Coping is Something We All Do to Varying Degrees
When I think of the word “coping”, there are both negative and positive connotations. It’s great to have the ability to handle something, but if coping is required it generally means what’s being handled is not a positive experience. It’s most likely a challenging and unpleasant one.
Then there’s the other side to coping. The positive side that alludes to a light at the end of a tunnel — of having the strength and foresight required to make your way through difficult circumstances.
A few weeks ago, I came across this amazing letter on living and coping written by a father to his son. The writer was Ted Hughes, former lover to the poet Sylvia Plath and father to their young son Nicholas who was struggling with doubt and self-acceptance.
I encourage you to read the entire letter, but I will share with you what I think are the most poignant points:
..And your self-reliance, your Independence, your general boldness in exposing yourself to new and to-most-people-very-alarming situations, and your phenomenal ability to carry through your plans to the last practical detail (I know it probably doesn’t feel like that to you, but that’s how it looks to the rest of us, who simply look on in envy), is the sort of real maturity that not one in a thousand ever come near. As you know. But in many other ways obviously you are still childish—how could you not be, you alone among mankind? It’s something people don’t discuss, because it’s something most people are aware of only as a general crisis of sense of inadequacy, or helpless dependence, or pointless loneliness, or a sense of not having a strong enough ego to meet and master inner storms that come from an unexpected angle. But not many people realize that it is, in fact, the suffering of the child inside them.
Everybody tries to protect this vulnerable two three four five six seven eight year old inside, and to acquire skills and aptitudes for dealing with the situations that threaten to overwhelm it. So everybody develops a whole armour of secondary self, the artificially constructed being that deals with the outer world, and the crush of circumstances. And when we meet people this is what we usually meet. And if this is the only part of them we meet we’re likely to get a rough time, and to end up making ‘no contact’.
But when you develop a strong divining sense for the child behind that armour, and you make your dealings and negotiations only with that child, you find that everybody becomes, in a way, like your own child. It’s an intangible thing. But they too sense when that is what you are appealing to, and they respond with an impulse of real life, you get a little flash of the essential person, which is the child.
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