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Coping Strategies

October 16, 2010

One heuristic that I’ve found to be profoundly true is the principle of three; that is, every aspect of reality can be reduced to three triadic foundational substances. Materialism, Idealism, Monism. Real, Unreal, Surreal. Past Present Future. Id, Ego, SuperEgo, Not-Being, Being, and Becoming. Red, Blue, Yellow/Green. Light, Darkness, Shadow. Everything in this world can be reduced to a triad, and by analyzing these triadic relationships, we are able to understand reality. This was Hegel’s belief when he created his triadic system. With this knowledge in mind, I have determined that when a person is confronted with conflict, he has three triadic options for dealing with the conflict. Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C. These plans are, respectively, “fight”, “flight”, and “join”.

I say respectively, because the human biology ensures that most people approach conflict in this order. If you can’t beat them, the next most natural course of action is to run away (escapism). If you can’t run away (as has been the case in many historical conflicts), there’s always Plan C: you join them (either passively or actively). Most civilizations throughout history have come to an end not because of civil war or genocide, but because of cultural assimilation. They decided to give up who they were, and embrace the status quo, which essentially meant changing their identity to that of the conquering nation (i.e. Rome).

One psychologist concerned with these different options is German psychoanalyst Karen Horney; her coping strategies agree with the thoughts of this post, except she adds another one: “Moving With”. This new option she introduces is interesting in that she presents it as separate from the triadic “Moving Against” (fight), “Moving Away” (flight), and “Moving Toward” (join); claiming that these three are neurotic, whereas “Moving With” is healthy. While I do agree that the three by themselves are neurotic (as they are by themselves imbalanced), I feel that her introduction of a fourth option is completely missing the point; namely, “Moving With” is simply the product of a Balance between the three aforementioned neurotic responses.

If “Moving With” were its own response, it too would be neurotic, as the weight of the human psyche cannot balance upon one leg. Therefore, I find her conclusions to be idealistic, but inaccurate. Rather than saying “Moving With” is the only healthy coping strategy (which is dangerously dogmatic), it’s better to think of it in terms of Balance; that is, when coping, a person is best served by using discretion to choose when to fight, flee, or join in response to a situation. By using discretion in choosing between Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C, the resulting Balance will ensure that healthy relationships are formed and maintained.

To quote a famous and profoundly true proverb:

The Serenity Prayer

God, grant us the…
Serenity to accept things we cannot change,
Courage to change the things we can, and the
Wisdom to know the difference
Patience for the things that take time
Appreciation for all that we have, and
Tolerance for those with different struggles
Freedom to live beyond the limitations of our past ways, the
Ability to feel your love for us and our love for each other and the
Strength to get up and try again even when we feel it is hopeless.
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