Coping is what we have been doing since the beginning of time. We see the problems in front of us, and we “get through.” We find ways to tame the pain and manage the challenges. But what if we could do more than that? What if we could go beyond just coping, and actually find ways to embrace healing?
To me, the definition of healing is doing more than just coping with our pain and problems. Instead, it means using whatever challenges us as fuel to transform our pain into learning and growing—and, ultimately, internal self-love.
This can only happen if we are willing to stop telling ourselves the same story about our problems all the time.
We are creatures of habit; that is why coping with our problems is such an unhelpful strategy. When we constantly find ways to only cope with what hurts us, then coping becomes what we do best.
So, how do we cope? We do it by telling ourselves stories of blame, on either ourselves or others. We have a long litany of reasons for why we have problems, and those reasons are always someone’s fault.
These stories of blame become deep ruts we fall into. Then, when the recurring problem is in our face once again, either in reality or in our imagination, we fall headfirst back into this rut of blame—and, in this way, we cause ourselves increased pain.
Because blame hurts us. It makes us feel helpless and like our problems will be with us forever. Ouch. Believing that our problems will never go away—and that the best we can do is just cope—is one way for us to suffer greatly.
Another way we continue the cycle of simply coping is by finding little ways to bring ourselves pleasure through avoidance. We have another piece of chocolate, or another tasty alcoholic beverage, or watch one more Netflix show—and that little bit of sensory enjoyment pushes the problem deeper into the subconscious, away from where we can actually deal with it.
In this way, we turn away from our problems, and we make ourselves feel tiny bits of joy that are fleeting. And when the problem returns in the form of fear, terror, helplessness, and self-hate, we have no options but to search once again for a small moment of reprieve.
This is how we become addicted to empty pleasures that never bring us the satisfaction we are really looking for.
Problems can be healed, though—if we are willing to go beyond coping. Problems can be totally cleared from our lives. This feels unbelievable, because so many of our problems have been with us for so long that we can’t imagine a life without them …so we don’t.
Wanting to feel good scares us, because we think we will be hurt when we fail at our “goal,” and we also feel scared to drop our problems from our life, because we have identified with them for so long. We think our inadequacies and our struggles are who we are.
But, what if we have more of a choice than that? What if all of our problems are just a chance to choose what thoughts, actions, feelings, and approaches we want to take in our life?
The way we do more than just cope with our problems is through acknowledging that we each have the power of choice. In every moment, we can choose how to respond. And that means even if we respond with habitual patterns of blame, self-hate, and addiction—we can also choose how to respond to these reactions.
One way to conceptualise this approach is to imagine that you are actually nothing. And by nothing, I mean you are a blank slate. Does this thought scare you? What if we are just a blank, empty slate, and we can put whatever information we want onto the nothingness that we are?
Do you really want to keep filling up your own nothingness with the same old problems?
The way we do more than simply cope with our problems is to decide that we aren’t going to let our problems define us—and that we are going to choose how to respond to both the internal and external challenges that are constantly occurring.
When we find ourselves up against our own problems, it is time to wonder: how can I let this go? How can I see that this problem doesn’t define me? How can I compassionately let this problem drop out of my system, versus becoming more rooted in?
This is a very personal process. We are all inclined to search for quick fixes to feel better as fast as possible. (Coping!) However, instead of just looking for a fast way to feel better when our problems are facing us, we can wonder: what choice can I make to actually clear this problem from my life, versus just coping with it?
And an important clue is that the way to do this isn’t in an action. We don’t need to say or do anything differently; instead, we need to take a new approach within ourselves.
We need to ask: why does this hurt so much? In what way, when I’m faced with this problem, do I stop supporting and loving myself? Where in my heart and mind am I not being compassionate, but instead am beating myself up and making things worse for myself?
Coping isn’t going anywhere; we will all use coping some of the time to get through this difficult human journey we are all travelling on.
But, if we only cope with our problems, we will be coping forever. Instead, if we’re willing to see that there’s an option beyond coping—to see that we can actually change the information written on the blank slate that is our personal existence—then we can find increased compassion and warmth toward ourselves, as well as love for the world.
Most importantly, when we decide to do more than just coping with our problems, we’ll find the ability to choose a way to respond to the challenges in our lives that is much more fulfilling than the shallow, temporary pleasure of coping.
This is the ultimate feeling of self-fulfillment—one that only comes to us when we do the substantial healing work that we’re all truly yearning for.