Coping is a term used in psychology, which deals with problems of stress and the way someone copes with it. It concerns the handling of all types of continuous stressors, such as unemployment, divorce, pain or war. The English-language understanding is derived from the verb to cope with (can deal with or able to cope with something).
Different researchers use different definitions of the concept of “coping”. An important researcher in the field of coping and stress reduction was the American psychologist Richard Lazarus. He defined coping as “cognitive and behavioral efforts to reduce or tolerate internal and/or external demands and to overcome the conflicts between them”. The concept of “efforts” in this definition makes it clear that the manifestations of coping may be different, and that they do not always lead to the desired solution.
Coping is a combination of the intellectual and emotional responses to stress or a problem, and the behavior that therefrom. There are several strategies and mechanisms of coping. The mechanism that people apply can change depending on the circumstances and their coping strategy (also called copingstegy), associated with their personality.
When confronted with a problematic circumstances make people two reviews. The first is an assessment of the situation (the primary rating: “what’s going on?”), the second is an assessment of the best solution (the secondary rating: “what am I going to do with it?”).
How someone responds to a stressful situation is not or hardly determined by the nature of the problem, but much more by one’s coping strategy. Depending on one’s coping strategy, a person may choose from several ways (coping mechanisms) to deal with a problem. That coping strategy can change over time.
Coping strategies are classified in different ways. Much applied formats are coming to emotion-and problem-oriented coping, or coming to primary and secondary coping. Problem-focused coping from one format is fairly similar to primary coping from the other.
With problem-oriented coping one tries to solve the problem. At emotion-focused coping one tries to change the feelings that is causing the problem.
At primary coping, the person is trying to resolve a problematic situation. At secondary coping, one tries to adapt his or her behavior to the situation.
In a particular coping strategy use can be made of a variety of mechanisms.
A common format is:
- Active addressing: the problem is analyzed and resolved.
- Social support searching: find solace and understanding in others, along with another solution to the problem.
- Avoid: the problem is denied and avoided.
- Palliative reaction: one focuses on things other than the problem. In extreme form it can lead to addictions.
- Depressed response pattern: blame themselves, worry, self-doubt.
- Expression of emotions: the problem leads to frustration, tension and aggression.
- Comforting thoughts and wishful thinking: one is that the problem will automatically work out or that others have much heavier ones.
Some researchers see religion as a separate distinguishable coping mechanism. Others conceive it as a support for the aforementioned mechanisms.
The effectiveness of the coping mechanism depends on the context. In a stressful situation, any coping mechanism is the right one. “Actively addressing” and “social support” are generally understood as effective mechanism. But active addressing can lead to an increase in stress in a situation where the individual can actually bring no change. Mechanisms, as a depressed reaction pattern and expression of emotions are generally less adequate. These are mechanisms that occur in people with a more emotion-focused coping strategy.
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