Mel Schwartz, LCSW

Utilizing Crisis to Break Free of the Familiar Zone

Our struggle with growth is very much about the dramas we engage in trying to come out of our comfort zone. In fact, we’d be better advised to call it our familiar zone, since these areas of habitual thinking and experience, may actually not be comfortable, but they are certainly very familiar. Picture the familiar zone as a circle that circumscribes the known boundaries of your thoughts, feelings and behaviors.

This is the realm in which you experience your life. Typically, when we seek to change or modify these experiences we become confined by the perimeter of that circle. Beyond it lies the desired goal,the change that we long for. But we become thwarted in getting there because of the disquiet that occurs as we approach the boundary. It’s rather like the invisible fencing that keeps dogs contained within a perimeter.

Such outward movement typically provokes fear or anxiety, given that most of us have become creatures of habit. So there is a propensity to avoid the unfamiliar. Yet, therein lies the paradox, for the personal growth and evolution lies beyond the familiar circle.

The movement beyond the familiar terrain becomes stalled by our discomfort with the new terrain, evoking more and more distress. This growth process tends to be arduous for most as they vacillate between growth and retreat. I have developed an approach, which expedites facilitating this process, that I call Emergent Thinking (R), yet there is even a more decisive act which sets us free of the familiar. That is what we refer to as crisis.

A crisis is an event or circumstance, which we didn’t choose and certainly didn’t want. It often involves loss, pain or struggle. We ordinarily avoid this experience at all costs. Yet, the crisis provides a valuable opportunity. It is as if a tornado has swept in and when we open our eyes, everything has changed. The maelstrom placed us well beyond the bounds of the known. We typically find ourselves wanting desperately to get back inside the comfort of the known. But the crisis precludes that option. There is no going back. And that is where the opportunity lies.

Whether we choose to freeze in the panic of loss and focus on retreat or whether we settle in, create a new mindscape and inquire as to the potential of the new territory, is ultimately the question. The former presents anxiety and retreat, the latter evokes growth. I suggest that crisis in most forms—-financial, relationship, health, spiritual—-all present unique opportunity for personal emergence. The gift that the crisis provides is that it moves us decidedly out of our familiar zone.The crisis is a turning point. In which direction we turn is of our choosing.

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Latesha Hornoff

I love to see a good article like your piece up there. Glad I can learn from you.I hope I can be successful, I’ll let you know when I’m featured in NY Times 😉 I have time and determination, the rest will follow.

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