Coping strategies and ripple effects

The way I cope with my discomfort and suffering has ripple effects for myself and others.

Some may be healing and bring a deeper resolution for me, and makes me less of a nuisance for others. Others may add to my own suffering, and it may even trigger suffering in others.

Here are some of these coping strategies, listed from healing to less healthy.

Potentially healing and leading to resolution

Inquire into how my mind creates its own experience – of a threat, deficient or inflated self, compulsion, or anything else. (Living Inquiries.)

Inquire into stressful beliefs. (The Work.)

Finding genuine love for my experience as it is. (Ho’oponopono, tonglen, metta etc.)

Release tension out of the body. (TRE.) This tension often “fuels” anxiety, depression, reactivity, wounds, trauma, compulsions, addictions and more.

Pray for resolution, healing, guidance etc.

Slightly less satisfying

Overthinking. Analyzing. Intellectualizing. Rationalizing.

Finding comfort in religion, spiritual ideas, ideology.

Daydreaming. Distractions. Entertainment.


Seeking love, acceptance.

Less healthy

Compulsive eating, working, sex, exercise, seeking money and status.

Even less healthy

Strong ideologies. Bigotry. Sexism. Racism. Classism. Anthropocentrism.

Compulsive use of alcohol and drugs.

Violence. Crime.

All of these and more are ways of dealing with stress, discomfort, and suffering. Some may lead to healing and resolution. Some are more neutral. And some adds to the suffering for myself and others.

And really, they are ways to cope with uncomfortable sensations made uncomfortable through the imagination connected with them.

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Coping strategies listed according to how helpful they are

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.

Emergency measures

When something – an emotion, physical or emotional pain, cravings and addictions – feels overwhelming and unbearable, what do we do?

As psychologists (and others) identified a while ago, there is a range of coping strategies. From the more unhealthy ones such as drinking, using drugs, and aggression and violence, to the moderately unhealthy ones such as eating, shopping, and entertainment, to the more helpful ones such as friendships, nature, movement, to the ones that may resolve it all such as inquiry and seeing through the beliefs of overwhelm and unbearable.

Among the latter, some may be helpful short term and some in the longer term. And we each have to find what works for us.

Here are some emergency measures that works for me:

Move. Go for a walk. Do self-Breema. Shake (TRE). Jump up and down in place.

Talk with a friend.

Conscious breathing. Place hands on belly and chest and notice the breath. Make outbreath longer than inbreath. Breathe into the sensation, allow the sensation and breath to merge.

Feel the sensations. Feel them as sensations. (Set the stories aside for a while, if I can.)

Use ho’oponopono. Say to myself (the scared part of me), I am sorry, please forgive me, I love you. Say this also to whatever triggered it. (A person, symptom, situation.)

Alternately amplify and drop the stressful stories. (10 sec. each, described by Joey Lott in some of his books).

Tapping. (EFT type tapping.)

Say to myself: I love you. I love you. I love you. / It’s OK to feel this.

Ask myself: Is it true this is overwhelming? Is it true it’s too much? It’s unbearable, is it true?

And some longer term strategies:

Inquire into how I relate to what’s been triggered.

Can I find the threat? The overwhelm? Intensity? Pain? (Living Inquiries.)

Is it true it’s unbearable? Too much? (The Work.)

Inquire into the triggers. (Perceived threats.)

Inquire into being triggered. (My stories about it, deficient identities, fears.)

I posted a question about this on a Facebook page for inquiry, and here are two answers I found especially helpful:

Venting to a best friend. Talking it out, focusing on how I feel versus the triggering event or person. Giving it that voice helps it wash through through a big honest cry.

Also, lately I’ve been using the words “I am willing to feel this” with whatever arises. Physical or emotional pain, lately it works for me most of the time. Another one: Put my hand on my heart and say “I love you” over and over again. or Put my hand on the area of my body that hurts/triggered and do the same thing. “I love you” “I’m sorry you’re feeling this” “I love you”. caress my face, caress my arms, like a pet… for a few minutes. tapping also. These are mine.

– Marina B.

An interesting question. As time has gone on, I’ve discovered that it’s possible to rest with even the most intense states/feelings. That’s been incredibly valuable, as I spent many years feeling that I couldn’t be with what I was feeling, and so using all the tools that we’ve described above, and more. They certainly have their place, and yet what has helped me the most is being with or resting or inquiring even in the direst of times. There’s something so profound about discovering we do have the capacity to bear it all, even when it feels unbearable

– Fiona R.

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