It’s Difficult to Pull Ourselves Out of a Crisis Situation

Whenever we get into new life situations, we frequently face problems. The crisis starts when the person freezes and the situation seems to be hopeless. If you can’t solve your problems, it’s important to find someone who sees the situation from another perspective and can provide support.

“Where to then? Crisis situations in the family” was the title of the roundtable discussion organized by the Budapest Malteser Youth. The guests invited to the sixth occasion of the Coffee To Go program series spoke about the difficulties in our relationships, the prevention of crisis situations and the various types of support. They also mentioned the methods which can be used by a bigger charity service to help to resolve the problems at the level of families.

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Photo: Márk Horváth (Click on the image to view the gallery)

“Crisis is part of our lives, we can’t make ourselves believe that we can avoid it” said Éva Pataki, director of the Family support service and child welfare system of Zugló (Zuglói Családsegítő és Gyermekjóléti Központ) at the starting point of the discussion. “As we are developing, we get into new life situations which always bring changes. A crisis situation is the consequence of an unexpected event or it comes from the simple fact that we get into a new situation and we aren’t able to accommodate to it with our learned helping mechanisms.”

András Frankó, the leader of the Receiving Psychosocial Service (Fogadó Pszichoszociális Szolgálat) of the Hungarian Charity Service of the Order of Malta added that every family has to pass through certain periods. A crisis situation arises when the balance falls over at one point.

He mentioned the “empty nest effect” where the children leave the parent’s nest as an example. What does the thrush mother do when it has to teach the young bird to fly? It simply pushes its offspring out of the nest. But why does it do so when it notices the danger and that there is a cat walking around? The answer came from the audience: if it doesn’t push the small one out, it will gain weight and will never learn how to fly. Reacting to the analogy András Frankó said that he has a client who is still unable to leave the nest at the age of 43.

Balázs Rácsok, social and development director of the Hungarian Interchurch Aid (Ökumenikus Segélyszervezet) believes that in a smaller family crisis a charity service might not be able to help. Generally they intervene just when the situation seems to be critical – for example, when a child has to be taken out of a certain place, the family needs a roof over their heads or an abused child has a kind of injury where the collective help of various specialists is necessary.

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Balázs Rácsok és Éva Pataki (Photo: Márk Horváth )

Regarding domestic violence, the following question frequently arises: Why does an abused person stay in such kind of relationship? Éva Pataki thinks that mainly because there isn’t a continuous 24 hours of violence. “Abused people want to escape from the abuse and not from the relationship.”

András Frankó added that to get out of any kind of crisis, it’s important to have a certain degree of suffering to be able to ask for help. If someone doesn’t suffer sufficiently, he/she won’t require change.

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Éva Pataki és András Frankó (Photo: Márk Horváth )

Regarding domestic violence, it’s important to shape social attitude and provide proper information for the ones in trouble to be aware of their opportunities and the places where they can go for help. The “Realise it” campaign (Vedd észre kampány) of the Hungarian Interchurch Aid (Ökumenikus Segélyszervezet) focuses on violence in relationships. Along with physical violence and sexual abuse, there are numerous types of psychological abuse and extortion. The sooner we realise the problem, the easier it is to get out of it.

“A mother of 3 called me once and told me that the campaign made her realise that she wouldn’t have to endure more” said Balázs Rácsok “Her husband controlled her in such a way that if she arrived home 5 minutes late he immediately started to shout. He also exclusively dictated the life of the whole family. With our help, the woman could get more information about her options and go through the proper channels which means that she met with a lawyer, a social worker and a psychologist too. Finally, she got divorced from her husband, moved away to an apartment with the children and she left the relationship stronger. We accompanied her along this process.

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Photo: Márk Horváth

The director believes that they can’t start the process of sensitisation and prevention too early, that’s why they regularly organise trainings for children and  teenagers. “We went to an elite secondary school to hold a conflict management training. When we asked them to analyse their ability to compromise, they asked us what compromise means.” They usually play situational games in these trainings, when the class has to resolve certain situations together. When they simulated a street robbery, no one said that the robbed person is more sympathetic. They would have been in the shoes of the robber, because it’s cooler. They agreed on the following solution: the headmaster would have to call in the robber and slap across the face. “Aggression appears quite often in our everyday solutions. When we told our students to deepen the conflict, they used various techniques such as swearing, shouting and jostling, but when they had to come out of the conflict, they didn’t say anything. We don’t know how to resolve a conflict situation.”

Finding the proper solution could be very difficult not only for a single conflict but in long-term crisis situations too. “When we attempt to resolve situations, we liberate energy and experience different feelings, but this is still a problem phase. The crisis starts when someone freezes, runs into a stone wall and the situation seems to be hopeless” said Éva Pataki, according to whom this way, crisis could be recognised. “Neither the person nor the family can stay in such a disintegrated and dysfunctional situation for a long time. During some weeks the situation will move towards a certain direction. There is the possibility of a destructive solution, when someone begins to take medicines or drink alcohol as a way of clinging to something. However, this attempt results in a new set of problems. On the other hand, there are constructive solutions too, when someone or something throws the person off balance. Often people cling to their children.”

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Photo: Márk Horváth

Someone from the audience raised the following question: could we invoke God in such kind of situation? András Frankó answered that people who experience their belief together rarely ask for the help of the charity service. Éva Pataki pointed out the other side of this story. “God is often used as an alibi to cover fallibility, while I think that everything starts when I try to face my faults and God expects me to do this. There is a limit of what I can afford to do with others in name of anything.”

According to Éva Pataki, in the crisis stage, the acquaintances can help by not leaving the suffering person stuck in this situation. “If we stand close to someone and feel that he/she is in trouble, then we should help him/her take the first steps. The most difficult thing about experiencing a crisis is when we stay alone in the situation. It’s the same as if we need to pull ourselves out of a crisis. As friends or acquaintances, we just need to stay with the suffering person. It’s not always necessary to communicate with words, sometimes we just need to be together. Support is very important.”

Réka Szakszon

Translated by: Judit Balló