Coping Is Doping

I was recently talking with a friend about a difficult situation in her life, and she said, “I just need to figure out a different way of coping with this.” When I heard those words, it immediately struck me that coping differently is not the answer – in that situation or generally – and I realized that the concept of coping is just another way of dealing with people or situations, but it’s not a solution. It also struck me that coping is a form of doping – avoiding or masking the issue, relationship or situation in order to get by or cover it up.

What I’ve discovered is that coping is an attempt to escape or avoid and that a better strategy is to instead change my perspective on the ways that I participate (or not) in a situation or the ways that I experience a person or circumstance. Instead of doping by coping, I can instead shift myself and my perspectives.

In order to better understand the disempowering nature of the strategy of coping, consider that coping is just another word for all of the following:

  • Tolerating or putting up with
  • Avoiding
  • Suffering with or through
  • Ignoring
  • Waiting and hoping for someone else to change
  • Minimizing the impact of
  • Enduring
  • Telling yourself that you deserve to struggle, suffer, or be treated poorly

With this new perspective, consider that every time you cope with something you are doing some or all of the foregoing, and none of them serve your best interests.

While people, situations and relationships can be complex and have many layers, I offer this simple list of shifts to differently address or navigate them (rather than avoiding and coping).

  • Be Direct– Directly and honestly address the person or the situation. There may be risks, but this creates the best opportunity for a positive change in the outcomes and your experience.
  • Focus on Impact – Rather than telling someone what you think of them, tell them how their behavior or the situation is making you feel and the impact it’s having on you. This is the only way to help someone else understand their impact and hopefully to achieve some shift or change by them.
  • Create Boundaries– You only cope with things, people and situations that you are a part of. By setting healthy boundaries, you can separate yourself from and refuse to participate in the situations you are currently coping with or the people that are consuming your energy and time.
  • Seek to Understand – When we are involved in difficult situations, there is also typically some element of personal and relationship issues. Rather than coping with someone else, instead seek to better understand their perspective and be open to the possibility that they may be going through their own situation that is driving their behaviors and interactions with you.
  • Assume the Best– Absent direct evidence and admissions to the contrary, assume the best of other people’s intentions and actions. Too often we assume the worst, and this assumption rarely (if ever) serves you, the interaction or the relationship.
  • Honor Yourself – When you choose to cope with a situation, your actions indicate that you believe that you have to cope or deserve to cope (consciously or unconsciously) with poor treatment. When you choose to take care of yourself either by separating yourself or directly addressing the issues or the people, this is a form of honoring yourself and communicating to yourself that you are worthy and don’t deserve to be subjected to the situation or the people.
  • Ask for Help– From my experience, this is the most difficult for most of us, but it’s a great alternative to coping. When you’re coping you can often feel alone, and asking for help or support will not only give you some different ideas but you’ll also feel the support of another person.

These shifts may not always be easy to implement and live out, but they are simple enough, and they can guide your choices whenever you’re struggling with a situation, person or relationship. When in doubt, remember that coping is just another form of doping, and doping never serves you beyond the brief moment.

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