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Showing posts with label coping. Show all posts
Showing posts with label coping. Show all posts

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Demons, Part 5: Ways to deal with hurt and the failure to outrun it.

A while back, I found out a one-time friend of mine had passed away from an overdose shortly after I fell out of touch with her.   At the time our friendship ended, she had basically tossed aside our friendship essentially stating that [our friendship] wasn't (paraphrasing it) "doing it for me".   Not one to be where I'm not wanted and having my self-respect, I honored her wishes.  In fact, I made a point to shut her out and blocking her access to me.  But, before I did this, I let her know that "I had figured that our friendship had an expiration date on it", before quietly fading away.  Even though we were never more than friends, I did like her a little bit and I was left wondering, what did I do to deserve being 'unfriended'?

Long after this estrangement, I looked at a common friend's page and saw her name in the friend's list on Facebook.  Out of curiosity, I decided to see what my estranged friend was up to.  I observed she had a memorial page and after following up on it, I got the rest of the story.   Even though we were estranged and she'd hurt my feelings, I was sad about it her passing.  She had overdosed within a number of months of our friendship ending.  Knowing that she overdosed shortly after our falling out of touch, helped me to understand that our estrangement was never really due to what I was lacking in the friend department to her.  Instead, it turns out she was a hurt person, struggling with demons.  She was seeking whatever she could to outrun or mask her pain and hurt.  A friendship that wasn't 'fun' enough didn't help her to do this.  It's clear now that neither I nor anyone else could be what she needed.   She needed to come to terms with herself and her pain.

I'd venture to guess most of know or are at least familiar with someone like that, if not having experienced it ourselves.  Someone who has or has had a deep soul level hurt that they tried to avoid facing.   From my experience and knowledge, anyone who has been there realizes that when you are in that place, you can either do one of four things--much of which I have done.  Some ways of dealing with hurt are unproductive and some are destructive.
  • Attempt to outlast it
    • Curling up into a ball, trying to sleep away pain, hurt and/or sadness.
    • 'Sleeping it off' can sometimes actually help if not overdone or abused.  Sometimes a new day can bring a fresh start and allow us to heal enough to deal with it.
  • Attempt to avoid it.
    •  Medicating it. This can take many forms, none of which are necessarily healthy and some of which can be downright deadly.
      • Literal 'medicine' such as drugs or alcohol to hope us cope.
      • Distractions to keep us from facing our hurt
        • Gambling, porn, overeating are 'pleasing' distractions.
        • Cutting and inking can be 'blocking' or masking distractions.  Just like a fire strategically set can burn the 'fuel' to a raging forest fire, a different type of pain can help block the 'hurting pain'.
    • Shutting down mourning.  Sometimes it hurts and makes us feel vulnerable to feel and to risk sharing our hurt.  Sometimes we are told to be brave, to keep a stiff upper lip.  While there is a time to be brave, sometimes when we shut down mourning, we are being just the opposite of brave.   We are avoiding.  Essentially, we are Zig Zagging through life: Diverting our energy from where it is really needed
  • Attempt to outrun it
    • Keeping too busy to have time to focus on it.  
    • Keeping busy I believe is a common way to avoid grieving the loss of a love one.
  • Allow ourselves to feel it.
    • Outwardly mourning and/or inwardly focusing on our hurt can be a distraction to what we need to get done, if it is timed wrong.
    • Finding a time and a place where it is safe to feel and mourn the hurt is imperative.  Allowing too much hurt to build up with no outlet is not a healthy place to be.

We all face some disappointment, some hurt--a promise not kept, a friendship lost, but I'm talking about deeper than that.  I'm talking a deep gut punch like a bitter divorce or an unexpected, untimely death, abuse and things of that nature.  This is not to minimize the 'smaller' hurts, but to put things in perspective.   Sometimes too however, enough 'smaller' hurts can build up and be just as debilitating.   But, I digress.  What I'm talking about is a buildup of hurt.  Anyway, as I've gotten deeper into my adulthood, I've come to realize that pain and hurt will not magically disappear and just because you claim you are 'over them' doesn't actually mean you are.   Our soul, and not our hopes, has a way of knowing if we have dealt with hurt.  My estranged friend reminded me.  Anyway, just some thoughts.   Here are a few other posts which I think would go with this one:



Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Cutting Off Escape Routes: Forcing Responsibility

As an outside observer and as a parent myself I noticed a few things about raising kids and frankly 'raising' aka dealing with adults too.  I've spoken before of people having comfort zones.  By this I meant they are comfortable doing thing a certain way regardless if it is necessarily the 'best way'.   For example, for some odd reason, I like eating most leftovers cold.  Not sure if it is not wanting to wait or deal with heating it up or what.  To my wife, it doesn't make sense, but it's what I feel comfortable with.  In any case, escape routes are a comfort zone issue.  Often find ways to avoid doing what we should or need to by locating an escape route.  That is to say a reason, excuse, or delay tactic to take the place of doing what we need to.

Here are a few examples of things we might want to avoid and create an 'escape routes' for.  That is to say, the things we do to try to doing what we don't want to such as:
  • Having to talk to family.
  • Having to go to work. 
  • Having to do homework.  
  • Having to go to sleep/stay awake.
  • Having to go to the store.

Below are a couple examples of an escape route and cutting it off:
  • If my daughter isn't awake already (on a school day), I will wake her up to get ready for the day.  She has said, "If you leave (my room)  I will get up and get ready."   That was her escape route, pressing me to leave at which time she could just plop her head down on the pillow. Anyway, my response to her is this: "If you stand up and get out of bed, I will leave.  After sending my wife in a couple of times to see if she's asleep or changing, and being told she's asleep, I confronted her on it and forced her to get out of bed when I was there.   She didn't like it and growled at first, but it was important for both of us she get up and ready so we both could be on time to where we needed to go.  Anyway, my forcing her to get up and stand up was cutting off her escape route of rolling back over and falling back asleep.  I was forcing on her the responsibility of getting ready for school.
  • A family intervention in which the family refuses to leave until their drug-addicted family member 'surrenders' to rehab.  By that point, they likely would have been pressing him or her to seek help, but being brushed off or promised that they will get it.

Before I finish this post on escape routes I did want to make a few observations:
  • From my observation, people usually don't take to well to having an escape route cut off.   It's not called an escape route because you want to stay in the circumstance or situation you are in or face what you need to.  It's an escape route because you are avoiding something you need to deal with.  Being forced to do so isn't exactly comfortable.  
  • The process of cutting off escape routes can be done so verbally and/or by actions.
    •  If a spouse or sibling is avoiding an uncomfortable conversation, for example, you can redirect the conversation back when they try to change subjects or you can logically cut through the verbal objects they throw in the way.
    • If your child refuses to do her homework and instead goes out with their friends, you can take away their keys and take away their ability to leave without doing their homework.
  • Sometimes it is not our place to cut off someone's escape route.
    • Just because we don't like what choices our adult kids are making doesn't automatically give us a right to interfere and force our will on them, especially if they are not dependent on us.
    • When someone has told us they need space or they don't want to be with us anymore, we can push for a discussion on it or to have them hear us out.   But, keeping them from leaving OR keeping tabs on them while it may be a way from keeping them from 'escaping', it is usually considered harassment or stalking, which is not okay.  It's okay to want to be heard out, but it's not okay to control others.
  • Sometimes we need the escape route, especially if we are in an abusive or toxic relationship.
    • Changing our phone number or address is an escape route from an abusive estranged partner.
    • Get a protection order can be an escape route from an abusive estranged partner.
    • This is especially true, when there are no children involved.  There is absolutely no reason in this case for our estranged partner to try to reach out to us.
  • Sometimes an 'escape route' may be a coping mechanism (or safety valve) that the other party needs until he or she can cope better.  For example, if a child loses a parent, he or she may not be ready to talk about it or openly grieve in front of others.   Sometimes, they just need quiet time to reflect on their loss and do what they need to cope--such as listen to music or just cry in private.  Forcing them to do so too quickly can at the least can breed resentment and at could cause unforeseen problems with the grieving process.

In summary, there are times when it is imperative to cut off 'escape routes' and force responsibility on our loved ones.  However, escape routes are sometimes in place for our benefit and the benefit of others and we should consider the purpose and circumstance of the escape route before mindlessly cutting it off.

Just some thoughts for the day after Christmas (2018).


Sunday, November 19, 2017

Freedom from obstacles can be an obstacle itself

We hear on a regular basis about the privileged class such as Paris Hilton, Justin Bieber, Lindsay Lohan, the Kennedy's and so on.   We hear about the mistakes and struggles they go through such as drug and other addictions, unhealthy relationships and just general misery.  From those not born with a silver spoon in their mouth, there is often a certain contempt with the 'poor' privileged folks and often times a lack of empathy for them.  When that 'poor privileged' people lectures us we are quick to show contempt for them. This is especially true when that class publicly fails or makes mistakes. Disgust/contempt/condemnation can manifest itself as:
  • Irritation and anger that they would 'dare' tell the rest of us who struggle to make it, how to live.  Especially if they've never had to.
  • Resentment/envy at the advantages or opportunities they have (and are in many cases throwing away).  We put ourselves in their shoes and note how if only we had such opportunities how we'd do a millions time better them.
  • Disgust at them when then when they show themselves as ungrateful for the advantages they have or seem to obtusely complain about their struggles.
  • Rage when they seemingly avoid consequences for their mistakes and actions that the 'rest of us' wouldn't dream of being able to escape.
I used to be one of the stone throwers and perhaps to a degree I still am, however, a funny thing happened on the way to heaven: I started to see past the common takes, the contempt, and the like.  I started to see the 'poor' privileged people as not caricatures, but as real people.  That's not to say the privileged class don't earn or should be exempt from scorn heaped on them when they abuse or otherwise take for granted their privilege.  It's just to say that "beyond the headlines" there is more to the story or more than a simple take.  I'm not sure what got me to thinking about this all except that I was thinking recently about some of the obstacles that I have had to overcome in my life and I realize in some ways they made me stronger.  It occurred to me that had I been born into privilege I might have never had the opportunity to grow and develop coping skills.  So, let's consider some differences that some of a privileged and someone of a non-privileged class may have in their lives or development:

Privileged vs. Non-privileged.
  • Necessity of Work
    • Non-privileged: Not an option, if I don't find a way to make money I could be hungry and homeless and may not survive.  Therefore, the need to work has helped me develop certain skills.
      • The need to budget/spend wisely.
      • The need to choose a career wisely.
      • The need to keep/sharpen my skill set.
    • Privileged: Optional possibly.  If money is not an issue, there is less pressure to do the following.
      • Budget/spend wisely.  If hard time comes, a person who has never been forced to do this could struggle to survive.  In other words, the lack of this skill could be an obstacle.
      • Make wise career choices.  If money isn't an issue, there may not be an urgency to making a focused career choice.
      • Keep/sharpen skill set.  If money isn't an issue, the incentive to do the hard work of 'keeping skills up to date' can be greatly diminished.
  • Sense of Purpose
    • Non-privileged: Forced to find a purpose or at least something they are good at.  Pride in earning a living can give a sense of purpose.  Success in earning a living can also give confidence to explore other ways to have purpose.
    • Privileged: When the absolute need to work and find a skill is lessened if not altogether removed, it can rob a person of motivation.  When you know you'll be fine either way, motivation to succeed has to come from somewhere else (besides survival).
  • Friendships/Healthy Relationships
    • Non-privileged: Relationships can tend to be purer or more legitimate
      • When you don't have excess resources or financial value to offer others, you are less likely to be "befriended" or "loved" based on what you can do for others.
      • When you have less to impress others with (including fame or popularity), if you are appreciated, it is likely to be based on impressing others.
    • Privileged: Relationships can be more questionable.
      • To some extent people are attracted to what others can do for them.  If you have means or something that you can effectively trade for money or fame, then you are more likely to attract gold-diggers, hanger's on and/or people who are looking to trade of your fame/privilege.
      • When you have privilege, people can get stuck on your privilege or seeing you for what you have or offer (worship) than a more honest person to person relationship.
  • Expectations
    • Non-privileged: Less likely to have absurdly high expectations.
      • Success is more likely to be treated as a nice accomplishment rather than an expectation.
      • Failures and mistakes, while not good, will not tend to be as high profile (and therefore easier to get past).
    • Privileged: More likely to have absurdly high expectations.
      • People that come from privilege, especially where their family tree is littered with great achievement, are typically expected to live up to or at least continue the success of the family name.
      • Pressure to live up to the family name can be enormously stressful.
      • Failures and mistakes will tend to be more well known or high profile.
  • Relatability/Empathy.
    • Non-privileged: Easier to relate to the "average" person if you are closer to their class.
    • Privileged: If you are not exposed to "average" people, but instead mostly to other "privileged" people, it will be much harder to relate or understand them.

I grew up in a working class family and was the first person in my immediate family and the second person in my extended family (that I knew) to graduate from college with Bachelor's degree.  Given obstacles that either directly addressed (or implied) in other blog posts--see Anxiously awaiting - Not just words for some--success has never not come easy for me.  But, I was blessed with a good mind and an instinct for survival.  I had many opportunities in my early life and early adulthood to hone my survival instincts too.  I didn't see it that way back then, but I see it now.  In any case, it occurred to me that if I had had everything that I could ever want, I may not have developed a strong personality, I may have found less authentic friendships and I may not have honed well my survival instincts (for when bad times hit).   But potentially what bothers me most is that I probably would not have developed a good sense of relatability or empathy.

As any athlete who has ever tasted success knows, you can't develop mental toughness and take your game to the next level without facing and overcoming obstacles--injury, pain, even some agony.  As with athletics, in life the obstacles we face give us an opportunity to grow and better ourselves.  If we are exempted or protected from obstacles or not required to overcome obstacles, our emotional, mental, spiritual and in some cases even physical growth will be limited.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Burying things: people and problems.

As we go through life, it seems like we hit change points from time to time--residences, professions, relationships-family and friends, losses, etc.

I felt a weird disconnect last year (2014) when late one Sunday night my mom passed away with almost no notice.  About a week later I was back at work trying to pretend as if nothing had changed and going about doing my job.  It's like I had to bury the hurt, bury the pain, bury the shock.

I was at a concert last night (August 2015) and Collective Soul was the opening band.  As music often does, it transported me back in time.  I remembered a little bit about the last time I saw them.   It seemed like a long time ago, yet I remember distinctly enjoying my birthday that year seeing them at the Pageant.  Anyway, that memory was buried deep in the past.  It got me to thinking about burying things.

So, exactly what is burying. What are the pros and cons of it and how does it differ from setting aside and denying?  We can't always deal directly in the present with people/relationships and problems.  Sometimes, we have to take another approach to dealing with problems for our mental well-being.

First, I wish to cover burying.

  • It can be a very healthy process.  If we have properly mourned or come to terms with something, it makes no sense to ever let it see the light of day. In other words, laying it to rest.
    • A grudge or hard feelings with a family member or friend, if reasonably resolved can and should be forgotten.  Aka burying the hatchet.
    • If we have truly fully processed a hurt, it sometimes is time to let it drift off into nothingness.  Not to be forgotten, but not to be thought about so much.  Except of course, if it can be used instructionally with others.
  •  It can be a very necessary process.
    • Clearly in the case of a literal physical burial, it is a necessary, but sad process in dealing with the passing of a loved one.
    • Sometimes a relationship is so hopelessly broken that you just have to sweep up its remains and just bury them rather than trying to hold on.
  • It can be an unhealthy way of dealing
    • Sometimes, we haven't dealt with demons, skeletons or hurts and they are just too painful to deal with.  The easy answer is to 'soldier on', 'get over it', and just attempt to bury what hurts. 
      • As we know, if we don't learn from the past, we tend to repeat it.  If we don't learn from our mistakes or misjudgments, we can easily fail to recognize a similar scenario when it arises.
      • Just like in a horror movie with a person who is wrongly killed, our demons or skeletons can come back to haunt us.
        • It can take the literal form of someone or some circumstance coming back into our life which disrupts our current situation.
        • It can take the form of a secondary issue.  If not properly resolved that can metastasize into a larger problem.  We may think we are burying a hurt, but instead we are planting the seed for another larger problem such as drinking.  A problem which can completely absorb us and destroy us.

Next, I will cover setting aside

Setting aside

  • It can be a healthy way to deal with an issue.
    • Sometimes we aren't finished processing issues or problems.  Sometimes we don't have the strength to deal with the heavy lifting involved.  So, we process as much as we can and then set aside the issue to pick up at a later point.
    • When we come back to the issue at a later point, we may be able to come back at it with a calmer mind and a fresher perspective.
  • It can be an unhealthy way of dealing with something that needs to be dealt with now.
    • For example, if we are having relationship issues that are getting worse or leading to more resentment, delaying dealing with them will only make dealing with them worse later.
    • Another example: if we know someone needs an intervention, putting it off until later may make the intervention more painful for everyone and won't really keep us at ease in the meantime.  We may be able to avoid the problem for a time, but it won't get any better and risks worsening.
  • We don't always have the luxury of setting aside a problem.
    • For example, when a loved one dies & we are the responsible party, we can't just ignore dealing with their passing while we collect our grief.  We have to soldier on through it until we have a chance to exhale.
    • If a problem is severe, we risk it blowing up in our face if we ignore it.
      • For example, if we ignore necessary engine work on our car long enough, we might wake up one day and wonder why our engine has permanently failed.
      • Another example: if we push off cutting expenses too long, we might end up having to declare bankruptcy and ruining our credit in the process.

Finally, I'll considering denying.

  • Denying a problem, at least in the short term, might be the only way we can mentally deal with it.  That is it effectively is a shock based response.
    • If we had someone close to us die, the pain that they we feel might be too intense to deal with at the present time.  We may need to tell ourselves that we are fine to get by in the short term.
    • Denial can buy us time to come to terms with the issue or loss.
  • Longer term, denial is a horrible way of coping or dealing with a problem.
    • It can frustrate those around us.
    • We risk the problem getting out of control if we deny it long enough.
  • It can also be a response based on not wanting to deal with a problem.
    • If we deny a problem exists why then there will be no need to deal with it.
      • For example, if we have a family history of heart problems and we show symptoms of heart problems, we can fool ourselves into believing we definitely don't have a problem, especially if we don't get it looked at.
      • If we don't have a doctor diagnose a health issue, then we can blissfully pretend that it doesn't exist as it hasn't been 'officially' diagnosed.
    • That is at least until the problem becomes so huge or so in our face we can't avoid it anymore.
      • A family members who has given indications of suicidal thinking may one day force us to pull away the denial after they make an attempt on their own life.
      • Kind of hard to avoid facing a problem when it has just blown up in our face.

I guess the takeaway from this blog for me is this.  There is a time to deal with problems, but there is also a time bury a problem: when it is necessary and/or after it has been dealt with effectively.  However, there is a time to set aside problems or even to deny them.  It's important not to set aside or deny a problem for too long, but it is just as important not to keep on 'dealing' with a problem indefinitely.  That is long after it has come time to bury that problem.  Part of maturing is knowing when to deal, not to deal and when it is finally time to bury a problem.  Getting the timing down of how and when to effectively deal with problems is a key to living in the moment and living in serenity.

I think the bible effectively talks about this in Ecclesiastics.

A Time for Everything
1There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Demons Part 3: 'Bloodletting' pain as a way of mourning

According to Wikipedia (for what it's worth), bloodletting is:

The withdrawal of blood from a patient to cure or prevent illness and disease. Bloodletting was based on an ancient system of medicine in which blood and other bodily fluids were regarded as "humors" that had to remain in proper balance to maintain health.

This practice was done from ancient times until near the end of the 19th century, but has all been abandoned.  Medically, it has been pretty well discredited.  However, I found the concept a useful way to describe a healthy way of mourning.

I don't always tell what inspires my blog posts.  But, this one I will share.  Anyone who knows me knows that my daughter, Olivia, is being raised in a broken home.  That is to say, her mom and I got split up when she was 4.  Obviously, this impacts Olivia and has hurt her.  But, as the parent who doesn't have primary custody of her, I see much less often.  I calculate about 30% of the time*.  Sometimes, I don't see her for about a week at a time, occasionally it is longer.  I always feel a sense of loss during these stretches.  While I am grateful that she has good health and I do get to see her--there are some who aren't that lucky, it still hurts.  The pain of the long stretches will always be there as I feel myself missing large blocks of her childhood, but I am better able to deal with the technique(s) I describe below:


In the Bible, God tells us:
1There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens  (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
Furthermore, He lets us know there is a:
4a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance  (Ecclesiastes 3:4)

However, we don't always take that advice to heart. I used to be guilty of letting the hurt build up.  Sometimes I found constructive way to divert the energy: running, listening to music, etc.  Other times, I  utilized unproductive or destructive ways to divert the energy: impulsive spending, wasting all day watching TV or playing video games, moments of promiscuity, etc.  See:  Zig Zagging through life: Diverting our energy from where it is really needed.

Anyway, it wasn't until I got older that I really realized these: two things about dealing with hurt:
  • The power of prayer and faith. 
  • What I call bloodletting: Focusing into the hurt rather than avoiding it.  
God helps those who help themselves.  Our faith can help us through the toughest times and God can literally move mountains if we ask him to, I believe that God helps those who help themselves.  That is to say, He rarely removes all our pain,but instead gives us the tools and wisdom to deal with it effectively, thereby lessening it.


Back to my story.  In 2011 when I literally lost almost everything, including my brother to suicide and my daughter for a while to a contentious divorce, I had to find a healthy way to cope.   After trying to avoid it or coping in unproductive or destructive ways, I came to realize that I'd been dealing with hurt the wrong way for most of my life.   When I started seeing my daughter again and had to give her up to her mom--dropping her at daycare or school or directly to her mom--it really totally hit home.  The times I had to give her up for literally almost a week, it hit me like a ton of bricks.  I would smile, hug her, kiss her, love her and put on the happy face, but as soon as I rushed back to my car, I would be devastated.  I came to understand the power of going into the pain or hurt, rather than trying to avoid it.  As I was driving off, I would literally flip my CD player or electronic device to sad music.  Sometimes, the more sad it was, the better.  In the privacy of my car on the way home or to work or wherever, I would literally find my inner pain, and like poison let it drain out--hence bloodletting.   I found writing to be a good tool in that regard too.  I had really started to find my inner voice after all those years.   While I know I am not a genius, I believe God blessed me with the gift of perception.  Once again, just like when I turned up the car stereo or ipod or whatever and forced myself to face the pain through sad music, I would write on what was bothering me, even to the point of having it hurt more.   Once again, I was 'bloodletting' or giving the poison of increasing hurt an outlet to flow out.

As an aside, as a child, I faced some real adversity.  Much of it I am not going to catalog here as I am sure I've cataloged it elsewhere and the adversity itself is not the main focus.  Anyway, I used to think of the adversity and the pain it caused as a curse, but now I see it as lemonade from a lemon.  Having faced certain things (and later in the 2010s even more adversity), I realized that had I had an easy carefree childhood and life, I would NEVER have been able to understand, relate or offer sincere encouragement to others who faced similar adversity.

I guess my takeaway from this is twofold:
  • Remember to lean on God when facing adversity rather than pushing Him away.
  • Looking into, stepping into, walking through the pain of adversity, while not very enjoyable, can be one of the best ways to release the hurt it is causing.

I labeled this one Demons, part 3 as I think it fits in with my other posts on "Demons".

Anyway, just my thoughts.  Thanks for reading and I hope my words, will impact at least one person.

-- Rich

* It's closer to 50% these days (2020)

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The laughter that masks the tears and general coping mechanisms.

I've observed over the year that people have different ways of coping with pain that comes from the loss--whether it be a person, pet, life they used to have, etc.

Lately, I've become more acutely aware of the role of laughter as a coping mechanism and will address it more fully.  However, I will address the coping mechanisms I see.

Sometimes it is a fine line, between healthy and unhealthy.  For example, anger can be a necessary component of processing, but too much can be poisonous or destructive.  Similarly, relationships can give us comfort from pain, but shouldn't be a mechanism to completely avoid it.

  • Negative Emotional coping
    • Sarcasm 
      • Sometimes it can be funny, but sometimes it can be very hostile.
      • Very often a detached way of expressing true feelings.  
      • Can be anger masked by a veneer of 'witty'
    • Anger    
      • Can be healthy, a stage, a part of the process.  e.g., Anger at a loved one for not taking care of his/herself and/or leaving behind a mess when they pass away.  
      • Too large of a dose of it at once and/or too extended of a dose can move from simple venting to self-poisoning.
    • Bitterness
      • Often reflected in sarcastic tones.
      • Can be anger that has hardened.
  • Cathartic/Comforting
    • Sadness
      • A general feeling of blue.  
      • Often characterized by the inability to 'move'.  Emotional molasses.
    • Depression
      • Sadness that has hardened to the point of almost a numbness. 
      • Deep emotional molasses.
    • Crying
      • The pain becomes so acute, that it literally hurts to keep it in.
      • Releases the toxins or poisons from our body
      • Release endorphins.
    • Laughter
      • Can be finding joy where little exists.
      • Can be making the best out of a rough circumstance
      • Can provide a faux happy appearance where there is real pain waiting to be released.
  • Faith/Spiritual/Relational
    • Prayer
      • Reaching out to our Higher Power/God.  Asking Him to take away or give us the tools to better manage our burdens.
    • Meditation
      • Pushing out the negative energy.
      • Focusing on the positive.
    • Counseling/Writing/Sharing
      • Working through to the cause/root of the pain.
      • Determining what is real/valid and what isn't.
      • Discussing/hashing through the steps of healing.
    • Friendships/Relationships
      • Can be like our own personal counseling.
      • Can give us a reprieve from the pain.
      • Can let us know that we have support.
      • If we rely solely on them to cope, we may be excluding effectively taking other steps to work though/deal with our pain.
  • Destructive/Addictive coping
    • Drugs/Alcohol
      • Relying on a chemical to deal with what we should be processing.
      • Destructive to progress, physically unhealthy and can be deadly.
    • Relational
      • Relying on addiction to other people--real or 'imaginary'-- affairs/porn.
      • Reaching so heavily and often for it can suck the productive life out of us.
    • Circumstances/Things
      • Compulsive gambling, compulsive shopping, hoarding are examples.
      • Expensive and drain us of emotional/necessary physical resources
    • OCD behaviors
      • Eating disorders, excessive cleaning are some examples.
      • Time consuming and can in some cases be physically damaging.

I am sure there are many more ways of coping.  But those are the ones I readily see.  As I indicated I've become more acutely aware over time of the role of laughter in coping.  A sarcastic, condescending laughter is the way a narcissist might deal with pain/loss.  A nervous or excessive laughter is often a way of 'laughing vs. crying'.   In each case, there is a feeling of acute or intense pain.  In the one case, you may be avoiding displaying pain by pushing it out into laughter.   It can appear as being cheerful or happy--sometimes wittingly and sometimes unwittingly--but often is really a way of avoiding the vulnerable appearance of crying.

I well known saying is that "Laughter is good for the soul."   But, if it is a way of avoiding the other necessary coping mechanisms, it can be a nice storefront to a rotting soul. 

That being said, by all means I encourage people to laugh until their heart is content, but make sure it isn't completely at the expense of crying, praying, writing, meditating, etc.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Denial: The lies we tell ourselves to cope.

A friend of mine inspired this one.  Not by her actions, but rather by her suggestion.

Denial, is the cliche goes, it isn't just a river in Egypt.  Denial can be seen as the following:
  1. A form of self-defense.  We are protecting ourselves from the torment of 'facing reality'.
  2. A necessary evil.  Sometimes, facing all things at once is too much.  If  we make a point to deal with a limited amount now and 'pretend' that that we don't need to deal with the other stuff, it can give us the space to deal with what we need to over time.  Such as unwinding an estate.
  3. A way of avoiding dealing with a problem we have.  Our car makes an odd noise, it just doesn't sound right.  Well, if we avoid it, then we don't have to deal with it, so the thought goes.  Likewise, if we have an addiction of some sort or an illness, by denying it we are fooling ourselves into believing it isn't there and/or doesn't have to be dealt with.
  4. An obstacle to tackling problems BEFORE they get too unmanageable.  Again, health, auto or addiction example.
  5. Lying to ourselves and/or keeping secrets from ourselves.  Denial obviously is a mechanism by which we can be untruthful with others, but ultimately, the one(s) we are untruthful with us more than anyone is ourselves and God.
  6. Relying on our own tools rather than on God.
I don't say denial is all bad.  Sometimes, we just can't cope with everything life throws us at once.  For example, I was grieving over the loss of my mom and to a degree of my brother still.  Also, I was dealing with my own surgery as well as other family issues.  In a way, I didn't have the luxury of totally indulging the extent of my dad's failing health.  So, I would do what I would need to on that score with what I had of emotional/spiritual energy.  I let his caregivers step in an do there jobs and one of us would step in from time to time and make sure they were doing there job.   They have seen it often enough to know the process of failing health/dying.  So, they were better equipped to deal.  Denial saved my energy for a time.   However, the time to stop denying crept up on me and with the help of friends, I faced the inevitability of my dad's passing.

The 'lie' that he was going to live indefinitely was useful as a coping mechanism.  But, eventually, it had to give way.   What I found is that surrounded by Godly friends who reminded me of God's role, I didn't have to live in the denial about it.

I guess one take away I have from this all, a little bit of 'denial' for a time can be a coping mechanism, but if we let it out of control and live in it indefinitely, we are avoiding the healing and adjusting.  In terms of spiritual warfare, to let the enemy win all we have to do is do nothing.  To triumph, we face our pains/hurts/demons/secrets with God's help.

In the 12 step programs, it is often said, we are only as sick as our secrets.  It may be cliche, but it is true.  I don't think that that means we have to answer 'do I look big in this dress', but it does mean being true to God, ourselves and others.