When we feel overwhelmed we resort to different coping strategies. They are traditionally categorized by how healthy or helpful they are, and that makes sense to me too.
Here are some that come to mind, organized roughly from healthy to less healthy.
1. Healthy and may resolve more deeply identifications creating the stress
Inquiry. Inquiry into identifications (beliefs, velcro).
Natural rest. Notice. Allow. Notice what’s here is already noticed and allowed. Aligning more consciously with that. Notice the space sensations, images and words happen within, and that it is without boundaries.
Separate out. Separate out sensations, mental images, and words. Recognize each for what it is. Feel the sensations as sensations. Look at images and words. Perhaps ask simple questions about each to clarify what it is or see what more is there. (Living Inquiries.)
Love. Finding love for what’s here – for myself, others, life, the world, all of my world.
2. Healthy and may help us relate to our stress differently
Body. Conscious breathing. Jumping up and down. Going for a walk. Be in nature. Mindful movement. Touch. Massage. Physical exercise. Healthy eating.
Prayer. Prayer for healing, guidance, insight.
Connection. Talking with a friend about it, in a way that brings in compassion and insight.
3. Moderately healthy but doesn’t bring resolution
Distractions such as watching movies, go on the internet, talking with friends about other things, daydreaming.
Ideologies aimed at bringing a sense of comfort, such as ideas of afterlife, karma, God, angels. (I am not saying there may not be some truth to some of these, just that these ideas can be attached to and used primarily to find a sense of comfort.)
Finding comfort in work, with some balance. Finding comfort in religion, being loved, friendship, sex, with some balance.
4. Less healthy, mostly damaging to ourselves and indirectly to others
Blaming. Stuffing and holding it in. Over-eating. Drinking. Over-working. Over-exercising. Compulsively seeing love, acceptance, appreciation. Compulsively taking refuge in status, wealth, material goods.
Anxiety. Depression. Chronic anger.
5. Less healthy, damaging to ourselves and others I
Drug use. Alcoholism. More serious self-harm.
6. Less healthy, damaging to ourselves and others II
Violence. Violent ideologies. Racism. Sexism. Crime. Abuse of others.
In my mind, all of these are coping strategies. Most may not think of addictions, violence and crime as coping strategies, but to me they are. They are ways some of us use to deal with stress, pain, and trauma. When it gets too extreme, and we don’t have access to other strategies (because we don’t know about them, or are not drawn to them), that’s what happens.
Similarly, I see anxiety, depression, and chronic anger as coping strategies. They are what some of us resort to when the pain gets too strong, and we don’t know any other ways to deal with it.
Harmful or violent ideologies are also coping strategies. When life gets too painful, these ideologies are one way to deal with the pain.
I find it helpful to see it this way for a few different reasons:
It’s a reminder that a great deal of the behaviors we see in ourselves and the world are attempts to deal with our own pain and discomfort. Our minds created the pain initially because it didn’t know better, and then reacts to that pain in the ways listed above .
It’s helpful to put it all on a continuum. We are all in the same boat even if we use different coping strategies.
It helps me see that my own coping strategies range from more to less healthy. It brings awareness into it, which may help me change strategies.
It helps me differentiate needs (coping with my own pain) and strategies (to cope with that pain). I get to see that there are many ways I can use to relate to my pain, and over time there may be a change.
Note: This post is just a rough draft as so many other posts here.