Coping and defense

Multiple shades of coping

It’s not only a matter of style. Within those styles, there are different ways we can cope, more or less effectively.

We can adapt, changing something in ourselves or our behaviours to better suit the environment we inhabit.

We can attack, displacing our discomfort on someone or something else, often in a transformed form.

We can avoid.

We can change what we do, or change the way we think.

We can transform the problem into something else.

We can unconsciously defend ourselves from the issue, by projecting, repressing, denying and so on.

We can self-harm, or engage in risky or unhealthy behaviours like drinking and smoking.

We can act out, expressing our frustration by misbehaving. 

We can dissociate, if the problem becomes too heavy to accept.

We can intellectualise, creating rational explanations for our emotional reactions.

We can provoke, somatize, complain, fantasize, trivialize…

Coping, as we are seeing, is an umbrella term. It includes all the several ways that we can use to face something hard. These can range from very functional to extremely dysfunctional and unhealthy. And as you might have noticed already, some are very similar to defense mechanisms (our #1020theme), which tells us something about coping.

It’s the opposite of sitting with the issue.

When it’s necessary to move forward, it’s a positive thing, but when it would be useful to stop and turn off the torch to actually see how dark it is, it becomes something that increases the distance between us and awareness.

(These examples are taken from

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