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Psychology for Everyone

Montreal Flood – How We Manage a Crisis vs Long Term Problems

There is a difference between crisis management and regular problem solving. Crisis situations like loss of a home, death of a loved one, loss of a job, or loss of a relationship are defined by the acute pain they cause. The flooding in Montreal caused over 700 people to be forced from their homes, creating a crisis situation for the city.

During a crisis, the solutions are very obvious because the pain or destruction is very clear. However, regular problems like relationship issues, financial issues, or chronic illness usually involve a build up of issues over long periods of time. Unfortunately, when issues build up over long periods of time, we get used to them and then have difficulty seeing why we react negatively to something that has always been there. The idea that I should be used to it by now.

This idea that the problem is not as big a problem because it built up over time, also giving us the impression that if it was really so bad, we would have done something about it already, leads us to manage the situation in inappropriate ways. People may try to ignore or avoid the problem, which will lead to other issues.

In order to deal with regular life problems, we need to be willing to take proactive steps to identify the problems and solve it. This will involve defining a situation as problematic, looking at the situation in a realistic way and determining real options to solve the problem, while understanding the limits of our ability to implement solutions and the emotions that we have around the problem to begin with.

The emotions involved in solving problems is critical because it helps us determine the direction that the solution needs to take. Actions taken because we are afraid are different than actions taken because we don’t have the funds to pay our bills. Each problem will have it’s own set of emotional components that will affect how we solve it. The emotions are less obvious in a long standing problem because the pain has been spread out over a longer period of time and is expressed in a quieter way.

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