Thursday, April 25, 2002

The Evolution of Coping

Last week, two people told me they are “coping.” That concerns me. The first time I heard this, I grab the dictionary and I learned that to “cope” is “to struggle or deal, esp. on fairly even terms or with some degree of success.” Even though I read the words “even terms” and “degree of success,” coping is just about the last thing I want for anyone. It's the “struggle” part I hate.

The second time I heard it, I looked in Thomas Leonard's book, The Portable Coach, to see what he might have to say about coping. This from his book:
“Toleration vs. Cope—When you tolerate, you view the thing you are tolerating as solvable. When you cope, you've basically resigned yourself to the problem's long-term presence.” Ouch!
From this I began to think about the evolution of coping; evolution being “a process of gradual, peaceful, progressive change or development,”—yup, the dictionary again. It's the “peaceful” part I like. Now we're getting somewhere. Coping, while it can be managed with a degree of success often is less than peaceful. 

How can someone move from coping to peace? Here's what I came up with:
1. Cope
2. Tolerate
3. Engage
4. Experiment
5. Create
Most often, coping and tolerating are ways you choose to think about something. If you take the toleration you view as solvable and start to do something about it, you've engaged. Engaging implies both some action and a change in attitude. You're becoming involved in a way that may just start to give you energy.
When I engage with an experimental attitude, I look at what something is and also what it is not. There's a bit of discovery and unknown in the experimental approach and that makes it much more fun.
Now, creating is my favorite. It's an approach that causes something unique to come forward. Creating generally ignores the ordinary processes and uses an inventive mind. Creating moves way past “dealing with,” past “doing something about, and even past “doing something to” a situation. Creating is taking a situation and making something new “with” it. Creating is a way of strengthening your coping immune system.
Can you move from Coping right to Creating? You bet! But if you find yourself emotionally or physically struggling because you're coping, just take the steps. How can you merely cope if you are climbing?

“However, never daunted, I will cope with adversity in my traditional manner ... sulking and nausea. “ ~Tom K. Ryan
“Whoever says LIFE IS A BITCH AND THEN YOU DIE, hasn't decided to be happy yet.” ~unknown
“A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds.” ~Francois Bacon
“Life loves to be taken by the lapel and told, "I am with you kid. Let's go." ~Maya Angelou