Emotion-focused vs. Problem-focused

“Do I need to change my situation or do I need to find a way to better cope with the situation?”

While in the long run it pays to dig deeper and search for meaning, in the short run, emotion-focused and problem-focused coping might have their advantages, and their effectiveness depends on whether we can do something about it or just need to face the facts.

Emotion-focused coping is also called avoidant not because it’s necessarily negative, but because it aims at distraction from what’s making us hurt. That’s why it’s useful – and sometimes necessary – in our daily life. When the locus of control is external (that is, when the outcome of the situation is out of our control) we might need to work with our emotions regarding that issue. That, sometimes, might imply the need to soothe with distractions, or quick solutions. It’s not as profound as meaning-based coping, but it’s more appropriate when the need to ‘function’ is urgent.

On the other hand, when the locus of control is internal, we could make a plan on how to handle or fix the problem. That also lacks the depth of meaning-based, but it’s much more appropriate for practical and pressing issues, where it’s not always necessary to find a higher sense to the narration.

Some healthy emotion-focused skills are: drawing, exercising, listening to music, meditating, spoiling ourselves, playing a game, reading a book, nature, taking care of your body.

Some healthy problem-focused skills are: creating a to-do list, making a plan, acting in response to needs, whether that is setting boundaries or walking away, putting more effort in what you are doing.

Coping is also being able to know the difference and the right place for each coping style. And that involves asking the right questions.

We will see some of them next time.

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