We can use either positive or negative coping mechanisms to help us deal with issues, stresses or challenges we face daily and throughout our lives. These coping mechanisms can either help us get through those challenges (positive ways of coping) or they can leave us with the challenges left unresolved and us feeling worse (negative ways of coping).
Self-Destruction and negative coping mechanisms are very similar however, when we are self-destructive we have usually lost control and we are knowingly fucking up our lives. When we use negative coping mechanisms, we still have some control of our lives but we use these negative habits as a way of helping us get by, the ‘easy’ way. For example, avoidance is a negative coping mechanism, so say there is a social situation that you don’t want to be involved in, instead of informing the people that you don’t and won’t attend, you just avoid all contact with them till the day after or several days after. When they ask you beforehand whether you want to go or not, you might answer with “Yeah…I’ll see and I’ll let you know” (I do sometimes say this if I don’t want to point blank turn down an invitation) when in reality, you know and they probably also know that you will not be attending, but it’s easier to avoid being direct as sometimes being direct with someone can put you in awkward, pressured, uncomfortable or anxious situations, so you use avoidance as a way of coping with that challenge.
Life can put us through all kinds of stresses and they can be both positive, such as a new job or a new home and they can be negative, such as experiencing a trauma or losing a loved on. Life threw a few negative stresses at me, especially during my teenage years and I created many different negative coping mechanisms to help me try and deal with the stresses and continue to get on with my life as best as I could.
When you’re dealing with a mental illness such as depression, you don’t really see any hope for yourself or your future and some days you don’t want to live but then you also don’t want to die. You create low expectations for yourself because what is the point in creating any false sense of happiness or achievement? What is the point in believing something positive about yourself and your abilities when you feel as though it is not true and that you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment. I found it a lot easier to have low expectations for myself because:
– I failed to see myself succeed in anything
– To help me deal with my depression
– I saw no future for myself
– To protect myself from getting hurt
– To prevent getting disappointed or disappointing friends/family (I would excessively warn or try to convince them that I was going to fail something or that I couldn’t do something, that way if I did fail, I didn’t feel as much of a disappointment to them and that way, they knew that I knew I was going to fail, which would reduce the amount of sympathy I received).
I had many personas growing up. I would change my behaviour, personality and my beliefs depending on who I was around. Growing up I never really had a true friendship group that I felt as though I was a part of, I preferred having individual friends but due to the social pressures I felt, I did hang around in large groups of friends which I did fit in with, but I always felt as though I didn’t really belong with them. I would alter how I behaved, acted, spoke and what not mostly to try and help myself feel more part of the group but even then, I was usually that person in the group that spoke to people individually (which I still do now). I created so many different personas of Emma to try and ease my social anxiety whilst socialising but eventually it broke me down because people then began to believe I was this person that I really wasn’t, so when I started to be more like the real Emma, they would make meaningless comments about me (but obviously they meant a lot to me) which only then made my social anxiety worse, which sometimes led to me self-isolating myself.
Driving too fast.
I used to be a reckless driver, my mum can vouch for this because I fucked up my first car so many times. I never hurt myself or others, I just drove my little car as though it was a race car, I wanted some sort of excitement, some sort of thrill, just something to give me an adrenaline rush to help me temporarily feel something other than fucking depression. Driving also helps us focus a bit more on what we are currently doing (which I would be driving) which then places any stressful thoughts or feelings you might have on pause, but of course, that still leaves those stresses unresolved. We can usually feel these stresses the most when you are in our homes attempting to wind down from the days events but obviously this becomes a struggle when the stresses are constantly on repeat in our heads. Going for a drive can help us feel temporary relief from these stresses because we feel as though we are leaving the problem at home but as soon as we pull up outside our houses, we know we are going to feel the exact same feeling as before as soon as we step into our house. Driving recklessly offers a way of way of either getting out the anger we might feel or it can feel as though it provides us with some sort of thrill or pick me up that we can’t seem to get from any other aspect of our lives.
Enabling others to take advantage.
People can be shitty and people can be even more shitty if they don’t get what they want or what they are expecting from others. I dislike how much I used to let other people take advantage of me, it’s kinda sad in a way. I found it so much more easier to let people abuse me then for me to stand my ground and tell them no or fuck off because some people will see that as a confrontation (and this was proven right to me several times) and I hate confrontation, so it was easier for me to just go long with it all, despite it impacting me more than them. I allowed people to take advantage of me emotionally, mentally and physically and it all snowballed together and eventually broke me down to the point where I couldn’t take anymore shit because I had absolutely nothing to offer them. When we allow others to take advantage of us, we are putting their needs ahead of ours so when I started to put myself first, naturally this didn’t sit well with some self-centred, narcissistic c**ts, but it fucking made me feel better.
Carrying on with life.
The major negative coping mechanism in my eyes, carrying on with your life as though everything is fine. I carried on with my life for years and years as though everything was fine and everything I was thinking, feeling and doing was normal for me and it absolutely did me no favours what so ever. It led many mental breakdowns over the years and I caused a lot of destruction to myself, friends and family but if I didn’t carry on as though everything was all good, then that meant I would have to admit defeat. I would have to breakdown in front of someone, I would have to show someone my vulnerability and show them how I had truly been feeling throughout those years and I didn’t want to show anyone that. I had carried on with my life for so long and I had worked so hard on convincing people that I was fine, I didn’t want to prove them right and I definitely didn’t want to prove myself wrong. Convincing people of this was the only aspect of my life that I felt I had succeeded in, I saw admitting defeat as a huge failure for me but eventually it all reached a point where I broke down because I had just lost all control and I couldn’t carry on anymore.
I had a few other negative coping mechanisms such as:
- Excessive drinking (which you can read more about here and here)
- Drug abuse
- Over eating and starving myself
- Running away/avoidance
- Minimising (making it out as though things weren’t as bad as what people thought)
- Disassociation (spacing out, not thinking or feeling)
- Not communicating
- Poor self-care
- Overly self-critical (Self-Criticism)
- Picking the skin off my fingers (I still do this one now when I am socially anxious)
- Repression (trying to forget)
But then of course there are other ways of negatively coping that you might find in other people, such as:
- Becoming a work-a-holic (this keeps them busy and distracts them from their life stresses)
- Overly helpful to others (similar to letting others take advantage of you)
- Lying or blaming others
- Controlling behaviour
- Excessively drinking too much coffee
- Acting out
- Being passive
- Being compulsive
- Smoking too much
For me I think it is normal to have some negative coping mechanisms (but I could just be saying this as I still suffer from my anxiety), I still have a few now but I have reached a point where there are only a few and I don’t overuse them. I’m at a point where I am able to use some of my free time to analyse my behaviours, actions, thoughts and feelings throughout that week/month and see the reason behind them. So for example, I have a history with alcohol, I am careful beforehand when it comes to drinking, but if I went out on the piss for a weekend, it can be seen as unusual behaviour for me, once I have recovered I like to overview the weekend. If it turns out that I was drinking to suppress any stresses, then I know I need to solve that stressor asap. If there weren’t any stressors before I started drinking, then I know that I wanted to drink that weekend and I was doing it to be social, to have fun etc. It wasn’t a negative coping mechanism.
Using some of your free time to take a look at either your own behaviours or the behaviours of someone you care about, could help you or them improve the quality of life.
Coping Mechanisms – Part 2 will be uploaded soon which focuses on positive coping mechanisms.
Thank you for reading!
Sending so much love to you all,