Coping strategies are designed to keep the person alive and functioning. Some people call these strategies defense mechanisms or avoidance - some might even go as far as talking about denial. That's all very judgmental and I personally prefer coping strategies. Why you may ask? Because these strategies came about and were adopted to cope with situations that are very very hard to cope with.

Last night I had dinner with a friend and she talked about the metaphor of THE COAT she uses for coping strategies. I would like to share that with you, because it mad really good sense to me. Let me know how you think about it.

When bad things happen, a child gets abused, gets hurt, gets frightened, or is in some for of physical and emotional pain, it looks (unconsciously) for ways of getting through that experience and protecting itself against the pain. This protective mechanism can be seen like a coat that is put on to protect against harsh weather. The quality of the coat is directly related to the child's capabilities. It fits the thinking and resources of the child.

However, when the child grows up, the coat remains the same size. Can you imagine how it will be living with a coat around you that, as time goes on, becomes smaller and smaller. It will be tight around the body until - at a certain moment - is so tight that you can't move anymore. Coping skills learned in childhood are like that. They don't grow and often are not adequate in the life of an adult. Rather than being protective, they become a restraint.

Therapy then is all about undoing the seams of the coat ever so carefully so that the material doesn't tear or get ripped apart. Why? Because everyone needs a coat! It just has to be resized. Once the seams are undone we'll have to look for material to add so that the coat becomes flexible and useful for the larger, more mature person.

So when you find yourself angry with a coping strategy that is not useful anymore: Be gentle. A little bit of love goes a long way. Look for the seams and see whether you can add some stretchy material. Having a part that finds it impossible to accept that you have been abuse or that s/he is not the only one in the body, is such a coping strategy. It's there for a very good reason. Honour that reason!

Author's Bio: 

Gudrun Frerichs, PhD is the director and founder of Psychological Resolutions Ltd. Visit her website for information about counselling, coaching, psychotherapy, and training courses for professional and personal development. You will find relationship solutions through advanced communication skills. Instead of learning "communication by numbers" you will be taken on a step by step journey to emotional intelligence (self-awreness, self-management, understanding others, and managing others).

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