grand children are just darlings, aren’t they?
If we wrote a novel, as we possibly do our Christmas letters, come on, be honest, would any one read them? As I’ve already stated, it is the crisis and the conflict that make the story…and how the characters change and grow—that’s what intrigues the reader.
In our own lives also, we need to not flee or fight the crisis, but embrace it, tackle solutions with our creativity, and grow in character and strength.
In the book from the Bible, James 1:2-4 says: Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
(C) Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2016
Photo: Storm approaching Brighton Beach South Australia (c) Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2009