Family Works [February 10, 2019]
Is there a difference between merely coping and …
Family Works [February 10, 2019]
Is there a difference between merely coping and really living? Of course. Coping has the connotation of just getting through the day, trying to make the best of a difficult situation, seeking to put on a happy face regardless. Really living isn’t about coping. Really living means being excited and thrilled with the prospect of living yet another day, enjoying the fruits of a blessed life, wearing a happy face because happiness is what you genuinely feel. Coping isn’t fun. It’s mostly dutiful. Happiness is fun. It’s mostly joyful.
Understanding the differences between coping and happiness, why do 90 percent of Americans choose to just cope as if life consists of only getting through another day? Why don’t more of us choose happiness? The simple reason is that we can’t. Happiness can’t be chosen. Happiness is a by-product of many choices we make. Attempting to choose to be happy makes us either miserable or artificial. What we can choose to do is to cope. Unfortunately, when we make the choice to get through life by coping, we are effectively removing any possibility that we can or ever will be happy. Coping blocks happiness by withdrawing from the many possibilities of happiness. This withdrawal takes on several forms.
1. Emotional Withdrawal – Some emotionally withdraw feeling that it really isn’t okay to be themselves. Often, their words betray them. “We’ll do what you like.” “Let’s just do it your way. It doesn’t really matter to me.” “Honey, you are always right.” Such words covertly express “I can’t be me and have a relationship with you.” It’s as if the person must choose to be absent in order to be present in a relationship.
2. Social Withdrawal – Feeling unworthy of the time and attention of others, some socially withdraw. “I’m so boring.” “Why would anyone waste their time hanging out with me?” Withdrawal from meaningful relationships increases the draw of addictive behaviors. Addiction to alcohol, television, internet, food, sex or whatever the drug of choice is tempting as it brings temporary relief from the pain of not having meaningful relationships.
3. Physical Withdrawal – Some physically withdraw through illness. It’s as if they are saying, “I have to be sick in order to live with you or to live in this situation.” At least being sick can bring the time and attention of caring family members and professionals. This gives sick individuals some relief from loneliness. If physical sickness doesn’t work, some try mental illness. “I have to be crazy to live with you or in this situation.” Craziness can be an effective coping mechanism.
4. Spiritual Withdrawal – Some spiritually withdraw and cope by believing that life is devoid of purpose. “How can anyone be so foolish to believe that life has any real meaning?” “It’s dog eat dog.” “The one who dies with the most toys wins.” Life becomes nothing more than the accumulation of the things that bring momentary pleasure.
Happiness has an uncanny ability to creep into our lives when we cease to withdraw. Whatever it takes, seize life and allow happiness to find you.
Rob Coombs is a professor with a doctor of ministry degree and a doctor of philosophy with an emphasis in Family Systems.
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