Coping with Crises
Your future is bound to contain difficult and stressful events, and there is nothing you can do to protect yourself from the suffering caused by events that happen. You can, however, make things worse by seeking relief through the use of an addictive substance [alcohol, drugs, food] or activity [sex/porn, gambling, shopping]. Paradoxically, attempts to escape unavoidable suffering are the primary causes of avoidable suffering.
You are not the first human to experience extremes of pleasure and pain. Some of your predecessors were remarkably insightful and have developed disciplines and perspectives that can help adults escape the mentality of childhood. This section of our web site describes four approaches to coping with crises and strong emotional states — approaches that do not depend upon using an incentive to manage experience.
If you are not currently in the midst of a crisis, take advantage of the cognitive resources available to you and work with the exercises to enhance your emotion-focused coping skills. The goal is for you to train the creature you inhabit so that it can cope with exposure to great stress or temptation and still be able to perform in accord with your interests and principles. As you develop your skills and faculties you will be progressively less vulnerable to self-sabotaging emotional reactions. Sadly, the luxury of the surplus time and cognitive resources to invest in developing emotion-focused coping skills is not available to most users
It is more likely that you will have to acquire a new set of skills during a stressful time, when your cognitive resources are depleted or otherwise occupied. This is truly a heroic task! Compared with professional athletes who receive considerable training and glory for their achievements, the demands on you are great and you will receive little recognition for accepting the challenge. Following the paths described below may be the only training you get to cope with and influence your emotional states
- The first path involves the distinction between process and outcome. Ironically, attachment to outcomes makes a good outcome less likely, because it distracts attention from good performance and increases emotionality. People who fall into this trap are vulnerable to negative emotional states and the addictive behavior patterns that they use to cope with their misery.
- The Serenity Prayer offers this guidance: Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Here is the wisdom: You control your behaviors and attitudes [you will need the courage and know how to change them]; you do not control most everything else so you will need the serenity to accept the things that happen. For more on this topic please visit: Attachment.
- A second approach involves awareness of the distinction between your subjective experience and objectively reality. Your subjective reality is not a perfect reflection of objective reality. It is composed of temporary mental events that are influenced by your emotional state at the moment: The same event is interpreted differently when you are angry than when you are glowing with love. The name of this realization is: Meta-Cognitive Awareness. For more on this topic please visit: Awareness.
- A third path involves the distinction between Doing Mode and Being Mode. When in Doing Mode you are trying to accomplish something, so you have to continually evaluate how things are going so you can make adjustments when necessary. When in Being Mode you are not trying to accomplish anything, so there is no need to evaluate anything or make any adjustments; instead, you can simply notice your experience and accept it dispassionately. There is a time for Doing and a time for Being. However, for most of us Doing Mode it has become autonomous and requires a discipline to awaken us from it. For more on this topic please visit Awakening.
- The final path to emotion-focused coping described here involves hypnosis. Intentional Trance Formation is a direct method to influence your psychological state in real time and a separate section of this web site is dedicated to it. Please visit: Intentional Trance Formation.
Each of these paths offers a way out of the vicious cycle in which events that happen provoke a self-sabotaging emotional reaction, which maintains or magnifies the suffering. Those who are stuck in this mentality of childhood tend to develop symptoms of Depression, Anxiety, or Anger. Many will seek external salvation from their suffering and develop an Incentive Use Disorder – e.g., problem drinking, overeating, gambling, sex/pornography addiction, etc.
The traps that promote mood and addictive disorders are all around. If you depend upon an external agent to cope with events that happen, the relief is temporary. You will become dependent upon that agent whether it is alcohol, a treatment program, or medication. Good long-term outcome requires that the effective source of control is always available when you need it, and the best way to assure that is for you to develop effective emotion-focused coping skills.
The objective of these paths is to enhance your ability to cope with and manage the strong emotional states you are likely to experience. Naturally, this self-directed approach is not for everyone and is not a substitute for medication for those who need it. However, if you have the cognitive ability to make sense of this abstract material and have a practical, problem solving attitude, the tools and experiential invitations in this section are likely to worth a serious exploration.
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