Monday, March 28, 2005

Is Coping the Answer?

There's a lot of talk about 'coping' in self-help. This is supposed to be a positive topic, how people are taking charge of a negative aspect of their life and learning how to deal with it. Actually, I would say, coping is actually not as grand a feat as one would assume. For many situations, there's nothing you can do. If you have cancer, then yes, you have to cope with cancer. But if you have problems in your life, you don't want to cope with them... you want to attack them and work toward eradicating them. There is a sense of futility in the notion of coping.

With pain and injury and other medical conditions, there are three levels of management. There is palliative care, which means the condition is not going to go away and in fact is going to worsen. Therapy and treatment targets attempts to alleviate the outward pain and keep the patient as comfortable as possible for as long as possible. Then there is managed care. While the condition is not going to go away on its own, it can be dealt with and effects of it can be managed or alleviated so that the condition does not severely disrupt the life of the patient. Then there is therapeutic change. By working on the problem, it can be not only managed but changed and even eradicated.

Coping in many areas of self-help is a giving up any possible chance for therapeutic change and relegating the situation to managed care. How can I manage in this situation? We go too quickly to coping strategies. Too many times the situation is not looked at for the potential of eradication. Remember when 'coping' used to be real... when you asked someone, 'how are you doing,' and they said, 'I'm coping,' it was usually a sad but hopeful situation. Now people consider themselves victors when they say, 'I'm coping.' Careful. As soon as you stop thinking about the fact that you're 'coping,' you suddenly find that you're not coping anymore, and the original problem is still there.

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