A book I recently listened to on Audible (if you aren’t listening to audiobooks or podcasts while driving are you even driving?? Lol) and it mentioned that the Chinese word for Crisis is the same word as for opportunity. While considering writing about this circumstance, I decided to research the facts before I “stepped in it.”
During a standard Google search, I found the following provided by Wikipedia:
The Chinese word for "crisis" (simplified Chinese: 危机; traditional Chinese: 危機; pinyin: wēijī, wéijī) is, in Western popular culture, frequently but incorrectly said to be written with two Chinese characters signifying "danger" (wēi, 危) and "opportunity" (jī, 机; 機). The second character is a component of the Chinese word for "opportunity" (jīhuì, 机会; 機會), but has multiple meanings, and in isolation means something more like "change point". The mistaken etymology became a trope after it was used by John F. Kennedy in his presidential campaign speeches and is widely repeated in business, education, politics and the press in the United States.
American linguist Benjamin Zimmer has traced mentions in English of the Chinese term for "crisis" as far as an anonymous editorial in a 1938 journal for missionaries in China. The American public intellectual Lewis Mumford contributed to the spread of this idea in 1944 when he wrote: "The Chinese symbol for crisis is composed of two elements: one signifies danger and the other opportunity." However, its use likely gained momentum in the United States after John F. Kennedy employed this trope in campaign speeches in 1959 and 1960, possibly paraphrasing Mumford:
Searching further I found a short video describing the word, its Chinese reference, and its Greek derivation. It’s a two minute video that only really gives you about 45 seconds or useful information, and no, I have no idea what the grim reaper is doing with the lawnmower. I also like the way the video link described the second part of the word crisis as “A crucial moment.”
Either way, the Chinese word for crisis includes the word for danger. But it might not even be life or death danger. Sometimes it might be the threat of losing something. It might be not attaining something. It could refer to being bested in competition.
I like to remember what Wil Smith’s character said in After Earth. “Fear is not real. Danger is real, but fear is a choice.”
Putting all this together, I suggest the definition of crisis as a crucial moment or circumstance that stresses us, encouraging change.
When faced with a crisis, we often react in fear. Fear is an emotion. Fear causes our autonomic nervous system to switch from normal life operations to fight or run operations. I like to tell my clients it is much like the Starship Enterprise from Star Trek. The Enterprise is officially a vessel purposed for exploration and science. It is equipped with defensive and offensive measures, however. But battle is not its primary dedication. This is why is often performs underwhelmingly when facing true battleships.
But when the Enterprise is under attack, the captain gives the order to go to battle stations. All auxiliary power is taken away from ancillary systems like the holodeck or the cafeteria to defensive systems like the shields and weapons. When the battle is over, all systems are ordered to full operation.
Our bodies are the same way. We have an autonomic nervous system. It is divided into two parts. The sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). The PNS operates all the intricate functions of the body under normal circumstances. We digest food, fight germs and infections, control thousands of bodily functions by hormonal control, and heal illnesses and wounds. When threatened, such as anciently by a saber-toothed tiger, our SNS takes over. It orders all superfluous functions shut down. All energy of the body and all hormones are sent to large muscle groups so we can run or fight. The adrenals pump out epinephrine (adrenaline) and cortisol so the muscles can run faster and fight harder. The liver is ordered to dump its glucose supply into the bloodstream so the muscles have instant fuel. Hormones are released so we feel little pain, see sharper, even speed our minds up so it appears time slows down so we can make decisions more quickly. For a moment we become nearly superhuman. Ever hear those stories where a mother pulls a car off her son? I once heard of a mother who pulled one of concrete bollards out the ground at the beach so she could beat a shark half to death to stop the attack on her son.
Our bodies are capable of some really amazing and incredible feats while stressed. Today, however, we consider EVERYTHING to be a stressor. At your desk when the boss calls you on the phone? Stressed. Mother-in-law being a pain in the ass again? Stressed. Late for work and someone in front of you is sight-seeing? Stressed.
We stress over every circumstance. Each one of these things is a crisis. A critical turning point that encourages us to change. We react with stress. I tell people that there is nothing outside of them that is inherently stress. You can’t walk into a room and point to something and say “Ah, there’s stress right there.” Stress is what you create within yourself when faced with a crisis.
Crisis is real, stress is a choice.
Every single day we immerse ourselves in crisis situations. Some people even pride themselves on how much stress they handle. “I study better when I’m stressed.” “I work better and get more done when I’m against a deadline.” "I purposefully wait until the last minute so I can use stress to my advantage.”
I was a cop for 23 years. There were many times I faced difficult situations. I couldn’t yell, “Times, time out. This is too much for me. Someone else has to go into the basement to look for the guy with the gun.” I had to compartmentalize my fear. Which in reality means I had to recognize I was reacting to a crisis by creating stress in the form of fear. Then I had to go into the situation and get the job done anyway. NO, I’m not some superhero or action star. I simply realized I needed to do something and despite danger (or crucial turning point) I had to do it.
In each crisis moment we have an opportunity (this is where the opportunity part of that quote comes in) to check our feelings, recognize our emotional reaction to our circumstances (whether it be fear, or rage, or defensiveness, etc.) decide if the reaction is appropriate, and make a conscious decision to respond.
React or Respond.
Sometimes, even no response is a response.
You actually have more power than you thought possible. You can decide. Stop yourself in the midst of an emotionally charged reaction and take a millisecond to formulate a cognitive response.
Sometimes that response is to lift a car or pull the bollard from the ground and beat a shark with it.
I can guarantee you that if I’m out with my family and someone tries to hurt them, I will immediately formulate and carry out an appropriately aggressive and violent response. I will do this if someone tries to hurt your family as well.
But I didn’t react emotionally when my boss called me into his office to inform me it was the decision of the chain of command to move me from the detectives office back to motor patrol. I simply nodded my head, said yessir, and formulated a plan to retire.
React or respond.
Dec 15 2020 the surgeon who removed 6 inches (the day after Thanksgiving) of my colon because we thought my appendix had ruptured finally told me it was cancer. I looked at him and said, "So? No big deal." He tried to explain to me this is cancer. I told him, "No. This is ONLY cancer. I got this. No big deal. You don't know who I am." He set me up with an oncologist. Chemo nearly killed me. I formulated a plan, changed my life, and healed cancer and diabetes in a few short months.
React or respond.
Crisis, a crucial turning point that encourages us to take appropriate action.
I read somewhere that each time we react to something in anger, we program our nervous system to react similarly in like events in the future. Conversely, if we respond intelligently to that same situation, we train our brains and nervous systems to pull away from anger in future similar circumstances.
Think of this. I read that a moment of anger can negatively affect our immune system for up to 6 hours. A moment of laughter can positively influence our immune system for up to 24 hours.
The choice is yours.
Crisis. A circumstance that stresses us, offering us an opportunity to change.
Joe “Weeg” Weigant is an empowerment coach who specializes in energy work (Reiki, Acupressure, Tuning Forks, Massage, Sound/Vibration Therapy) to release trauma, reset the autonomic nervous system, and balance the energy systems of the body to achieve lasting peace. He utilizes muscle testing to determine needs for herbal remedies by Nature’s Sunshine and Pure Herbs Ltd. Weeg teaches Karate and Tai Chi, certification in Reiki, as well as seminars and workshops in metaphysical and spiritual matters. Weeg is available for sessions at Tri State Holistic Wellness by appointment only.
Contact by text 812.568.5356, or Facebook Messenger to set an appointment.