Inside Out Collaborative
Individual & Family Counseling Services

Blogs from the Inside Out

Sometimes the first step
is being open to thinking about
things differently. 

"bad" coping: something when there was nothing

"I understand that you needed something when there was nothing.

So, your brain got creative. And thank God. Because it may have saved your life."

If you've ever experienced something overwhelming, you've had to cope somehow. Coping is something you do to be able to deal with your internal world (feelings, thoughts, memories) as it reacts to an outside stressor. Simply put, it's a way of comforting yourself.

In reality, you are coping with various stressors every day—a driver cutting you off, a pop quiz in math class, getting stuck in a long grocery line. But sometimes, you have an internal reaction to something that pushes you beyond your normal capacity to cope. When this happens, it's like poking a hole in a small boat. The further you're pushed beyond your capacity for stress, the more holes there are in your boat and (the fear is) the sooner you're going to capsize. Panic sets in and you're grasping for anything that might return you to safety or numbness, whichever is fastest. Maybe it's the nearest bag of chips or cutting yourself. Maybe it's running an extra mile or having sex with a random person. Maybe it's binge-watching Netflix or skipping a meal. Whatever it is, it patches the hole in your boat...for now.

Of course there comes a time when you have to face that you're struggling to function—struggling to go to work, make it to school, eat normal meals, get out of bed in the morning. You've had to intensify the coping to keep up with the imminent threat of capsizing. And at a certain point, it starts to scare you, or a loved one, and you realize you need help.

For some of you, before asking for help and getting therapy, you would not have made it without your "bad" coping tool. For you, it may have literally saved your life. Sometimes the biggest obstacle to moving forward is the shame of admitting you have a "bad" way of coping.

What I ask you to do is to consider your story

as a whole and to understand

that you needed something when there was nothing.

So, your brain got creative. And thank God. Because you've made it to today and today maybe you're ready for help. So be grateful for that "bad" thing you did to make it through to today. And then learn to leave it behind.