Let Go: Recognising Your Coping Strategies and Uncovering Underlying Pain

Get Results: coping strategies
Get Results: coping strategies

I believe SELF AWARENESS to be probably, the most important part of improving the quality of life and achieving success in personal and business life.

As part of my attempt to improve self awareness, I found it important to explore my emotions, feelings and reactions to events, circumstances, situations, and attachments in all aspects of life.

Emotional compass

I’ve learned that how you feel about something lets you know whether you’re on the right track or not. Decoding the meaning of that feeling is very important if you’re to learn anything from it.

If you’re feeling good about something, then you’re likely to be on the right track, at least, from your current perspective. If you’re feeling bad about something, you may need to take a closer look. Think of your emotions and feelings as a compass, indicating which way to go.

Coping strategies

However one thing that can cause a great deal of confusion is the adoption of COPING STRATEGIES (otherwise known as psychological coping mechanisms/tactics/skills), which are often employed to cover up some negative situation or issue and allow you to put-up with them.

Coping strategies can be positive or negative in nature. Drinking and taking drugs to excess is often a sign you’re using them to cover up pain, or trying to temporarily forget about the pain. Overeating, complaining, blaming, gossiping, procrastination, gambling, self-sabotaging are all examples of negative coping strategies. They are designed to temporarily cover up the underlying issue, but seldom work to resolve the issue, and to make matters worse they often add more pain into the mix.

I believe it’s important to look underneath the coping strategy and find the underlying issue, and deal productively with it. The field of Spirituality agrees, saying we should “surrender to what is”, to “go fully into the feeling” and “accept it”, and “let go” of any negative influences, working positively to move beyond it. Many psychotherapies are designed to confront the root cause of pain and again move healthily beyond it.

It’s best to resolve the issue in most cases. Seeking professional help might be needed for more complex, severe issues and trauma. Some issues can be resolved yourself, if you take positive steps or employ positive coping strategies to deal with them.

Knowing the cause

Discovering and examining the underlying issue is the first step. Repressed pain and memories often still influence us at a subconscious level. Uncovering and taking a fresh perspective can help. Some issues start early in life and are left unexamined into adulthood. Often looking at them as an adult helps shift perspective, and what was a big issue as a child is not so much as an adult. We can be particularly hard on ourselves in relation to say ,embarrassing situations, and feel traumatised by them at the time, but looking with fresh eyes, as a mature adult, maybe as a parent, we realise that we may have been viewed less critically or harshly by others, then we thought at the time, at least by those with some level of decency and maturity. If you saw a child mess up, in say, a school play and subsequently became upset, would you look on that child as a complete loser, or would your heart go out to them, and want to tell them it’s not a big deal, don’t worry about it? Only those in pain themselves would negatively view the child.

Taking Responsibility

Get results: take responsibility
Get results: take responsibility

Blaming and complaining is often an attempt to pass on responsibility. It’s a coping strategy, but when you pass blame or you complain you also pass on power. You pass on the power you need to do something about it yourself. You can’t control what others do, but you can control what you do, and how you react to things, situations, events and people.

Being Empathetic

Get Results: Empathy
Get Results: Empathy

If you are angry with someone from your past, because they messed up, or let you down. Maybe looking at the situation differently might help, consider the other persons INTENT rather than their EXECUTION. Were they acting with the right intention, but just messed up their execution? Were they acting from a position of fear, and trying protect themselves in some way? What were they going through at the time, that could have impacted on their execution?

Often holding onto resentment, hatred and anger is far more damaging and destructive to ourselves than the other person they are directed towards. Let them go.

Below is a list of coping strategies, check them out and see which ones you use, figure out what the underlying issue is and deal with it or seek professional help to do so.

Coping strategies

Adaptive Mechanisms: That offer positive help.

  • Adaptation: The human ability to adapt.
  • Compartmentalisation: separating conflicting thoughts into separated compartments.
  • Compensation: Over-doing one thing to compensate for another weakness.
  • Crying: Tears of release and seeking comfort.
  • Displacement: shifting of intended action to a safer target.
  • Idealisation: playing up the good points and ignoring limitations of things desired.
  • Identification: copying others to take on their characteristics.
  • Intellectualisation: avoiding emotion by focusing on facts and logic.
  • Performing Rituals: Getting time to think.
  • Post-traumatic growth: Using the energy of trauma for good.
  • Sublimation: Channel psychic energy into acceptable activities.
  • Substitution: Replacing bad things with good things.
  • Undoing: actions that psychologically ‘undo’ wrongdoings for the wrongdoer.

Attack Mechanisms: That push discomfort onto others.

  • Acting Out: not coping – giving in to the pressure to misbehave.
  • Displacement: shifting of intended action to a safer target.
  • Fight-or-Flight Reaction: Reacting by attacking.
  • Passive aggression: avoiding refusal by passive avoidance.
  • Projection: seeing your own unwanted feelings in other people.
  • Reaction Formation: avoiding something by taking a polar opposite position.
  • Trivialising: Making small what is really something big.

Avoidance Mechanisms: That avoid the issue.

  • Acting Out: not coping – giving in to the pressure to misbehave.
  • Avoidance: mentally or physically avoiding something that causes distress.
  • Denial: refusing to acknowledge that an event has occurred.
  • Displacement: shifting of intended action to a safer target.
  • Distancing: Moving away.
  • Fantasy: escaping reality into a world of possibility.
  • Idealisation: playing up the good points and ignoring limitations of things desired.
  • Intellectualisation: avoiding emotion by focusing on facts and logic.
  • Passive Aggression: avoiding refusal by passive avoidance.
  • Performing Rituals: Patterns that delay.
  • Projection: seeing your own unwanted feelings in other people.
  • Rationalisation: creating logical reasons for bad behavior.
  • Reaction Formation: avoiding something by taking a polar opposite position.
  • Regression: returning to a child state to avoid problems.
  • Repression: subconsciously hiding uncomfortable thoughts.
  • Symbolisation: turning unwanted thoughts into metaphoric symbols.
  • Trivialising: Making small what is really something big.

Behavioural Mechanisms: That change what we do.

  • Acting out: not coping – giving in to the pressure to misbehave.
  • Aim Inhibition: lowering sights to what seems more achievable.
  • Altruism: Helping others to help self.
  • Attack: trying to beat down that which is threatening you.
  • Avoidance: mentally or physically avoiding something that causes distress.
  • Compensation: making up for a weakness in one area by gain strength in another.
  • Crying: Tears of release and seeking comfort.
  • Displacement: shifting of intended action to a safer target.
  • Identification: copying others to take on their characteristics.
  • Reaction Formation: avoiding something by taking a polar opposite position.
  • Regression: returning to a child state to avoid problems.
  • Undoing: actions that psychologically ‘undo’ wrongdoings for the wrongdoer.

Cognitive Mechanisms: That change what we think.

  • Aim Inhibition: lowering sights to what seems more achievable.
  • Altruism: Helping others to help self.
  • Avoidance: mentally or physically avoiding something that causes distress.
  • Compartmentalisation: separating conflicting thoughts into separated compartments.
  • Conversion: subconscious conversion of stress into physical symptoms.
  • Denial: refusing to acknowledge that an event has occurred.
  • Displacement: shifting of intended action to a safer target.
  • Dissociation: separating oneself from parts of your life.
  • Fantasy: escaping reality into a world of possibility.
  • Idealisation: playing up the good points and ignoring limitations of things desired.
  • Identification: copying others to take on their characteristics.
  • Intellectualisation: avoiding emotion by focusing on facts and logic.
  • Introjection: Bringing things from the outer world into the inner world.
  • Passive Aggression: avoiding refusal by passive avoidance.
  • Projection: seeing your own unwanted feelings in other people.
  • Rationalisation: creating logical reasons for bad behaviour.
  • Reaction Formation: avoiding something by taking a polar opposite position.
  • Regression: returning to a child state to avoid problems.
  • Repression: subconsciously hiding uncomfortable thoughts.
  • Somatisation: psychological problems turned into physical symptoms.
  • Suppression: consciously holding back unwanted urges.
  • Symbolisation: turning unwanted thoughts into metaphoric symbols.
  • Trivialising: Making small what is really something big.

Conversion Mechanisms: That change one thing into another.

  • Aim Inhibition: lowering sights to what seems more achievable.
  • Altruism: Helping others to help self.
  • Conversion: subconscious conversion of stress into physical symptoms.
  • Displacement: shifting of intended action to a safer target.
  • Idealisation: playing up the good points and ignoring limitations of things desired.
  • Post-Traumatic Growth: Using the energy of trauma for good.
  • Reaction Formation: avoiding something by taking a polar opposite position.
  • Somatisation: psychological problems turned into physical symptoms.
  • Sublimation: channeling psychic energy into acceptable activities.
  • Substitution: Replacing one thing with another.
  • Symbolisation: turning unwanted thoughts into metaphoric symbols.
  • Trivialising: Making small what is really something big.

Defense Mechanisms: Freud’s original set.

  • Denial: claiming/believing that what is true to be actually false.
  • Displacement: redirecting emotions to a substitute target.
  • Intellectualisation: taking an objective viewpoint.
  • Projection: attributing uncomfortable feelings to others.
  • Rationalisation: creating false but credible justifications.
  • Reaction Formation: overacting in the opposite way to the fear.
  • Regression: going back to acting as a child.
  • Repression: pushing uncomfortable thoughts into the subconscious.
  • Sublimation: redirecting ‘wrong’ urges into socially acceptable actions.

Self-harm Mechanisms: That hurt our selves.

  • Conversion: subconscious conversion of stress into physical symptoms.
  • Somatisation: psychological
  • problems turned into physical symptoms.
  • Self-harming: Conscious physical self-harm.

(list sourced from: changingminds.org)

Get Results: coping strategies
Get Results: coping strategies

Some ways these manifest themselves into our daily lives, separated into positive and negative grouping can be seen below.

Positive coping strategies (constructive)

Diversions

  • Artistic – Writing, drawing, painting, photography, playing an instrument, singing, dancing, acting, gardening
  • Taking a shower or a bath
  • Taking a walk, or go for a drive
  • Watching television or a movie
  • Spending time on social media
  • Play a game
  • Going shopping
  • Cleaning or organise your environment
  • Reading
  • Taking a break or vacation

Social/Interpersonal (with others)

  • Talking to someone you like and trust
  • Setting boundaries and saying “no”
  • Writing a note to someone you care about
  • Being assertive
  • Using humour
  • Spending time with friends and/or family
  • Serving/helping/encouraging someone in need
  • Caring for or play with a pet
  • Role-playing challenging situations with others

Cognitive (Of the Mind)

  • Making a gratitude list
  • Brainstorming solutions
  • Lowering your expectations and preferences of the situation
  • Checking out inspirational quotes
  • Being flexible and open minded
  • Writing a list of goals and things you  want to achieve
  • Taking a class, learning a skill
  • Acting opposite of negative feelings
  • Writing a list of pros and cons for decision making
  • Rewarding or pampering yourself when successful
  • Writing a list of strengths and skills
  • Accepting a challenge with a positive attitude

Tension Releasers

  • Exercising or playing sports
  • Catharsis (yelling in the bathroom, punching a punching bag)
  • Crying
  • Laughing

Physical

  • Getting plenty of sleep
  • Eating nutricious and healthy foods
  • Getting into a good routine
  • Not over indulging in sweet/fatty foods
  • Limiting caffeine intake
  • Deep/slow breathing

Spiritual

  • Meditation and/or praying
  • Enjoying nature
  • Getting involved in a worthy cause

Limit Setting

  • Dropping some involvement
  • Prioritising important tasks
  • Using assertive communication
  • Making time for yourself
  • Using negative coping strategies
  • Using Diversions
  • Procrastinating
  • Abusing drugs or alcohol
  • Wasting time on unimportant tasks
  • Creating a lower level drama to cover up higher level pain (the less of two evils)

Negative coping strategies (maladaptive)

Diversion

  • Procrastinating
  • Abusing drugs or alchol
  • Wasting time on unimportant tasks
  • Creating lower level drama to cover up higher level pain. (less of two evils)

Social/Interpersonal 

  • Blaming
  • Isolating/withdrawing
  • Mean or hostile joking
  • Gossiping
  • Criticizing others
  • Manipulating others
  • Refusing help from others
  • Lying to others
  • Sabotaging plans and goals
  • Being late to appointments and letting others down
  • Provoking violence from others
  • Enabling others to take advantage of you
  • Accepting embarrassing situation to hide a perceived more embarrassing situation (not undressing to hide fat)

Cognitive (of the Mind)

  • Denying any problem
  • Stubbornness/inflexibility
  • All or nothing/black or white thinking
  • Catastrophising
  • Overgeneralising

Tension Releasers

  • Tantrums throwing
  • Throwing things at people
  • Hitting  and lashing out at people
  • Yelling at others
  • Destroying property
  • Speeding or driving recklessly

Physical

  • Suicide
  • Self harming
  • Developing illnesses

Intrapersonal

  • Making fun of yourself
  • Self-sabotaging behaviors
  • Blaming yourself

Indulging

  • Spending too much
  • Gambling
  • Eating too much
  • Setting dangerous fires
  • Continually crying

Conclusion

We all use coping strategies to deal with anxiety and pain, in some form or another. They help us deal with negative feelings and emotions so that we can function without feeling great sadness, anger, and pain, all the time. There are good ways to deal with pain as well as bad.

The extent to which drugs and drink are indulged and abused in modern life, suggests that there are a lot of people experiencing negative emotions to varying degrees, and are dealing with that pain in a very destructive and damaging manner.

Mental health problems are on the increase, particularly with the uncertainty and fast changing society we now live in. A job for life is no more, and this cause great uncertainty and anxiety. Strong family units and ties are increasing hard to rely on and with them. the important support networks they once provided.

People feel increasing isolated and vulnerable and so look for ways to escape the perceived madness, injustice and isolation. Coping strategies are used, by many, to deal with this pain, in the best way people feel they can.

It’s so important to deal with such issues at the root, and employ positive coping strategies for issues that can’t be easily resolved. Remember you can’t control how others think or behave, but you can control how you respond, react, behave and think about the situation/issue/event. Awareness is often the first BIG step in the right direction.

I hope this article helps increase your awareness and self awareness so that you can move towards a healthier state of well being.

If you would like to read more articles focused on COPING STRATEGIES, click here.

More about MOTIVATION.

Coping Quotes

“Problems are not the problem; coping is the problem.”- Virginia Satir

“If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.”– Jim Rohn

“Culture is a way of coping with the world by defining it in detail.” – Malcolm Bradbury

“Give me rampant intellectualism as a coping mechanism.”- Chuck Palahniuk

“Routine is part of coping.”- Lorene Scafaria

“Leaving things behind and starting again is a way of coping with difficulties. I learnt very early in my life that I was able to leave a place and still remain myself.”- Rachel Cusk

“Think first of the action that is right to take, think later about coping with one’s fears”.- Barbara Deming

“Scientists have demonstrated that dramatic, positive changes can occur in our lives as a direct result of facing an extreme challenge – whether it’s coping with a serious illness, daring to quit smoking, or dealing with depression. Researchers call this ‘post-traumatic growth.” – Jane McGonigal

“What is forgiveness? An emotion? A coping mechanism? An element of deepest faith? A way for the heart and soul to combat the type of hate, anger, rage and a thirst for revenge that could ultimately consume a person? All of those and more?” – Mike Barnicle

“One day I looked at something in myself that I had been avoiding because it was too painful. Yet once I did, I had an unexpected surprise. Rather than self-hatred, I was flooded with compassion for myself because I realized the pain necessary to develop that coping mechanism to begin with.”- Marianne Williamson

“If you aren’t in over your head, how do you know how tall you are?” -T.S. Eliot

“If you are faced with a mountain, you have several options. You can climb it and cross to the other side. You can go around it. You can dig under it. You can fly over it. You can blow it up. You can ignore it and pretend it’s not there. You can turn around and go back the way you came. Or you can stay on the mountain and make it your home.” ― Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration

“It is what it is. Isn’t that how these things always go? They are what they are. We just get to cope.” ― Mira Grant, Feed

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