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  • Writer's pictureJulianne Downham

What does coping look like?

We are all using a uniquely encoded computer that has been programmed from the moment we took our first breath (and very likely much before then) to cope with life.

When we hit times of stress or times of uncertainty we respond with a predetermined emotional response. This will be a response that we have used many times, from being a very young child and beyond, during every event where this same emotion is presented.

It’s the way our brain is designed. If we have one objective in life then it is clearly the goal of survival. In order to do this we have the capacity to register all our experiences in a way that we can retrieve them for guidance at any point that they are needed to make more decisions or to enable us to respond.

Unfortunately though this can cause us to reach out and get information from past emotionally charged situations and memories that weren’t positive or helpful. If during our childhood we found that in highly stressful situations our family became overwhelmed and acted in ways that caused more intense emotions then we are likely to have made a belief at that stage around our capacity to cope.

The beliefs we make about ourselves and the world under the age of 7 are the strongest navigation tools we have. These core beliefs will be the basis that we make other beliefs and decisions about ourselves from, these decisions are mostly made unconsciously, they are made by the part of the brain that is programmed to survive. Not the part of the brain that can make rational and logical decisions.

So when we are observing other people cope differently we must remember that each of them are using a slightly different computer database. They have different coding, they might have a much better coding for responses to threats to our free will and choices then yours. You may observe that they are overreacting and are being “ridiculous” in their thinking and behaviour, but remember their coded buttons may be on full alert for danger as their programming happened under stressful and threatening circumstances many years ago.

When we observe others to be displaying behaviours that are different to our own ways of coping we must give a wider perspective and understanding and that ridiculing them or undermining what they are saying or doing isn’t helpful. They are likely to need your understanding and support for them to feel safe. Giving them space to explain or talk about their feelings will help them feel safe and give validation to the understandable fears they may be responding from.

You also must give yourself that understanding if you feel that your coping is different to others, that you see them as cool and confident whilst you may be feeling or looking like a nervous breakdown about to happen. Acknowledging your own needs without comparison is key. Giving yourself the acceptance that it may be harder for you, that you may just be able to cope with something that they may not be able to as well as you. As you will both have that different programming.

Learning what is right for you and what works for you helps to place the understanding of your coping ability into context.

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