To the inexperienced observer, “crisis” and “the individual in crisis” represent nearly equivalent notions. We say that an individual is “suicidal.” Why? Because he is depressed. We say that an individual is nervous and shaking. Why? Because he is upset. When we take the next step and ask why the individual is depressed or upset, the assumption is that the answer will point to there being something wrong with the individual or with his situation. “You are just being silly.”… “If I were you, I would get out of that situation and not put up with it anymore.”… “If you would just straighten up and deal with it, things would be better.”… “You can’t blame yourself. It’s not your fault. If they didn’t act the way they do, things would be okay.” By the inexperienced observer, then, the ‘crisis’ is interpreted to be something that is either in the individual or in the situation.
As we examine the conflict state in this chapter and focus more specifically on the crisis state in Chapter 3, we will find that the “crisis” is neither within the individual nor within the situation. The crisis lies in how you are or are not getting along within your situation.
Frequently there is conflict between the individual and his world. This situational conflict is an everyday thing. Life is full of its hassles, difficulties, and annoyances. Sometimes, though, the conflict becomes intensified to such an extent that we can accurately think of it as “a crisis state.” Understanding the crisis state and helping the people who are caught up in it is our objective. First, however, we want to carefully examine and come to understand the conflict state from which crises develop. Figure 1 illustrates conflict in terms of the individual, the situation, and the interaction between the two. A careful look at each of these three perspectives is, then, where we will start to develop an understanding of and a feeling for the social interaction approach to crisis intervention.