Coping is what people do to alleviate the hurt, stress, or suffering caused by a negative event or situation. Psychologists call this managing stressful demands, and everyone has done it. When faced with a difficult or painful circumstance, how do you generally contend with it or sort it out?
A long-standing convention in psychology has been to divide coping into two types: problem focused and emotion focused.
As it name implies, problem focused coping basically involves solving problems. People who use problem-focused coping experience less depression during and after stressful situations.
Below are some examples of how people describe themselves when using problem-focused coping strategies.
There are many emotion-focused strategies, some behavioral and others cognitive (or involve different ways of thinking). Here are some behavioral strategies to give themselves a breather from sadness, anxiety, or distress.
Cognitive strategies may include:
· Positively reinterpreting the situation (trying to learn from the experience)
· Acceptance (learning to live with it)
· Turning to religion (find solace in the beliefs of the afterlife)
Construing benefit in trauma involves seeing some value or gain (a silver lining, if you must) in your loss or negative event-for example, a change in life perspective. Although a first glance it would seem extremely difficult, if not impossible, to come to believe that your life has improved in many positive ways after a major trauma, psychologists have observed such benefit finding in numerous studies and populations-cancer patients, HIV-positive men, among others. Indeed, 70 to 80 percent of people who’ve lost loved one report finding some benefit in their experience.
The experience of pain, loss, and trauma can indeed make us stronger, or, at least, lead us to perceive that we are stronger and more resourceful than we had thought. Some psychologists believe that finding benefit in a trauma represents a true personal transformation. Some of the common Transformative experiences reported by such trauma survivors are as follows:
· Renewed belief in their ability to endure and prevail
· Improved relationships-in particular, discovering who one’s true friends are and whom one can really count on
· Feeling more comfortable with intimacy and a greater sense of compassion for others who suffer
· Developing a deeper, more sophisticated, and more satisfied philosophy of life
Turning to social support-the comfort and contact offered by other people in times of strain, distress, and trauma-is one of the most effective coping strategies that exist. Social support not only makes us happier and less anxious and depressed but even affects our bodies. Talking to others about a traumatic experience not only helps you cope and see the event with a new perspective but ultimately reinforces and strengthens your relationship.
Coping with a terrible event may require you to rethink your assumptions and beliefs, to find some meaning in the loss or trauma. This can be a difficult and painful process. How does one make sense of an event that can seem senseless?
The growing body of results reveals that expressive writing about past traumatic events has many beneficial consequences. The critical mechanism appears to be the nature of the writing process itself, which helps us understand, come to terms with, and make sense of our trauma. Finding meaning in the trauma through writing also seems to reduce how often and how intensely we experience intrusive thoughts about it. Writing about the experience in a journal forces you to organize and integrate those thoughts and images into a coherent narrative.
A sequence of three general steps is taken, with the ultimate goal of finding benefit of pain. First, whether through writing or talking, acknowledge that your loss or trauma has caused you a great deal of pain and suffering. Then consider what you have done during your loss or in response to it that you are proud of. Next, consider how much you have grown as a result of your loss. Finally, think about how the trauma has positively affected your relationships.