Coping: A list

Do you have a fatal tragic flaw? Are you plagued with self-hatred, irrational fear, or stomach-shredding rage? Perhaps your career has shit the bed for good, or you’ve had a bad divorce, or you’re paralyzed with shame and guilt from some long-past disaster. Anyway there’s stuff you really don’t want to deal with, and it’s not going away any time soon. What to do? Psychotherapy is very, very expensive and slow. Psychiatric medications are also very expensive, and they make you feel funny and aren’t socially okay. For those of you without good insurance, who need to economize, here’s a handy list of sublimation, avoidance, and substitution mechanisms.

  • Overwork. This is an old favorite. Take a job where you put in 16 hours a day and don’t get a pause. First-line supervisor jobs are great for this, and careers in public safety or health care are usually winners too. I personally have had success in journalism and technology with this technique. The trick is not just to put in so many hours that you’re completely exhausted, but also to become over-involved in the job generally so that you think and talk about it when you’re not there and consider it to define you completely.

    Pluses: 100% effective as a distraction and as an excuse. Brings in money. Not considered insane in our society.

    Minuses: Sore feet and exhaustion. Dependent on an employer not laying you off and letting you be obsessive. Eventually you must retire unless you die on the job, and then you need another mechanism.

  • Obsessive hobbies. There’s a world of these and one that’s right for you: from ships in a bottle to Magic: The Gathering&trade. Run from your demons into the basement, it’s safe there! Old-school hobbyists prefer model trains, arts & crafts, or amateur radio. Your more modern obsessive will be found playing role playing or fantasy card games, collecting action figures, or reenacting wars in full costume. It’s important to pick one that has the appetite to eat your entire life so that all free time is filled. Make sure that you can not only do the hobby itself but go to frequent conferences and meetings, restrict your social life to other hobbyists, etc.

    Pluses: Can be 100% effective as a distraction. Other hobbyists will be enablers, making the transition from the real world easier. Most hobbies have entire pre-made worlds attached to them nowadays.

    Minuses: Not effective as an excuse. Expensive. Other hobbyists can be very annoying people. Lots of bad writing and flamewars.

  • Drinking. Alcohol is an excellent anesthetic for angst. A good steady 0.10 blood alcohol level keeps your actual life at bay very effectively. I’ve known people to spend their entire lives blissfully out of touch with their secret sorrow. For many of us the alcohol doesn’t kill our humanity enough, or it makes us sick, and we can’t make use of it. For the others, though, it’s possible to float over all those pointy rocks on a lovely stream of beverage.

    Pluses: Mostly reliable. Causes pleasant floating sensation. Socially acceptable if you keep it cool. Many alcoholic beverages are very tasty and go well with food.

    MInuses: Expensive. Will kill you dead. Will cause you to kill other people dead. Very likely to cause more angst-producing events in your life requiring additional coping and avoiding mechanisms. Can result in severe legal problems. Not socially acceptable when you bottom out and barf all over the Bishop or back over toddlers.

  • Religious mania. A regular churchgoing kind of faith can sustain you, but if you need to escape something stronger is needed. All-encompassing cults like Scientology are a big favorite here, because there’s always something you could or should be doing for the religion. If you’re not reading an important book, you’re evangelizing or volunteering. Other good avoidance religions are Hypercatholicism (Mass every day, hang out with priests all the time), Mormonism, the Seventh Day Adventists, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

    Pluses: Socially acceptable. Will eat every aspect of your life, leaving no time for unpleasant introspection. Very reliable as both escape and excuse.

    Minuses: Crises of faith occur which can be terminal. Expensive. Fellow obsessives are annoying people.

  • The Internet. This is a popular choice in the last ten years, whether on its own or as a multiplier for other avoidance mechanisms. Since it serves as communication medium, information source, and virtual community, the Internet can provide a near-complete replacement for the actual life that has rotted to the core. An unlimited amount of time and energy can be spent in this environment both at home and at work. Since it is always growing and changing, the Internet can contain an infinite amount of little places to explore.

    Pluses: Always available. Near 100% effective as escape. Provides actual interesting information, careers, and useful services along with the obsessive mania. Has porn.

    Minuses: Ineffective as an excuse for nonparticipation in life. Other people on the internet are even more annoying than the ones listed above. Socially unacceptable. Causes repetitive stress injuries and eye problems. Can result in personal relationships that are even worse than face to face ones, causing additional angst requiring additional avoidance mechanisms.

I left out some obvious items like The French Foreign Legion, artistic endeavors, suicide, and eating. You should also consider acquiring 35 cats, or becoming the most devoted fan ever of a middle-ranked sports team or one-hit wonder rock ‘n’ roll band; I’ve seen both of these strategies work wonders for people with very serious issues indeed.

If you actually want to continue, grit your teeth and march ahead, and deal with the unhealing wound that tears you from within, that’s your call! Just remember, there’s a whole world of escapes here waiting for you, patiently waiting for you to reconsider.

27 thoughts on “Coping: A list

  1. it’s funny, because the internet has worked gloriously for me in the past 9-10 years, but lately has actually only made me feel worse/made me have to confront all kinds of negative feelings rather than let me ignore them. have moved on to compulsive spending instead. so far, so good!

  2. I recommend, and have always recommended, regular and vigorous cardiovascular exercise. It doesn’t magically fix everything, but it makes it a hell of a lot easier to cope with and get past. Much more so than snarky lists, anyway. 😉

      1. Don’t apologise. You were trying to help as much as you could & he snapped at you. If he doesn’t want to listen, that’s his problem.

      2. Cardiovascular exercise is highly overrated. I avoid it whenever possible – it’s best just to sit quietly and exercise the brain instead. 🙂

      3. I was in a weird mood when I typed that. Didn’t help that I’d been drinking last night. I really should have said nothing at all.
        Sigh.

  3. Lobotomy
    Pluses: Treats the cause, not the symptoms.
    Minuses: Drooling and inane repetative simplistic speech can be a turn off for your friends. But, you won’t notice anyway.

    1. re: close to home
      jeez, i should send this list to my dad. at least, if he dabbled a bit more in the items besides work-a-lot and religious mania, he might actually benefit from a varieted life. (tinge of sarcasm here).
      my dad’s been manic depressive/bipolar for as long as i have known him. he’s still pissed and dysfunctional about stupid shit from the early 1960’s. when he’s not working, he holes up in his tract house with all the doors and windows closed/covered and watches a lot of tv. he refuses to admit he has problems and refuses to get help. the religious mania comes in at that point, because it’s much easier to think that everyone else is going to hell for their sinful pursuits and mistakes, and that you’re one of the last few virtuous, honorable people on earth.
      boy, he’s lonely…and then some!
      i’m trying to gear myself up for blogging about him sometime. it will prove to be quite the character sketch.

      1. Re: i’m too lazy to see if i can edit a reply
        er, i meant to write: …”and that HE’S one of the last few virtuous…”
        thank you, that is all. : )

      2. Re: close to home
        My dad is much the same. He rarely talks about his youth so I have no idea what it is that he’s so bitter and regretful about, but boy does that man love his Devices de Coping!

      3. Re: close to home
        yeah…i wonder if something more generational has something to do with our dads supposed inability to cope/get help/see straight. you know what i mean? guys from my grandpa’s generation, and from my dad’s weren’t exactly taught how to communicate well. good luck getting them to relate their feelings, ever! also, the times then ran on very limited, albeit growing, knowledge of mental problems.
        my grandma (my dad’s mom) tries every now and then to send booklets and other info on possible treatments/therapy to my dad. i know he probably reads them, and then shortly thereafter they land in the trash can. sigh.
        it’s good to know my dad’s not the only one! it took me the first 12 years of my life to realize that his behavior was NOT normal.

      4. Re: close to home
        I think it is generational, but I have always thought that it was specific to my parents’ generation. My grandparents were the last in my family who belonged to a generation that had to struggle to basically exist (hot water, roof, enough calories to keep moving). Their inability to communicate or reflect was never apparent, because that higher-order thinking was subsumed beneath the grinding work of everyday life.
        My parents, on the other hand, were spoiled brats. Not only in terms of material comforts, but also leisure time. And what did they do with their unprecedented freedom? They gave in to the temptation of radical ideologies and all other forms of excess. They were forward-thinking idealists but they were also lazy, restless and self-absorbed. And now they’re the grownups in a world they created but don’t recognize, and never equipped themselves to deal with.

  4. I’ve chosen the Interweb, but these are the minuses plaguing me currently:
    Causes repetitive stress injuries and eye problems. Can result in personal relationships that are even worse than face to face ones, causing additional angst requiring additional avoidance mechanisms.
    Dead on accurate, especially this pain in my wrist. And I’m not even going to mention the last two lovers, both of whom I met here on LJ. Nope, not even going to mention. *shiver*
    It’s better than alchol and other drugs though. And it won’t cause cancer.

  5. Addictions/coping
    Terence McKenna, in one of his alternating milliseconds of sanity, once keenly observed that one of the really distinguishing characteristics of H. sapiens is its ability to form addictions. I’d call it an upshot of tool use plus coping strategies, if in fact there’s any difference.
    I like pie.

  6. I’m assuming this was meant to be funny. And it is in a way. But it could also be construed as insulting and somewhat destructive.
    Quality mental health is not always unavailable or ineffective depending on what your needs are and how far you are willing to look. It also not only available for people who make a lot of money. I am sorry that it hasn’t worked for you.
    Some of the things on your list, e.g. working, crafting, various other hobbies that are mental and physical outlets for a lot of people aren’t avoidance. They are constructive ways to be in the world. Not all people who sew or build model airplanes are looking for an escape. Not all people who are consumed by their jobs make money at it. They do what they do because they are passionate about it or feel some kind of calling either in their line of work or in their hobbies.
    I don’t think anyone should take anything they find on the internet as gospel; but I do find your flip attitude disconcerting. There are real people, hundreds (I think) of them that read your journal everyday. Some of these people may suffer from serious conditions. Hell I am one of them. It seems like you are basically encouraging people to give up and try to avoid dealing with their issues for the rest of their lives. That kind of hopelessness kind be destructive. Would you tell an anorexic or someone with sever Bipolar II to avoid?
    You are probably going to be really angry at me for saying all of this. That’s fine. I hope that you know that I am your friend, I always will be and that I love you. This is why I want to be honest with you. I don’t have the answers to anything and I am not going to give you advice. The intent I have here is to be honest. I hope that you can appreciate that. If you can’t and you need to be angry at me, I am sorry.

    1. ‘Not all people who sew or build model airplanes are looking for an escape. Not all people who are consumed by their jobs make money at it.’
      HEY! i resemble those remarks. : ) thanks for the clarification about the sewing. i was truly having a hard time thinking of anyone i knew who used sewing as an escape route… it’s practiced as a legit job skill, and is a very enjoyable, rewarding career to boot!
      severe bipolar II must suck. i cannot imagine. i wonder what degree my dad might be. urf.
      lots of thinking to be had tonight!

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