Sometimes life can feel like it is all too much - beyond overwhelming to the point of breaking. We tend to characterize such moments in life as an emergency. It's like everything's on fire and we need help to manage somehow. But before we call in the troops, it might be worth considering the nature of the 'emergency' and what it might tell us.

There are some events that are doubtlessly dire and require immediate assistance - if you've been attacked, or suffered a frightening accident, for example. However, there are some dramatic instances that, though difficult and possibly unpleasant or painful, are not actual 'emergencies' - losing one's profession, receiving a serious health diagnosis, being left at the altar - even though they are often thought of and treated as such. These situations can feel like an ordeal to live through because our pride might be bruised, we are fearful or feel ashamed, or we have been emotionally hurt in some way. What can be lost in the rush to be rescued in these 'emergencies' is the opportunity to mine the feelings that have been evoked as a result: to understand what these life circumstances can reveal about us and who we are.

One way of looking at these events in life is to consider what potential might emerge from our experience of them? Very often, we are focused on the immediate crisis and the painful feelings that have arisen in reaction, but if we are able to expand our awareness and evaluation of the circumstances, we might see that things happen, and we can learn something from them. This might seem akin to an 'every cloud has a silver lining' approach to life - while we could discover useful shifts in perspectives or healthy readjustments of attitude from setbacks, sometimes, the things we learn can be inconvenient facts about ourselves, our ways of being, and who we are. On a deeper level, it is about being able to honestly assess ourselves in the light of unexpected happenstance and to be brave enough to clearly accept difficult truths and learn from them.

So the next time you're tempted to reach for the phone when life deals you a surprising hand, it might be an opportunity to reflect on that eternal question: Who am I?