I Ching scholar Carol Anthony
came up with the phrase "crescendo of awfulness situations" in her commentary on hexagram 26. We've all been through situations where relations with others spiral out of control, get worse and worse, and seem to have their own dark momentum. In various crescendo-of-awfulness situations we may be the prime instigator, someone else may be the prime instigator who pulls us in, or all parties contribute to the conflict.
Whatever the cause of the crescendo of awfulness we should tend to the basics: keep breathing, stay as calm as possible, keep up all disciplines, try to slow down the dark momentum if possible by being diplomatic, detached, impeccable, and centered on your own inner equilibrium. If possible try to be the calm center in the midst of the storm. Remind yourself of the classic phrase: "This too shall pass."
If you have been able to keep your inner dignity and disciplines and it seems like the other or others have been at fault, avoid becoming a righteous crusader. Have tolerance and patience for the mistakes of others. If possible, give a wrong doer a face-saving way out of the awful situation. If someone you are connected to by inner ties persists in inappropriate action the best response is often to lovingly withdraw energy from them. This withdrawal of energy could be anything from the breaking off of eye contact during a conversation (which is a withdrawal of energy), walking out of the room, or even going your own way for a lifetime. To withdraw lovingly means that you do not judge the other as hopeless and assume that they will never change. To do so only helps to imprison them in their present eclipse. Instead we try to cling to the image of the offending person when he is at his best or when we glimpse his highest potential. This does not mean, however, that we grant him trust based on his potential. Trust has to be earned by deeds. In more rare cases, when the offending person is actively hurting others, for example, it may be necessary to confront him and intervene more actively. If the offending person makes reparative gestures or otherwise returns to appropriate behavior — meet them halfway and allow his return without erecting special hurdles for him to cross.
If we are the offending person — primarily or partially — we need to allow ourselves to be changed and positively transformed by the painful lessons of the crescendo-of-awfulnes- situation. We learn from history so as not to repeat it, but we do not look back paralyzed by self-recrimination and irreconcilable regret. Paralyzed reflection contains secret elements of pride — we are unable to relinquish perfectionism and accept that we have transgressed. It is part of the human condition to transgress, and we need to recognize ourselves as part of that just as others are. Paralyzed regret is also a form of laziness. Allowing ourselves to be changed by the awful situation, we move forward with renewed commitment toward the good. We make amends where possible to those we have wronged, emphasize making energetic progress in the good, and stay vigilant to avoid further transgressions.
It is best to recognize crescendo-of-awfulness situations while they are happening and make immediate course corrections. If our dark emotions, compulsions, addictions, or reactive habits are in play then we must quietly and humbly recognize we have gotten off track and return to our path as quickly as possible. If a situation is escalating do what you can to slow it down. Suggest that an argument continue through written exchanges by email, for example. Writing often encourages people to be more thoughtful and considered and eliminates heated interruptions, etc. Withdraw energy from the vortex of awfulness. Gain a calm, compassionate view of the situation and don't take decisive action until you are able to feel compassion for all concerned.