Life brings challenges that often stretch us to our limits. Coping and defense mechanisms are necessary to help us survive these traumatic events. We can actually take advantage of these hardships to help us develop higher responses to life struggles and build our personal character. This process is essential to develop virtue, personal integrity, and experience inner peace. As we make these mature coping mechanisms second nature, our quality of life significantly increases and we develop higher self-esteem, self-confidence, self-control as we live a more compassionate life. The mature coping mechanisms listed below are connected with other people so we are calling them interpersonal.
Undoing is a defense mechanism in which a person tries to remedy an unhealthy, hurtful or otherwise threatening thought or action by engaging in good and repairing behaviors. When we extend sincere apologies, it is a form of undoing. If we feel we have been neglecting our wife, undoing would mean coming home with a beautiful bouquet of flowers with some chocolate. If we feel we punish our child too severely, we can organize a trip together to the local amusement park. At a collective level, the United States, the United Kingdom and many countries of the international community supported or did not oppose the take-over of Palestine by Jewish people after realizing the scale of the holocaust that took the lives of 6 million Jews. It confirmed Zionists’ claim that Jews needed a country to escape persecution and antisemitism. While undoing comes from a good intent, we need to become fully conscious of the consequences of actions meant to undo the previous wrongful deeds. As the old adage says, hell is paved with good intention. One of my best friends has two children with a ex-husband man that we will call John. John is 40 years old, but is quite immature and irresponsible. He still lives with his parents and can rarely hold a job more than 6 months. He behaves more like an entitled teenager rather than a caring father. His parents give him a monthly allowance and pay for any trip he takes with his children. During his custody time, he often drops his children with his parents as he indulges in parties, drugs and girls. John does not provide the structure and the stability that his children need, and his erratic behavior exposes them to unnecessary harm. John’s parents feel guilty towards their son as they are workaholics and were never present emotionally with him when he was a child. They do not realize their financial support is enabling their son’s bad behaviors and is preventing him from taking responsibility for his life. Along the same line, if we give a gift to our wife every time we hurt her, she may start hating our gifts as they will be associated with pain. The donation of the state of Israel has been responsible for 75 years of war in the Middle East. While Jerusalem holds special significance, the Jews may have been provided with a territory that could have caused much less conflict and allowed them to thrive economically while living in peace. In the state of Utah which is mostly a desert, the Mormons represent 70% of the population. They are now the richest cult in the world and they are remarkably integrated. The Jews would have probably enjoyed an even higher prosperity and peace if they had been granted a territory that was not already populated. Undoing is useful but it is important to reflect if the repairing action will yield the positive results that we intended.
Compartmentalization is actually a form of repression that is mature. We may have been adversely affected by an event but the current situation may require us to focus on something external instead of working internally to process our raw emotions. It is mature only if we are making the conscious choice to commit to take time to process the compartmentalized difficult emotions once it is safe to do so whether through meditation, with an outside therapist, or with a skillful coach. Otherwise, this becomes repression and not compartmentalization. I remember a time when my partner was triggered but we had hardly any time to make our flight connection. We decided to take care of her emotions once we were settled in the next plane. Alternatively, we may be at workplace where it is not safe to process and share emotions so we wait until we can be alone or with loved ones at home who can hold a safe place for us. Or you may find yourself in a dangerous situation with your family. Before taking care of your own emotions, your focus needs to be rightly so on the safely of your loved ones. Compartmentalization gets better with experience and practice. It takes a double awareness, first of our internal state and second of our external environment. Then, we apply good judgment in prioritizing each. This is how we train our nervous system to become more mature. This is an exercise of balance. People who are too concerned about the external environment may be too repressed, and there are others that express whatever comes through them with no concern how it may impact other people. The codependent falls in the first category while the borderline falls in the latter. The conscious individual evaluates both his internal and external world to determine if s/he should compartmentalize or focus on processing his emotions.
- Conscious emotional release
Our society at large does not have a healthy relationship towards negative emotions. Actually, many people have made an enemy of negative emotions. They see them as unnecessary, and they do everything to repress or suppress them in themselves and other people. They just end up damaging themselves and others, and repression makes things worse not better. And the very thing they are repressing or resisting are then manifesting in their lives in tragic ways. While negative emotions are made of lower vibrational psychic energies, they have a very important purpose for healing. Their purpose is to help releasing traumas, grief and any perceived attack on our psyche. While it is possible to process and transform lighter negative emotions through meditation, introspection and right thinking, we may need to use our body’s incredible healing ability for a conscious emotional release. Once, I participated in a conscious emotional release session at the Pachamama community in Costa Rica. Loud music was played, and we were allowed to scream, cry, hit pillows and lash our anger using swimming pool noodles. The only rule was to keep each other safe and not damage the facility. I experienced my internal hate and anger in ways I did not imagine as I had developed a cover spiritual personality that had censored all these dark emotions. I allowed myself to go fully through the process however. While I was feeling down before starting the conscious emotional release, I enjoyed a blissful state of mind the following days as I had been able to expulse from my system much grief. Holotropic breathwork is also a very cathartic experience for the same reason. It helps to release all the past accumulated traumas in the cellular memories. The body may be crying, yelling, jumping around, hitting a pillow or even vomiting as it goes through its own purging and healing. In an even more intense way, an Ayahuasca journey is meant to help us purge and let go of past traumas and repressed negative emotions. The concept of the necessity of conscious emotional release is slowly becoming more widespread. Public punching bags were recently installed in New-York City in an attempt to stop people from taking their frustrations out on each other.
- Altruism and compassion
Altruism is the concern for happiness of other human beings, animals and even plants. Altruism is form of selflessness which is the opposite of selfishness. It is a traditional virtue in many cultures, various religious traditions and secular worldview. Compassion motivates people to go out of their way to help the physical, mental, or emotional pains of another. Compassion is often regarded as having empathy, and feeling the suffering of others and it is based on the concepts of fairness, justice, and interdependence. Focusing on alleviating the suffering of others can be a remarkably effective to step out of depression and rebuilding self-confidence. Several years ago, as I was going through a brutal divorce, I had the spiritual practice to volunteer once a week in jail. I would teach meditation there, provide spiritual counseling and facilitate transformational emotional release with in-mates. While I would typically arrive tired, worried and frustrated from the day, helping in-mates elevated my state of being considerably. They were very receptive to my classes and we often had major break-throughs. This helped me regain self-confidence, feel a sense of purpose and break away from powerlessness and depression. I would come home late at night fully energized. Again, in 2018, after a painful break-up and losing my children through parental alienation, I set-up a healing house where I helped hundreds to work through and heal emotional traumas. It worked like magic to accelerate my own path of healing and recovery while being useful to the community. When we help others unconditionally from the purity of our heart, we are reminded of our true nature and the universe conspires for our happiness. Therapists, social workers and various healers are often people who have been serious traumatized in their childhood. They are looking to heal themselves by helping others. This is the archetype of the wounded healer. My vocation as a coach is following the same pattern. I can bring people out of their own misery because this is a path I have taken myself. By using the wisdom of our suffering to serve others, we transcend our limited ego and the illusion of separateness. The saints that are walking this earth see God’s mirror in every human being and in the whole of creation, and they are obsessed with improving the lives of anyone they touch as an extension of the self-love they feel from within. Selfishness grows from the hurt little boy or little girl in us. This aspect of us got emotionally hurt because no one was there to support us emotionally during a tormented time. We felt abandoned, lonely and we started to feel disconnected and separate from others. We started to perceive this world as dangerous and threatening. Fear took the place of love. We shut down emotionally to others and to the external world. In a desperate attempt to survive, we draw all resources to ourselves. Spiritual awakening is nothing else than moving from this disconnected hurt inner child to our divine child that knows itself as pure love. A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, is the inspiring story of Scrooge who undergoes a spiritual illumination to move from selfishness to altruism.
Humor is the act of provoking laughter and providing amusement. The term derives from the humoral medicine of the ancient Greeks, which taught that the balance of fluids in the human body, known as humors controlled human health and emotion. Laughter and humor are indeed some of the most effective forms of emotional release and can help us eliminate toxic negative emotions. Many stand-up comedians are able to transmute their own traumas through humor. I have a friend Amber Dawn Lee who survived a childhood of sexual abuse from a deviant polygamous Mormon. Her brillant stand-up comedies have provided her with a creative outlet of this traumatic childhood. On a similar note, I attended last year in Salt Lake City the TEDx speech of Collin Williams. He expressed how stand-up comedy saved his life by helping him overcoming a childhood where he was sexually molested by a family member. In the same way as altruism, humor allows us to take distance from the traumatic memories. It allows us to disidentify with our limited ego and promote emotional healing. The attachment to our suffering is one of the most important factors that prevents us from integrating our painful past. Humor catalyzes us to stop taking our suffering so seriously. It goes without saying that only the person that underwent the abuse should be permitted to make humor about it. Also humor can only take place after we were able to validate all the painful emotions associated with the trauma. Unless genuine forgiveness has been reached, humor may just damage us emotionally further. Even as we go through the worst ordeals, we can tell ourselves « one day, I will be able to laugh about it ». Yesterday, a friend of mine was amusing us with horrific stories from his divorce 30 years ago. When we are able to laugh about a difficult past experience, the circle of healing has been accomplished. For this reason, I can laugh at my time with a cult in my 20s, some of dramatic past relationships or turbulent business experiences. But there are some still painful situations that I am unable to laugh at. This is a good indicator of what I have been able to heal fully and where there is inner work left to do.
This is the highest form of coping mechanism. With sublimation, we take the most painful aspects of our life, and we take action so that other people may not experience the same tragedy. Ryan Thomas was an alienated child and did not have any contact with his father from age 10 to 25 as he had been used as a weapon of war against his own father by his mother and the parents of his mother. In his mid thirties, after fully understanding the dynamics of parental alienation that affected him so adversely, he left a successful corporate career to dedicate himself helping alienated parents and children. His teaching, books and sessions are helping thousands to survive and overcome parental alienation. Our society gets better by the sublimation of people overcoming and digesting their own pain to help others. In less than 100 hundred years, the place of women and minorities in our society changed radically for this reason. Many minorities were able to break away from powerlessness, challenge the status-quo and rise above victimhood to show there was a better way to live collectively. The sublimation of life’s deepest sorrow can serve as an engine for launching a career that we feel truly passionate about. Steve Hassan was a moonie (a member of the Moon cult or Unification Church). After a car accident, he was able to realize his own indoctrination and started to break free from mind control. He has dedicated his life to help people to exit destructive cults since 1976. A personal tragedy can become a stepping stone to change the status quo. What is or has been your deepest pain ? How can you use it to make this world a better place ?
- Asking for support
Many of us have learned to be overly self-reliant because we became so afraid of rejection. It takes courage to ask for help and support when we are facing a difficult time. When we are already feeling down because of the struggle we are facing, getting rejected on top of it may just seem unbearable. After my wife and I separated last year, I reached out to my friend Jacques and his wife Valérie to stay with them near Paris to get their support for my aching heart. I was definitely afraid to reach out out of fear of rejection but I am so glad I did as our week together was so important in my recovery. Parents can also be a great source of support. When this is not the case, it is critical to have access to a friend, coach, healer or therapist that can make themselves available on a short notice. Having a support system can be a life-saver in difficult situations. It is important to nurture this support system outside of personal crises so that it may be available when we need it the most. Thinking of birthdays, giving small gifts, keeping in touch through small attentions are part of that nurturing. Personal crises are also the time when we can differentiate real friends from acquaintances of convenience. When I divorced, many so-called friends became unsupportive and even antagonistic and they were influenced by my ex-wife’s propaganda. This is also why we should take any opportunity to help our close friends when they are in need. This will inspire them to do the same from the bottom of their heart when we need it the most. Moving from relationships that are transactional to ones that are more unconditional makes life feel so much better. Most people love helping other people when they feel valued and that their efforts are appreciated. It boosts their self-confidence and makes them feel good about themselves. Asking for support is more often than not a win-win proposition.
Humility is a liberation from the consciousness of the limited ego, a form of temperance that is neither having pride nor indulging in self-deprecation. Humility is the awareness to be simply dust in this infinite universe while understanding we are connected to the whole. Humility keeps us aware of our mortality and our limitations without feeling bad about it. On the opposite, it brings contentment and inner peace as we stop fighting for an imaginary sense of self. Humility is the protection against the inflated ego, the illusion of being higher and separate from other people. This sincere humility grows from our personal experience of hardship, tragedies and losses. This suffering makes us intimately aware of the wrongful actions that create strife and misery. It promotes the development of empathy, makes us closer to other human beings as we get inspired to stop the cycle of pain. Humility keeps us in touch with reality and our place in the world. I love tennis and Rafael Nadal is a tennis champion who shows great humility. Even though he is one of the greatest players of all time, he respects every opponent and never underestimates the opponent when facing someone with a lower ranking. He uses this form of extreme humility to help him deal with pressure and to stay concentrated on every match and every point. At this level, he is aware that complacency can be fatal. Additionally, humility is very much appreciated by other people especially after we attain a significant achievement. It continues to make us accessible and relatable to other people while our achievement distances us from them. Jesus said that others could do better than him “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father”. When it is heartfelt and genuine, humility only provides benefits. Paradoxically, it is indicative of a strong self-esteem. It shows the vulnerability of someone who has no false persona to protect.