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Another Look At Coping

Most Sundays I’ll be taking a look at an older post in light of recent events.

Coping Is Not The Answer resonated with a lot of readers. If you read it, you may have recognized something of yourself in the post.  It remains one of my most popular posts, and I don’t expect that to change, unless all of our problems and pain vanish.

My job at the library is to answer questions.  Often those questions are as simple as helping people find a specific book.  But let me tell you, people’s insecurities are laid barer than bare when they come looking for books to help them in their lives.

My floor is all non-fiction.  Today I was asked for help finding books on:

  • Meth addiction
  • Recovering from incest
  • Depression
  • Fighting thoughts of suicide
  • Terminating a pregnancy
  • Weight loss (several times)
  • Curing anti-social personality disorders
  • Reviving a marriage
  • Ending a marriage
  • Immigrating
  • Alcoholism
  • Revealing homosexuality to one’s parents

Not every question is as big as these, but these are all very common for me.  Each person asking is seeking help.  It’s a privilege to be a tiny middleman between a huge problem and a potential solution.

From my own experience, books about surviving have never been the answer.  At best, they taught me to survive.  Survival is important, but I believe it is also important to move out of survival mode as soon as possible.  It is hard to find joy when I am just trying to make it through another day.

Asking for help is a start.  Reading and study are logical next steps.  But if you are struggling to make progress and deal with pain, please ensure that asking and reading are not the final steps.


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Photo credit: Eric__i_e

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Henri @ Wake Up Cloud December 27, 2009, 6:18 am

    Surviving is not the end goal, but it may be a necessary step, as you point out. Sometimes you’re just in such a state that jumping directly toward joy seems impossible, that’s when baby steps come in. At least that is how things have gone in my life.

    • Josh Hanagarne December 27, 2009, 9:21 am

      Absolutely. Jumping towards joy may not be possible, but you can at least start looking towards it and figure out where it is.

  • Anthony December 27, 2009, 6:39 am

    Very nice Josh. I always enjoy your writing, keep em coming.

  • Lisis December 27, 2009, 7:29 am

    Aw… your post today ties in quite nicely with mine. If someone is at that stage, of just trying to cope, I hope they will reach out for help. Sometimes locking yourself up in a room with your books and your issues just adds fuel to the fire, and it helps to have someone else to lighten your load.

    I find it interesting how we are all at different phases on our journey… some are in pursuit of self-actualization, while others just want a single day without tears. It’s all part of the process, but some parts are definitely more fun than others.

    • Josh Hanagarne December 27, 2009, 9:20 am

      One thing I’ve learned is that if I cope for too long, I lose friends. That’s not their fault, it’s mine. I have driven people away forever because I was too depressed for too long. It was too hard for them, and I wasn’t interested in changing back then. So I expected them to wait around forever, which was selfish and lazy. No more.

      • Lisis December 27, 2009, 12:39 pm

        Well Josh, that’s very brave and strong of you. But if you ever feel the need to “cope” again, you know where to find me. I promise, you won’t run me off. 🙂

  • Dean Dwyer@QuitBit December 27, 2009, 9:16 am

    Hey JH, just out of curiosity, what do you feel is/are the next step(s)?

    • Josh Hanagarne December 27, 2009, 9:18 am

      Dean, I don’t think I know the answer to that. I usually tell myself I’ve taken the next step if I’ve moved back into a place where I can enjoy the small things again. When I am coping, I find little pleasure in anything.

  • Wendy December 27, 2009, 2:04 pm

    Wow, do you just want to hug people? They’re asking for books to try to deal with problems that they might not have even talked to a doctor or a close friend about. That takes courage. Been there.

    After having two stillborn babies, my husband and I were just trying to cope with our grief and make it through daily life. I read so many books, trying to make sense of what had happened and trying to understand the mechanics of grief. We attended a support group (SHARE Parents of Utah) where we met other families dealing with similar loss and I think it saved us. Coping with our own loss eventually turned into helping others, the newcomers, their grief so raw and terrible, and not knowing how they would ever feel right again. I became a leader in the group, running meetings, taking phone calls and arriving at the hospital to reassure new parents that it was okay to hold and love and take pictures of their tiny, still babies.

    I was able to find joy again and meaning in our own trial by helping others. That may sound trite or predictable, but it was the next step for us.

  • Mike December 27, 2009, 6:45 pm

    First time here and I like what I see. Absolutely agree with your sentiments regarding survival as an intermediate step and not one to spend considerable amounts of time.

  • Srinivas Rao December 27, 2009, 10:04 pm


    I think when we try only to survive we really don’t put our best foot forward. It’s almost as though we are dealing with the symptoms rather than the cause.

  • Beth L. Gainer December 28, 2009, 1:04 pm

    I think there’s an ebb and flow. Sometimes we just need to cope until we start toward a more proactive path. I want to give up my pity parties, but I know I also need them as a rest stop until I propel myself forward again.

    The topics of books your patrons check out is haunting. It sounds like so many people out there are looking for that easy fix. I wish they knew that there isn’t one.

  • Stephanie Smith December 29, 2009, 9:30 am

    I posted that article link on my Facebook because I wanted my mom to see and read it. She has survived many thing from abuse to cancer and she has been a perpetually unhappy person for much of my life. Sometimes when you are close to someone who is surviving or even trying to cope, it is easy to drift away since talking with that person can be a real drain.
    The key for me was honesty and balance. I let her “wallow” so to speak for awhile, then I try to turn the conversation elsewhere to give her other things to think about. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t but when you love someone, all you can do is try. I also found the courage to tell her if I couldn’t handle her problems at the time. If I was dealing with my own issues, I have said to her:”Mom, I just don’t have the emotional reserves right now to deal with your unhappiness on top of my own junk.” I was scared to say it, but suprisingly, she took it well and said it made her feel like I trusted and respected her enough to tell her when it was too much.
    This Christmas, even though I have had the flu for the last 2 weeks, my mom gave me a card that showed she really felt upbeat for the first time in a long time. It was a great gift.