We tend to go through “coping cycles” in times of adversity. There’s a time for holding things together. And a time for falling apart.
Holding it Together
Fostering all the courage and strength we have in order to survive times of unbearable pain, loss and unending challenges, we hold on for dear life. To get by, we may chose to hide from, deny, avoid, outrun, out numb or dumb down the pain and discomfort we’re feeling. “Perish the thought!” my aunt used to say to avoid dealing with what she was feeling. Going into survival mode has its short term benefits. But, as with all short-term coping strategies, there’s a point of diminishing returns and the debt eventually comes due. And then it’s time to deal with whatever is causing our pain.
Then there’s a time when we elect to face into these kinds of emotions directly, allowing ourselves to unravel and fall apart. Facing into the stark realities of our situation, we may permit ourselves to breakdown into tears, fits of rage or painful realizations about our situation. In surrender mode, we allow ourselves to bear/stare down and express/release/process the pain that has been building in us. Perhaps we do so as a natural means of unburdening ourselves, clearing the air (psychologically), deepening our understanding and summoning the courage/clarity we need to go on.
Whether you’re just trying to survive, surrendering to or battling your way through the pain, discomfort and unsettling realities to get to the “other side,” you’re probably making the best choices you can at that moment. “But is it the best choice?” we must ask ourselves. Making better choices/sound decisions, building our strength, summoning greater courage and developing clearer insight about whatever challenges life is throwing at us is not only possible, it is a noble and worthy aspiration.
To learn more about your coping style, explore how you might upgrade your “processing” software and select the best option for going forward, ask yourself:
“Am I the kind of person who tries to hold it together (even when it would be better to let it go)?”
“Am I the kind of person who knows how and when to let go (and has permission to do so)?”
“What would have to happen for me take to give myself greater permission/allow myself to face into and “process” things emotionally when it’s probably in my best interests to stop trying to avoid them or hold things together?”
“What baby steps and guiding ‘messages to myself’ could I take to upgrade my coping style?”
We’re all works in progress. Our capacity to avoid uncomfortable feelings and situations is enormous. But so is our ability to learn healthy coping cycles and adapt continuously smarter, better and healthier, more resilient ways of coming to terms with life’s adversity. In my book, The Real Rules of Life: Balancing Life’s Terms with Your Own, I offer 23 powerful rules and strategies for turning adversity into opportunity, such as “Closure is a Myth: Healing is a Lifelong Process,” “There Are No Deals: Understanding Life’s Real Terms” and “Home Free is a Bill of Goods: Stop Waiting for Perfect and Live!” Self-compassion, patience, kindness, emotional honesty and courage, it turns out, pay the greatest dividends when it comes to strengthening our hearts and growing our souls.
Please do share. How have you turned the adversity, setbacks, losses, unexpected changes and curve balls in your life into opportunities to become the better, smarter, stronger version of yourself?
Ken Druck, Ph.D., founder of The Jenna Druck Center in San Diego, is a grief and resilience expert, speaker, organizational and family consultant, and award-winning author of several books including, The Real Rules of Life (Hay House). Follow Ken’s blog or find him on Facebook.
Images by Lisette.
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