Tag Archives: Coping mechanism

How are you coping?

Coping in relation to trauma and PTSD

Coping mechanism

When you are confronted with a traumatic event,  there are certain automatic responses taking place in your brain.  Some of them you are conscious of,  like the adrenaline that heightens your awareness and prepares your body for action,  others are happening on a unconscious level.

Either way,  the coping mechanisms used are adaptive,  and therefore useful in reducing stress,  or maladaptive and increasing your stress level.

Whatever you choose or is chosen for you,  those mechanisms are there to help you manage the anxiety produced by the traumatic event.  As I stated in a previous post,  no one can decide what constitutes a traumatic event for someone else.

About 400 to 600 coping mechanisms have been identified,  according to Wikipedia.  So,  why do you cope the way you do?

You are unique

Photo by me

Life is experienced differently since each of us is unique in every way.  You are not born as a blank piece of paper.  Generations have gone before

you,  having an impact on who you are.  You might have your father’s nose or your grandmother’s eyes.  You inherit certain traits,  not just in how you look,  but also in how you behave and react to life events.

For instance,  anger is a coping mechanism in my family of origin.  I deal with a lot of anger,  but having been exposed to the detrimental effect it can have,  I struggle in expressing my anger in a healthy way.  In the beginning of my healing journey I wasn’t even aware I had anger issues.  Can you say denial?

Upbringing & social environment

The way you have been raised has a huge influence in how you perceive trauma or stress.  Maybe you had to overcome the death of a parent.  Or the betrayal of trust.  Or you had a happy and care free childhood.  Maybe your parents believed in you and  raised you to be a strong person in his or her own right.  Or the whole family system was skewed and you had to take care of a parent,  instead of being taken care of.

Maybe you were bullied in school.  Or you were a little shy.  You were the popular guy or girl.  You were intelligent,  learned easily.  Or you struggled to do your homework and exams,  feeling dumb.  Or you were told over and over that you wouldn’t amount to anything.

I can go on and on.  The way your parents relate to you and vice versa influences all your relationships with major authorities.  Do you get that?  Do you really get that?

I was astounded to discover that after finally being able to leave my highly dysfunctional family behind,  I entered a social network with leadership that was actually identical to my relationship with my father!  And I walked into it with open eyes.  I had absolutely no clue what was going on,  since I was used to misuse/abuse of authority from my parents.  How could I recognize a healthy authority-dependence relationship when I had no idea what it actually looked like?

Coping skills

Besides being influenced by your environment and unconsciously learning from it,  there are also coping skills you can acquire.  First you need to be aware of how you respond to the stressor.  Then you consciously have to change your reaction to something (more) desirable.  This takes practice.  For example,  to reduce stress you train yourself to focus on your breathing instead of the stressor.  Or you learn how to practice mindfulness in order to stay in the moment and not be hijacked by the stressor.

In other words,  even though you might have inherited lots of coping mechanisms,  you don’t need to be stuck with them.  You decide the outcome you want,  then you work on the skills you need to reach your goal!

So,  how are you coping?

Further reading:

A list of coping mechanisms

Photo credit: lululemon athletica 

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So pissed off!

Photo credit:  Tétine

Right,  I am so pissed off,  angry,  real,  hot,  lava red angry.

And it’s got nothing to do with today,  yesterday or the day before.

Whatever happened (some stupid things that I did) are not the real reason why I am feeling so pissed off.  They serve merely as the triggers.

It’s going down,  deep inside,  to the core of my being.  Anger has fueled my survival mechanisms for very,  very long.

It’s the survival mechanism of my family of origin as well.  It’s learned.  It’s my dad getting of the handle and doing hurtful things.  It’s my brother responding to me (cuz often I teased him with words – my dagger of choice) with his fists.  It’s my dad and brother fighting.  It’s ugly.

It’s also a response to the traumas I suffered – when you can’t get away cuz the perpetrators are those who are supposed to take care of you.  In my case it turned inward,  harming myself – thankfully not in a visible way.  But anger-turned-inwards hurts you,  in any case – badly!

It’s the power with which I have lived and achieved quite a lot.  It made me a driven,  all-or-nothing kinda gall.  Someone going over dead bodies to reach her goal,  immediately setting a new one as there is no satisfaction,  ever.

But now,  after five years of talk therapy and 4,5 years with meds (getting less and less,  thank God!) and my emotions coming to life – I really don’t want to respond in the old way.  It’s become impossible really.

Now I know it is okay to be angry,  even necessary,  even right,  even at God.  I know He can handle it,  He is big enough and doesn’t get upset or offended.  I know all that.  But having lived years-and-years in a church environment where it was not really allowed (you know those unwritten rules? That sometimes actually become very clear? Well,  those!) to be angry,  certainly not at God –  for whatever reason –  make it still so darn difficult.

I had lay-counseling in my early years as a believer where the first question was:  “have you forgiven so-and-so?”,  even before my story was listened to… I struggle to express my anger even more.  Cuz once you forgive,  how can you still be angry,  right?

So,  yes,  I am angry and that is okay… now what?!

I don’t know what to do with it.  It just sits there,  inside of me,  raging.  I will contain it.  Clenched jaws,  clenched fists.

But it drives me mad,  people,  it really drives me nuts.

So,  if anyone out there has some healthy coping mechanism,  I’m all in for it.

For me,  kicking a pillow doesn’t work,  running neither (cuz of bad knee and ankle,  sigh),  throwing things ain’t working (been there, done that;  ended up with destroyed personal stuff that made me all sad and angry at myself again),  it’s raining outside (for a whole week! It drives me bonkers!!! since I am for two weeks close to the beach and one week has passed now,  argh!!!).

I need some real life solutions to let some steam off,  without the danger of me flying off the handle,  that would be rather counter-productive and possible – no likely – ugly.

I know,  it’s a tall order.

Tell me,  what works for you?  I really wanna know, you see:  Fire away,  please!

I am eagerly waiting…

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