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Next comes the individual’s total
situation.  This includes everything
external to him that affects him or is affected by him.  It includes friends, pets, his job, house and
car, the weather, bill collectors, and so on, until we have listed everything
and everyone in his total situation. 
This is his “now.”  It is his
present, including people, relationships, things, circumstances, events, and so
on.  The individual’s total situation
also includes “then” and “when.”  “Then”
is the individual’s past, and it shapes and affects the way things are now in
his present.  It is important to see that
“when” is not the future; rather it is the way the individual feels or thinks
the future will be when certain things happen or do not happen, when he does or
does not accomplish some goal, if circumstances change or do not change, and so
on.  It is not how things actually will
be, but rather, it is how the individual thinks things probably will be.

Of course, “then” and “now” are
also, for the individual, a blend of actual events and circumstances, on the
one hand, and his perception of those events and circumstances, on the
other.  It is important to understand,
however, that “when” is an anticipated set of events and circumstances combined
with the individual’s feelings and anxieties about those events and
circumstances.  It is this anticipatory
anxiety that gives “when” it’s special significance in crisis situations.

In such situations it is common to
find that the individual’s perception of future events, within the context of
his total situation, has a significant influence on his present feelings,
emotions, attitudes, ideas, judgments, and so on.

Figure 2 emphasizes the point that
understanding the individual’s total situation “now” necessarily involves not
only understanding his “then” but also includes understanding his “when.”  Effective intervention in crisis situations
requires that we bring together our understanding of the whole person with an
understanding of his total situation. 
This understanding will probably be somewhat sketchy, but our goal is to
develop a mental picture of the individual and his total situation.  Such a picture, although lacking in full
detail, will include an outline of important family, business, and friendship
relationships; important social, economic, and environmental factors; and a
sensitivity for strong emotions, feelings, beliefs, and attitudes.  It represents, for us, a real “feel” for the
individual and his total situation.  When
we are dealing with crises, time does not permit the development of inclusive
or exhaustive detail.  We are instead
pressed for a general understanding of the individual and what is happening
with him now.

Our understanding of the individual
and his present situation will probably begin with an understanding of his
present emotional state.  Is he nervous
or calm, angry or sad, upset or relatively peaceful?  We will then try to develop some
understanding of his social environment. 
If we are talking with a child, we will want to know how he is getting
along with his family, in school, with other children, with his brothers and
sisters.  If we are talking with a
teenager, we will want to combine these areas with some questions about
boy-girl relationships.  If we are
talking with an adult, we will want to include questions about family,
employment, and other adult situations. 
We may want to inquire about his physical health and see if he has any
special difficulties in dealing with day-to-day situations.  We may want to be alert to any suggestion of
sexual, moral, or spiritual difficulty. 
There will be instances in which we will want to inquire about how
adequately the individual’s needs for food, clothing, and shelter are being
met.  If the person has called us on the
hot line, we may want to know something about where he is, his living
circumstances, and so on.  As this
understanding of his present situation develops, we may want to ask what kind
of events and circumstances in his past life are especially affecting his
present situation.  In addition, we will
want to know a little about how he thinks the future will be, what the outcome
of his problem might be, how things will be when the crisis is over.  In general we want to understand his “then,”
“when,” and “now,” his total situation, and him as an individual.  It is important to stress that this picture
of the crisis may well be somewhat sketchy and may not necessarily include the
same details in each situation.  Here, it
is enough to think about the kinds of things that may be important in and
contribute to crisis situations.

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