Coping mechanisms are not an inherently bad thing. If we can’t avoid or escape something unpleasant or even harmful, figuring out a way to cope with it is a good survival strategy. But sometimes we use coping mechanisms to tolerate things that maybe we shouldn’t be tolerating. In this episode, we explore the difference between helpful and unhelpful coping.
- Using external pleasures to help us feel better (or cope) in particular situations is natural and normal.
- When those behaviors start to impair your happiness or your ability to achieve your greater goals, it becomes a problem worth addressing.
- Sometimes our coping mechanisms allow us to tolerate a situation that we’d be better off changing or avoiding.
- The first step in dismantling a coping mechanism is to identify what situation, emotion, or trigger leads to the unwanted behavior and then decide if we can react to it differently or work to eliminate it altogether.
Lab Experiment (download a copy)
- What problem am I trying to fix with this behavior?
- Does this behavior actually fix the problem? (Sometimes the answer is yes!…at least for a little while)
- Does the behavior cause a new problem?
- How else might I find relief or solve this problem, so that I don’t need this “coping mechanism”?