Being conscious or unconscious although can vary widely from person to person, psychological adaptation to manage stress, anxiety, or difficult situations is called coping mechanisms and you can observe them in people's day to day life.
Coping mechanisms are sort of behavioral and cognitive strategies that individuals use, consciously or unconsciously, to manage stressful situations. They can be healthy and adaptive, or unhealthy and maladaptive.
In other words, they are some of the ways that people react to stressful or sometimes even traumatic situations, but they are not always healthy or effective in the long term.
Here are some examples of some coping mechanisms:
You might use flight as a coping mechanism when you feel overwhelmed or threatened by a situation. For example, you might avoid going to a party where you don't know anyone, or you might quit your job without giving notice because you can't handle the pressure. And when it happens unconsciously, one might really fall ill just before an exam, or as in one of my clients case it can go as deep as an allergic reaction to a certain food to avoid even reminding about a person who my client did not like at all.
You may see fight as a coping mechanism when you feel angry or frustrated by a situation. For example, you might yell at your partner when they don't do what you want, or you might get into a physical fight with someone who insults you. As in another case , my client had manifested so much anger towards his parents resulting from a childhood trauma in the kindergarten getting punished by a teacher.
You might use freeze as a coping mechanism when you feel scared or helpless by a situation. For example, you might freeze up during a presentation at work, or you might dissociate from your body and emotions when you experience abuse. I can give an epileptic seizure as an example, to disassociate from pain, that was developed in a young girls brain due to the loss of her father.
You might use fawn as a coping mechanism when you feel insecure or unworthy by a situation. For example, you might agree with everything someone says to avoid conflict, or you might do things for others that compromise your own needs and values. As an example one of my clients who was miserable and unhappy deep inside while being happy and helpful externally to everyone in life with a terminal disease.
You might use feeling freeze as a coping mechanism when you feel overwhelmed or numb by a situation. For example, you might suppress your emotions and act like nothing is wrong, or you might use drugs or alcohol to escape from your feelings. A client being addicted to alcohol because of blaming himself for his parents splitting when he was a little child is another example.
You might use trauma bonding as a coping mechanism when you feel dependent or loyal to someone who hurts you. For example, you might stay in an abusive relationship because you believe that they love you, or you might defend someone who mistreats you because you fear losing them. This a a very common phenomenon these days in my practice and no matter how painful it can be, a spouse will feel and commit to the relationship because the relationship she had got used to during her younger age was an abusive one with her father.
These coping mechanisms sometimes may seem like they help you, survive in the short term, but they can have negative consequences for your physical and mental health in the long term.
They can also prevent you from resolving the underlying issues that cause your stress and trauma.
Therefore, it is important to learn healthier ways to cope with your emotions and stress, such as:
- Seeking professional help from a therapist or counselor who can help you process your trauma and develop new coping skills and it can be accomplished in just one session with specific techniques.
- Practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and mindfulness that can help you calm your nervous system and reduce your stress.
- Engaging in physical activity such as walking, running, or dancing that can help you release tension and improve your mood.
- Reaching out to supportive people such as friends, family, or support groups who can listen to you and offer you comfort and advice.
- Expressing your emotions in healthy ways such as writing, drawing, or talking that can help you vent your feelings and gain perspective.
I hope these examples help you a bit to understand the different coping mechanisms of dealing with emotions and stress better.
If you have any questions or feedback, please let me know.