The Wellspring Logo
wellness workbookWellness Workbook
How To Achieve Enduring Health and Vitality
John W. Travis, M.D. & Regina Sara Ryan
  Home  > Helping Professionals  > Collapse: Friend or Foe?

Collapse: Friend or Foe?

© 1981 by Bobbie Salzer-Rae

This article first appeared in the Wellness Associates Journal in 1982 and remains one of our most treasured resources.

Collapse: 1. To fall down or inward suddenly, to cave in 2. To cease to function, break down suddenly in strength or health)

Collapse can take many forms. It can be burnout, exhaustion, depression, mental or emotional breakdown, illness, or injury. The individual who never collapses is rare. Nevertheless, when we do it, we are surprised it’s us. A common first question is, “what can be done?” This question about doing is part of the problem rather than part of the solution. My intention is to share insight from my personal experience as well as from my work with clients and to look at the phenomenon of collapse from a wellness perspective. To do this, I’ll begin with Psyche, the Queen of Collapse.

Psyche is the heroine of Lucius Apuleius’s version of the Greek myth “Amor and Psyche.” She finds herself confronted with four seemingly impossible tasks imposed on her by Venus (Aphrodite), the jealous and vengeful mother and lover of Psyche’s lost love, the god Amor (Eros). Prior to the successful completion of each of her tasks, she collapses. Each time before the solution is unexpectedly given to her, she gives up completely—she surrenders. When I first became aware of this tale and its implications for my personal understanding of collapse, it was a revelation, for I had considered collapse to be a formidable weakness, shame, and indignity.

I spent much of my childhood, teens and early adulthood being ill. I hated my condition and the more I hated it the worst I became. I believed that if I didn’t hate it, I couldn’t change it. Then a new attitude dawned—the attitude engendered by Psyche. I allowed myself to collapse. I saw that after each collapse I emerged more whole and somehow had the strength to accomplish my impossible tasks. I was more able to witness what was happening without having to analyze it. I was also much more aware of how I was responsible for the collapse and could prevent its occurrence by increasing sensitivity, instead of trying to steel myself against my “weakness.” The collapse was often preceded by pushing myself to accomplish something, or being dissatisfied and angry that things weren’t the way they “should” be—all the tyrannies of headfulness without heartfulness. My collapse offered me a chance to connect with my inner source of energy and emerge from my respite truly inspired and lit from within. I became aware that I could recharge in less dramatic ways more frequently and avoid the roller coaster effect. This is certainly not to say that I never collapse any more because I do. The major difference is that I now accept the event as a message to myself, an opportunity and a gift, rather than a catastrophe.

A collapse often occurs at a time of life transition. In our society, we view collapse and transition as a problem rather than as a beneficial process of change and growth. We are so mechanistically oriented that we treat ourselves as we treat our cars. If it (car, mind, or body) breaks down, we take it to the shop (or the health professional) and expect to pick it up at five as good as new. When life is not the way it’s “supposed” to be, the way we try to fix it is either to work harder (suffer), to make (force) it “right,” or try to change it by being unhappy, which inevitably pushes it further away. We push and push until we conveniently arrange (usually unconsciously) a collapse. We fight and rail against it and curse God for inflicting us with such a tragedy. But our rantings don’t improve the situation.

Conversely by changing my perception and beliefs I can change everything. Collapse can be a letdown or a letting go, and it all depends on how I see it. It is, when accepted and perceived positively, a change agent. It allows me to stop, listen and surrender instead of coerce. It can be a profound realignment of body, mind and spirit, a death and rebirth, if I can cultivate an attitude of acceptance. Perhaps even the most tragic situation is an opportunity to reconnect with a deeper meaning, a process of change that reorders my experience on a higher level.

To surrender is very different than to succumb. Surrender opens me to a deeper knowing, an intuitive and vital process working from the inside out. Succumbing closes me to my inner wisdom and places a doormat squarely on my chest. I become preoccupied with the role of victim. To surrender is to trust my ongoing transformative process by opening and relaxing. To succumb is to fear change and slow down the transformative process by closing and tightening. Surrendering or succumbing can appear to be similar from others viewpoint. Internally the difference is like night and day.

Collapse usually has five stages, which may repeat themselves several times in one collapse cycle:

  1. The period of resistance. This period often contains responses similar to the five stages of grief explored by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, which are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
  2. the actual collapse, the letting go, acceptance, surrender. This is the stage of the most actual change, though we are usually unaware of it at the time. It is here that my head stops and my heart has a chance. This is the time to just be.
  3. The time for sorting. Here is the opportunity for my head and heart to work together in “making sense” of this experience. This stage can be clear, confusing, or feel like being in limbo. The sorting process is very deep and becomes apparent in my dreams or fantasies. It is frequently at this stage that the unexpected solutions appear, as they did to Psyche.
  4. The time for action. It is here that I start making decisions and plans for change. This is the time for doing. But if I attempt this prematurely, and try to do before I have allowed myself to be, I not only will have missed the benefit of my collapse, but I probably will have to arrange (again subconsciously) another one soon so that I can get the message I missed this time. When doing comes out of being, there is a right relationship and success is usually ensured, effortlessly.
  5. Acceptance is the stage where I come full circle and own my own process.

Collapse is part of personal growth. It is a stepping-stone to greater awareness. It is a catalyst for a necessary internal surrender. It is not an end in itself. By learning to effectively collapse, to make it a friend instead of a foe, we learn to trust the process that flows within and to know that transformation is the natural direction of life. We’re no longer afraid of the Big Bad Wolf “Collapse”; we know the map and are aware of greater freedom. Eventually collapse is replaced by a profound sensitivity to right timing—moving with life instead of against it. We can listen to the still small voice within and receive guidance in every aspect of life. The experience of stress is transformed into creativity. “Paranormal” abilities (which are just normal abilities we have not yet reclaimed) develop and life looks less staggering and more like dancing. Life becomes more of a celebration and no matter how many lemons life seems to hand us, we know they are really for lemonade.

Personal Wellness
Personal Wellness Lite
Child / Family
Global Wellness
For Professionals
   The Wellness Paradigm
   History: A Paradigm Shift
   Professional Integration
   Wellness Presentations
Contact Us
Child/Family Wellness
Honoring the heart, soul, and spirit of our children, our families, and our future. After more than three decades of pioneering work in adult wellness, and giving birth to a daughter, Siena, in 1993, Meryn and John realized that the  more...
Over the past decade, revolutionary discoveries in neuroscience and developmental psychology have shattered long-held misconceptions about fetal devel more...
Personal Wellness
Wellness is about you. It is about learning to love your whole self. It is about assuming charge of your life, living in process, and channeling life more...


© 2018, Wellness Associates, Inc, All Rights Reserved. Home | Personal Wellness | Personal Wellness Lite | Child/Family | Global Wellness | For Professionals | Resources | About The Wellspring | Contact Us | Advertising Disclaimer | Another site & Search Engine Marketing (SEO) by Byron Bay - Web Design Australia