The human mind is an amazing thing. Every day, it processes many and many impulses, most of which we are not even aware of. We can remember things, learn new things. Either consciously or unconsciously, our mind gives them some attributes: positive or negative. While our mind is “glad” to remember and reminisce of those positive things, it’s different from something our mind “sees” as negative. What such negative things could be? Well, it can be anything that brings psychological damage to us. It can be bad memories, some bad experience, or a trauma coming from some long-term suffering or traumatic experience. When our mind encounters something like that, it naturally tries to do something with it. The experts have done a lot of research on this, and it’s good to know some strategies our mind uses to cope with trauma. Why is it good to know that? These strategies can be either healthy or unhealthy. When we know how to recognize them, we can intentionally focus on those positive ones. So what are some of the coping strategies?
Let’s define good and bad coping strategies. I’ve found an article that defines the strategies very clearly:
“A good, adaptive or healthy coping mechanism is one where the coping behaviour leads to the problem being resolved, or at least dealt with, in way that reduces stress and reduces harm.
A bad, maladaptive, unhealthy or destructive coping mechanism is one where the behaviour does not resolve the problem in the long term and may actually increase the harm. Unhealthy coping strategies may feel like they are having the desired effect in the short term.”
As we can read here, bad strategies are those, which don’t bring the long-term solution. It may seem that they help, but they help only in short term, and in the long term view they just bring more harm. What are these? For example, alcohol or drug abuse. It may seem that one feels better after using that but after its effect passes, a person can feel even worse. Some people try to suppress negative memories by busying their minds with excessive playing video or PC games, or by excessive watching online videos. While this can help in the specific moment, when the unwanted memories are flowing in the mind, from long term point, it just postpones those memories to some other time.
So what can be healthy, or good coping strategies? If unwanted thoughts are just coming to the mind, it’s good to take a walk, or have some mindful relaxation, maybe reading a book can help. It can sound like a cliche, but eating healthy food, like fruits can help. Also if possible, reaching out with the worries to some trusted friend or family member can help. Another useful tool can be putting the thought and worries on paper, writing them down, or paint them on canvas.
From a long-term point, there are things, we can do to use our negative memories and thoughts to do something positive. How can we do that? For example, a person who experiences child abuse can use those experiences to help child abuse victims, maybe as a volunteer in organizations helping them. Such a strategy is a very useful way to either cope with own memories and to help others. Or a person who experiences anxiety or depression can make the plans for the future when similar feelings come. In my case, it helps me a lot when I know what should I do in advance when depression strikes; I know what I should read or watch, or whom I can call.
Coping with trauma is never easy, but if we can recognize some positive strategies that are in power to work on, we can make things much easier.