Introduction to Coping

The hallmark of intelligence is adaptability. If a species or a being – whatever its status on the phylogenetic·· scale – fails to adapt or change, it cannot survive. The human race has, again and again, revealed a propensity and a readiness to adapt. However, such adaptation is, as history shows, achieved in bite-sized pieces rather than gargantuan chunks. Yet, however small the achievements in the direction of change happens to be, it still represents an onward and upward progression. Moreover, science (which literally means “knowledge”) is like that in its progression. As it happens, the very familiar word “coping”, is strongly associated with a Latin word “resistere”, i.e. “to recover one’s footing…to withstand”, which reminds one of the well known saying; “Every journey begins with a single step” (and to which one might add “…and where completed, may be reduced to so many such related steps”).

You may very recently have watched or read about a BBC Panorama programme concerning the wonderful and trail-blazing efforts of neuroscientists working with patients, the victims of brain damage, so severe that they were considered to be “brain dead”.  Skill and dedication were everywhere in evidence in that programme and were matched (and, for me, surpassed) only by the selfless love, devotion and perseverance of the patients’ families and loved ones. As the programme neared its conclusion, clear evidence of cognitive activity – as shown by a brain scanner in response to certain simple questions put to the patients about their past – rewarded the scientists in their search and so evidently delighted family members/loved ones. It was the small but so significant response the scientists’ were seeking but had barely dared to hope. Who knows where even in the near to intermediate future, it may lead?

Coping – in almost every sense and especially in the need to manage and comfortably control feelings and emotions in the light of such exposure to threat – is not dissimilar. Day-by-day, hour-by-hour then week-by-week and beyond, to a new and who knows what more meaningful and fulfilling reality? It was Emerson who declared “the thought is ancestor to the deed” and in Shakespeare’s Hamlet appears the line: “Things are neither good nor bad but thinking makes them so”.

With the above in mind take a moment to again imagine the disordered room. Close your eyes if it helps. Hold that image for a moment. Now, with eyes still closed, easily return everything back to its accustomed place. In simple terms, just quickly and comfortably tidy up. The bed is now all neatly made up, contents returned to wardrobe and drawers. Imagine, if you like, that the room has just been hoovered and dusted. Notice, will you, what is actually happening as you pursue this process of thought. Nothing has been taken out of the room nor added to its contents. All you have witnessed has been the restoration of the room to a known and familiar order and with it, a more accustomed and welcome familiarity: and even as you imagine such events and happenings taking place, it just seems to leave a rather more relaxed and comfortable feeling.

It might be worth making the point here that the disordered room may also have stirred you to avail yourself of this opportunity to somewhat re-arrange things in reality, if you see what I mean; or changed circumstances may themselves be dictating the need for change. What really matters is that, step by step, (in other words, in coping mode) you retain some semblance of control over what is happening around you. Family dynamics, interactive and unique roles, practices, behavioural and attitudinal patterns and opinions, evident and forthcoming from within every family unit, are the ‘stuff’ of home and family life.

This entry was posted in adaptation, coping, Coping Resources/Strategies, personal illness. Bookmark the permalink.

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