In November 2008, I had my first and only (knock on wood) car accident. I had just picked Jayden up from my parents’ house after work on a rainy Thursday. On the way home, a deer ran out in front of me. I hit it at 40mph, skidded into a ditch, and my car rolled over. The first thing I became aware of, other than the fact that I was upside down in a ditch, was the sound of Jayden screaming.
I located the emergency flasher button as I shouted, frantically, “Where are you hurt?” Jay just kept screaming. I took a deep breath, trying to ignore the mental pictures of my child with contorted limbs. I could feel broken glass crunching under my hands as I worked to extricate myself from the seatbelt.
“YOU WILL STOP SCREAMING AND TELL ME WHERE YOU ARE HURT! TELL ME NOW!”
He stopped screaming. “I don’t think I’m hurt, but we just had a wreck, Mom! Did you see how big that deer was?”
I let out the breath I didn’t realize I’d been holding. My child is okay. Time to rock and roll.
I fumbled around in the broken glass until I found my cell phone. I managed to find the button to roll down the front passenger window, which was facing the road. We wiggled out of the car.
A man ran up to us. “I called 911. Is there anyone else in the car?” I shook my head. “I can’t believe you guys are standing here!” he exclaimed. “I thought for sure we’d need an ambulance.”
An off-duty EMT (who happened to be driving by) checked Jayden for injuries while I waited for the police. I spent the next hour recounting what happened, instructing the wrecker to take my car to a particular body shop, calling the insurance company, and calling my mom to pick up Jay. People kept asking me if I wanted to get checked out at the hospital, and I refused. I had too much to do.
It wasn’t until much later, when I got back to my parents’ house, that I realized why everyone was so pushy about going to the hospital. My arms and neck were covered in scratches from tiny bits of broken glass. The real winner, though, was my forehead, which still had a little chunk of glass sticking out of it. I looked like I’d been shot. I didn’t even notice the blood all over my face or how badly my head hurt because I’d been too busy doing what had to be done. As I looked in the mirror, the enormity of the situation hit me and I burst into tears.
How Do YOU React in a Crisis?
Throughout multiple emergency situations in my life, I’ve learned that there are four main reactions to crisis situations. Do any of these sound like you?
The Robot. This is me. When something major happens, I go on some kind of autopilot. I’m able to suspend my emotions while taking immediate action to deal with the crisis. Later, after everything is calm and the worst part is over, I take time to sit back and determine how I feel about what happened.
- Strengths: able to diffuse stressful situations and take charge, can help calm or comfort others
- Weaknesses: reactions to trauma may be more intense due to delayed onset, may refuse to rest or accept help
The Ostrich. These people simply cannot deal when things get out of control. Whether it’s a minor nosebleed or a death in the family, ostriches have to find a way to escape. They may physically leave the scene of a crisis, or they might distract themselves by making jokes or talking about something unrelated.
- Strengths: can serve as a welcome distraction for others, are usually the first to return to “business as usual” following an emergency
- Weaknesses: may bury emotions related to the incident and never deal with them, could appear unconcerned or unsupportive
The Banshee. When a banshee is around, the whole world knows it. These are the people who react openly and acutely to a crisis by crying, screaming, fainting, or generally freaking out. They may also struggle with strong feelings of regret later when they realize they were unable to help during the crisis.
- Strengths: deal with emotions immediately without worrying what others think, able to accept support from others
- Weaknesses: unable to make decisions, may be viewed as an attention hog by others
The Reporter. Reporters need to know all the facts about a crisis situation. They want every detail, down to what color socks you were wearing when your lawnmower was stolen. These people are looking for answers and will stop at nothing to get them.
- Strengths: gain knowledge of the crisis that may be useful later, able to remain calm
- Weaknesses: may intellectualize emotions instead of experiencing them, could appear cold or unfeeling, may not be able to translate findings into a course of action
No matter how you react in a crisis situation, it’s important to realize that there is no “ideal” or “best” way to deal with emergencies. Each “crisis type” has strengths and weaknesses, and families with a combination of different types tend to work together to survive tough circumstances.
Your Crisis Type and Your Finances
The way you react to crisis situations says a lot about how you may deal with your finances. Ideally none of us would ever go through a financial crisis, but they do come up from time to time.
Imagine for a moment that your checking account is overdrawn and you’ve been hit with an overdraft fee. Here’s how you might react initially, according to your crisis type:
The Robot: “Holy crap, my account is in the red! I better go make a deposit before any more fees hit. Then I’ll call the bank and ask to have the fee waived.” (Tons of action, but no time spent figuring out what happened or why.)
The Ostrich: “My bank account is overdrawn? Well, no use getting upset about it right now. I’ll check on it later. Right now I need to check out these Thanksgiving leftovers that are calling my name!” (Note the avoidance of the topic and a promise to deal with it “later.”)
The Banshee: “WHAT? My bank account is overdrawn? How could this happen? What am I going to do? Oh my gosh, my life is over. My credit will be ruined. I’ll never get a bank account again. I can’t handle this!” (Note the hysteria and inability to take action or think rationally.)
The Reporter: “How did this happen? I need a spreadsheet of every transaction on this account for the past 3 months. Then I’ll compare that to the organized box of receipts I keep. I’m also going to look up the regulations for overdraft fees and print a copy for my records.” (Lots of dealing with the how and why, but no real action to deal with the problem.)
What do you think?
Do you see yourself in any of the four crisis types? How does that relate to your finances? Let me know what you think!