When you have Feel Right Emotional Empowerment™ you are the one choosing what feels right for you rather than letting your emotions and other people’s opinions and feelings ride roughshod over you. When I first start working with a client, I often find that the latter is the norm and because as a rule no-one wants to be in pain, without more useful strategies, I find that my clients are dealing with the Downward Cycle of Despair using one or more coping mechanisms.
My definition of a coping mechanism for this purpose is something that is re-directing you away from painful feelings rather than dealing with them in a useful way. Although before I move on to discuss the three main types of coping mechanism, I come across, please note that many of the things I mention are often used in moderation for fun, rest and relaxation and I am not suggesting that you stop that.
These coping mechanisms only have the potential to cause harm if you are using them to continually ‘try’ and make yourself feel better and distract away from difficult emotions. As I share about these three types of coping mechanism I want you to be curious as to how your situation fits in with what I am sharing and if these descriptions fit with your actions, or what else you may do that I haven’t mentioned?
One coping mechanism I see is when my clients do everything they can to Stay Busy. They choose to distract their mind from painful feelings by filling it with something else using things like mindless binge-watching of their favourite Netflix series, taking on new projects, working long hours, etc.
Some people turn to Self-Sabotage, choosing experiences and things like food and drink (eg caffeine and alcohol) to temporarily diminish their emotional pain, or even self-medication that may go against their beliefs concerning a healthy mind and body. Unfortunately, this kind of approach often then brings with it additional difficult emotions like guilt and shame, which can create yet more pain, and yet more Self-Sabotaging.
The third coping mechanism I have seen clients adopt is what I call Shut Down. This shut down may come through sleep or in the form of apparent exhaustion, barely being able to drag themselves out of bed and take care of themselves on even the most basic level. They most likely would be described as being in a depressed state, although please note I am not talking about clinical depression. For some, this Shut Down can cause them to feel completely numb. They have no real feelings about anything at all, and it’s like their emotions have flatlined. Those people who fall into the Stay Busy category may, in fact, push themselves to the point where they are so tired they can Shut Down and have some blessed relief from the emotional pain, until they wake up and it all starts again. Some may use forms of Self-Sabotage like alcohol to help them Shut Down also.
Avoidance feeds the Downward Cycle of Despair
While these three coping mechanisms may look very different on the outside, they are focused on the same thing, which is to re-direct your attention as a way to avoid feeling the emotional pain. Unfortunately, this leads to a vicious cycle because although you may find temporarily relief from the emotional pain nothing actually changes. Hence, the emotional pain returns, and you need to once again seek ways to avoid it. When we continually do this over a long period of time, we become despondent and eventually we reach a state of despair.
Do you recognise yourself as using one or more of these coping mechanisms or perhaps other types of coping mechanisms? If you do, spend some time writing about this in your FREE Life Quest Journal* focusing in on two things:
- What feelings are you wanting to avoid?
- What feelings are you hoping to generate by using the coping mechanism?
Getting clear on these two sets of feelings will be useful for when we move on to the next piece of work in this Chapter.
*Details of how to access your FREE Life Quest Journal will be shared in the book. (the launch date is nearly here 😊)