A Square-Peg People Book Review
Thriving Through Crisis
by Bill O'Hanlon
That seminar was a version of his current: "KEEPING YOUR SOUL ALIVE AS A THERAPIST IN THE ERA OF MANAGED CARE: A personal and professional recharging".
The seminar included multi-media presentations - music, scenes from movies, quotes, pictures - as well as anecdotes, thought-provoking information and questions to ponder from the wise and energetic Bill O'Hanlon.
I seem to remember Bill saying that his point was to touch us - whether he said it in those specific words or not - that's what he did. It's very cliche, but true - there was "not a dry eye in the room". I left there knowing the directions I needed to move into. I left there very connected to myself. And I left there really respecting and appreciating Bill O'Hanlon!
You get the same feel from his books - they come across respectfully - person to person and story-centered, practical and heart touching (as opposed to giving you the feeling of being talked down to and/or being purely theoretical). His writing is filled with word play. You can see that in some of the chapter and sub-chapter titles:
• Having a Nervous Breakthrough
• Blissed or Pissed: Two Clear Signals from Your Heart and Soul...
• When You Discover You're Riding a Dead Horse, Dismount
Bill O'Hanlon says: "Thriving Through Crisis is a road map for how to recover from breakdowns and crises and reconnect with a life of meaning, passion, and aliveness..."
He also offers this hopeful message:
"I believe that one can go beyond merely recovering from crises and breakdowns and thrive and grow from these experiences. Most people do everything they can to avoid breakdowns and seem to be dreadfully ashamed of having them..."
"I see crises as an expected and normal part of life and believe thinking about them in certain ways can make them more survivable and even valuable. I am not suggesting that they are fun or 'good' growth experiences that people should run out and try to have. But I believe they can be valuable and if one is going to have a breakdown anyway, it may as well be a good one."
He talks about two varieties of crises:
"I think crises come in two varieties. One is random and external. Something terrible, not of our own making, occurs and affects us in a big way. It overwhelms our usual coping mechanisms. The other kind of crisis is self-made. We have some complicity in this kind of crisis."
Throughout the book Bill highlights important points in list form - these are great for quick review/reminder. Some of them are:
• What constitutes a Breakdown or overwhelming crisis
• Crises as WakeUp calls
• Common Avoidance or Distraction Techniques
• Identifying What Blisses You out
and there are plenty more.
In one of these highlight boxes, entitled "What Constitutes a Breakdown or Overwhelming Crisis?" Bill gives us his description of a breakdown:
"...I mean something that breaks you down, stops you and affects your life and your sense of yourself so completely that life cannot go on as usual..."
In the same box he also gives several examples of overwhelming crises, which are helpful if you're anything like me - prone to miss the forest for the trees.
There's an entire chapter called "How to Help Someone You Love Through a Crisis".
This is another very personal book - and again I'm going to say: any other kind isn't worth reading! In it Bill O'Hanlon tells about "...two significant breakdowns in my life. (If breakdowns is too strong a word for you, you can substitute overwhelming crises. They felt like breakdowns to me.)"
He shares about his wife's painful medical condition and his own failings and triumphs in relationship with someone who is dealing with a serious illness. He brings in many stories of other people.
And I love that Bill isn't "selling" the "everything is coming up roses" formulaic answer to suffering. He knows life can hurt:
"Not all crises are growth experiences, of course, and I don't mean to minimize the suffering and pain involved in them. Some of them have no redeeming social (or soul) value; they are merely tragedies. Not all breakdowns happen because you need to have a learning experience or a major life change."
In this hopeful, pragmatic and kind ("kind" meaning: he writes respectfully to us - does not offer a one-way-fits-all mentality AND it feels like Bill O'Hanlon's been there, and he even tells us a bit about his own crises) book you'll find much to reflect on. There are even some work book pages with ideas to reflect on and write about.
In the chapter "Having a Nervous Breakthrough: Key Points in Finding the Benefits of Crises (Including How to Avoid Unnecessary Breakdowns)" Bill O'Hanlon voices several big questions, one is: "...has the crisis made you more compassionate or empathic with people or has it led you to be more judgmental or cynical and alienated?"
In a sub-chapter entitled: "How to Have a Good Breakdown: The Difference between Post-traumatic Stress and Post-traumatic Success" Bill O'Hanlon describes ways of using crises to our benefit. He names - and elaborates on - "...the three C's: Connection, Compassion, and Contribution."
I'm wondering if there's something Square-Peg here! I've often thought that one of the identifying marks of a Square-Peg tribe member might be: being AWAKE in crises experiences.
Maybe our crises have been SO large that we can't ignore them - maybe we have some driving Square-Peg force that pushes us to really experience them (as opposed to ignore them, rationalize them, hide from the truth). But somehow, a big percentage of the Square-Pegs I've gotten to know have had crises and have turned them into "thriver" (big steps past "survivor") experiences. Would love to hear your views!!
Thriving Through Crisis is full of practical help. The keyword here is "practical" - wisdom grounded, not theoretical fact-listing (though there's plenty of theory and explanation). Bill O'Hanlon knows how to touch hearts (he's a master at it), but more importantly he knows how to help us connect heart, mind and spirit to our journey.
The book ends with this blessing:
"May all your breakdowns lead to breakthroughs."
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