The Bright Side of Dark Times


The Chinese term for “crisis” involves two characters. One means danger and the other, “opportunity. “Opportune,” the root of the word “opportunity” means “auspicious, advantageous, and favorable,” a set of circumstances that reveals possibilities previously hidden. A crisis is a paradox that contains two ends of the spectrum containing both fear and hopeful possibility. When we hear the word “crisis,” the tendency is to associate it with the “danger” side of the term, and neglect to recognize that crises also contain the seeds of previously inconceivable possibilities that may not have been visible in pre-crisis times. In the English language, “crisis” has its origin in the Greek “krisis” meaning “a decisive turning point in the progress of a disease.” So, according to both definitions, we do seem to be in a bonafide crisis.

A crisis is a time of infinite possibilities, both positive and negative. Associating it with its aspects is useful in preparing for possible challenges to come. There is a danger in being preoccupied with the dark perspective and neglecting to recognize the opportunities that have opened up in the transition between the old order and the new one.

While it’s true that we are experiencing a very serious threat to our personal well-being, we hope to balance the conventional view of a crisis as dangerous with a perspective of its possibilities. Being preoccupied with the dangerous aspects of a crisis promotes anxiety and stress, and inhibits our ability to respond to it with creativity and resourcefulness.

Acknowledging the presence of these opportunities in no way denies the existence of very real stressors. A pandemic that is turning billions of lives upside down and putting countless people at risk of losing their means of earning a livelihood, their health, and their very lives, is something that we all need to take very seriously. The answer to the question “Do we focus on the dangers of the COVID-19 crisis or its opportunities?” is “Yes!” Like all paradoxes, it’s not an “either/or,” it’s a both/and.”

So, what are the potential benefits of living in the COVID age?

Here are a few of them:

  • Slowing down. Perhaps the pace of your life has slowed. If you find yourself enjoying it, feel free to continue to do so. For many of us, the “old normal” rhythm felt excessively fast and left us feeling like we were never able to get caught up. Moving through life more slowly allows us to be more present, mindful, and relaxed. We can pay closer attention to the journey without being obsessed with getting to the destination. Slower is also better for our health than speedy.

These are just a few examples of the opportunities that are available in our current situation. There are countless others that we can see if we set an intention to recognize them. We can see things from a perspective that is hopeful and grateful, rather than depressed and fearful. The choice is ours.

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Linda Bloom LCSW and Charlie Bloom MSW, married since 1972, are experts in the field of relationships and have published four successful books.

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