Coping Mechanisms

We are complex animals living complex lives in which we are not always able to cope with the difficulties that we face. As a result, we are subject to feelings of tension and stress, for example the cognitive dissonance and potential shame of doing something outside our values. To handle this discomfort we use various coping methods.

  • Acting out: not coping – giving in to the pressure to misbehave.

  • Aim inhibition: lowering sights to what seems more achievable.

  • Attack: trying to beat down that which is threatening you.

  • Avoidance: mentally or physically avoiding something that causes distress.

  • Compartmentalization: separating conflicting thoughts into separated compartments.

  • Compensation: making up for a weakness in one area by gain strength in another.

  • Conversion: subconscious conversion of stress into physical symptoms.

  • Denial: refusing to acknowledge that an event has occurred.

  • Displacement: shifting of intended action to a safer target.

  • Dissociation: separating oneself from parts of your life.

  • Fantasy: escaping reality into a world of possibility.

  • Idealization: playing up the good points and ignoring limitations of things desired.

  • Identification: copying others to take on their characteristics.

  • Intellectualization: avoiding emotion by focusing on facts and logic.

  • Introjection: Bringing things from the outer world into the inner world.

  • Passive aggression: avoiding refusal by passive avoidance.

  • Projection: seeing your own unwanted feelings in other people.

  • Rationalization: creating logical reasons for bad behavior.

  • Reaction Formation: avoiding something by taking a polar opposite position.

  • Regression: returning to a child state to avoid problems.

  • Repression: subconsciously hiding uncomfortable thoughts.

  • Somatization: psychological problems turned into physical symptoms.

  • Sublimation: channeling psychic energy into acceptable activities.

  • Suppression: consciously holding back unwanted urges.

  • Symbolization: turning unwanted thoughts into metaphoric symbols.

  • Trivializing: Making small what is really something big.

  • Undoing: actions that psychologically ‘undo’ wrongdoings for the wrongdoer.

So what?

To help people cope, find ways to let them safely let go of the stress that they experience or gain a greater understanding of the situation.

Be aware of your own coping mechanisms and move to more functional means of managing stress.

If you are using deliberate theatrical methods during persuasion, feigning a coping mechanism makes it harder for the other person to broach an apparently stressful situation for you.