chapter  1
5 Pages

Introduction: Examining Crisis


At its most basic level, a crisis is a turning point around which things change. Before the crisis, systems are functional, events are manageable. The existing social, capital, physical, and mental resources are sufficient for day-to-day living. But then along comes an event or series of events-an “identifiable stimulus or catalyst” (Collins & Collins, 2005)—that existing coping mechanisms cannot handle. An event becomes a crisis when it is perceived to overwhelm the systems that made things “work,” that is, when it raises a problem that cannot be solved in the immediate future. Because the crisis cannot be solved, it stresses the physical, social, and psychological resources beyond the traditional ways of solving problems that have worked in the past. In this volume we are defining a crisis as time-limited. As opposed to long-term problems such as poverty or on-going illness, crises have both a beginning and an end. Eventually, systems recover. We develop relationships with new people who provide support, we find new resources that allow us response to the crisis, or we develop coping strategies that convert the unsolvable crisis into something we can accept. Stasis is reestablished-sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse, sometimes both-and the crisis has passed ( James, 2008).