Hanging out with smart women is one of the most enjoyable things for me, and as usual, I had one of the most insightful conversations on trauma when I had breakfast with one of my favorite women over the weekend.
I learned pretty early to ‘suck it up and move on’ and so sometimes I function like an enraged bull, LOL. I literally pick a target and I don’t focus on much else till that is done, and then there’s another target. Is this yet another coping mechanism? I would find out over breakfast.
To resolve any problem in life, it has to be identified first.
Some people are in denial about even having problems (“No, everything’s fine! My life is great!”) but most people know that they have problems.
When I first identified that I struggled with social anxiety, I didn’t actually understand how much of a problem it was and how deep it had eaten. I have every type of “reason” under my belt to avoid as many social activities as I can, either my nose doesn’t look right or my left eye needs a tan. I can handle working with people but I’d much rather do it alone.
Problem identified right? and so the typical solution would be to not worry so much about my wonky nose or untanned eye and the easiest way would be to take two tequila shots. It worked, and I got by going to events but it wears off eventually, and I wouldn’t remember how to have a conversation with a stranger.
Coping not healing.
I’d read tons of articles on medium, tracked my progress religiously until I had to be totally alone one day. My phone was dead and I had hours, no music to drown out my thoughts either. Finally confronted by all the trauma I’d swept under the rug, it felt like drowning, and every attempt to come up for air had me clutching at the wrong straws. I want so desperately to live, but the feeling of wholeness I would get after self-care Saturday usually wouldn’t carry into mellow Sunday. That’s why talking so much about various problems is useful because it forces you to process the problem, understand it and decide how much of it to share.
Fix, fix—and quickly! But there’s never an effective quick fix for problems that didn’t grow overnight.
I’ve learned to process on two planes, intellectual and emotional. While a person may somewhat understand the problem on an intellectual level, i.e what does my head make of this? it is also equally important to check how it makes me feel.
Really understanding the complexity of your problem, both on an intellectual and emotional (and sometimes even physiological) level can take weeks, even years or decades. That’s why people would often consult professionals.
Coping is more about managing your symptoms, and healing is actually dealing with the issue. Coping is a painkiller (sometimes literally), while healing and growing can be incredibly slow, difficult, more painful, often quite lonely, uncertain, and very individual.
Generally, coping is much more socially acceptable, even encouraged. People cope in various ways, some healthier than others. The most common coping techniques are drinking, smoking, doing drugs, watching TV, the Internet, food, sex, shopping, sports, work, etc. Anything can become a coping mechanism. I’ve had all sorts, from picking up boxing to sleeping and eating junk. Eventually gained over 20kg I’m still struggling to lose.
Coping makes it easier for others in your life, too, because the relationship dynamic doesn’t change much and they don’t have to see how much pain you’re in. Some of which they could be responsible for.
This is what most of us are doing anyway, filling up our calendars with different self-care tips for each day so we have no empty moments. Why are we still running if it’s working?
Healing, on the other hand, involves a lot of introspection and can create some social friction. It requires resilience, emotional strength, patience, empathy, courage, curiosity, and persistence.
Not many people actually want, have the resources for, or are capable of delving deeper, examining their upbringing, feeling the pain and hurt and other buried emotions, questioning their relationships and doing what’s essential to truly get better.
But that’s also why so many people are not doing so well. Yes, most do get by and are functional, but there is no real progress, and they may regress and face other complications later.
On another hand, I wonder if there’s any complete healing at the end. Maybe one adapts to the emotions in the process of dealing with it.