Our Coping Tools
It’s funny: I always imagined when I was a kid that adults had some kind of inner toolbox full of shiny tools: the saw of discernment, the hammer of wisdom, the sandpaper of patience. But then when I grew up I found that life handed you these rusty bent old tools – friendships, prayer, conscience, honesty – and said ‘do the best you can with these, they will have to do’. And mostly, against all odds, they do.
― Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith
Over the next several blog posts we are going to explore the subject of Resilience – bouncing back from hardship, adversity and trauma. Each post will explore a specific way we may be able to adapt to the challenges and difficulties in our lives. Based on an article in Psychology Today – “I Get Knocked Down – But I Get Up Again”, the fourth tip is:
Don’t Fight Your Defenses
When people suffer through and survive terribly traumatic, noxious, negating, and even life-threatening situations, they find some method to bounce back. Even neurosis, psychosis, and our myriad defense mechanisms (e.g., denial and dissociation) serve to enable the endurance of untenable and toxic experiences and preserve the possibility of a new life. In a sense, the self goes underground for protection, hibernating, waiting for the right time to heal. —Stephen A. Diamond, Ph.D., “Evil Deeds”
Coping mechanisms. We all have them.
Not all coping mechanism are bad. Sometimes we need to step away from a situation or from people. Sometimes we need to be alone to contemplate a plan of action. Sometimes we need distractions to help keep our minds off of a toxic circumstance. There is a time and a place for confronting a problem and its not always when the problem occurs. Sometimes we need time.
A friend of ours was recently working for a toxic organization. She was routinely hurt by some of the people in the organization. Backbiting. Lack of respect. Lack of enjoyment. Those feelings increasingly consumed her time and were causing her great pain. She tried, time and time again, to find peace and reconciliation. But each time was met with more hurt and frustration. She felt alienated, unappreciated, and attacked. She didn’t know what to do.
So after much reflection, solitude, and communication with people she trusted, she decided the best plan of action was to step away from the organization for a season of three months. She is in the midst of that season now. This season is giving her the opportunity to allow the deepest hurt to dissipate and for healing to begin.
Some would say she is running away from her problems, and by doing so, causing more friction and misunderstanding in the company. But only she knows what is best for herself. Her coping mechanisms is a healthy one for her. Its what she needs. Its often what most of need at times when we find ourselves continually running up against frustration, disappointment, heartache, and pain.
The same principle applies to other situations too:
The death of a loved one.
A loss of a job.
An upsetting rejection.
A betrayal of trust.
There are times when taking advantage of the coping mechanisms that are most helpful and healing for you is necessary. Rather than continuing to lean into to the fray, causing more grief than resolution, we need to lean away in whatever means works best for us.
Sometimes, many times in fact, that is the best tool we have.