The songwriter Paul Simon in 1973 sang, “One man’s ceiling is another man’s floor.” The same object or event means different things to different people at different times and under different circumstances. We know many combatants return from warfare experiences with both acute stress reactions and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders. Also post-9/11, people in New York City suffered emotionally from the traumas.
Some people cite debilitating stress, anxiety and depression when they cannot find the correct screwdriver to repair their car. These life events run the gamut from severe and unusual events to mundane, common and less severe events. So, what governs our reaction to stressful events – the event, how we cope with it, what type of person we are or something else?
After forty years of psychiatric practice as a psychotherapist I have discovered two predominate types of people and two divergent coping styles. I call these the “Low-Copers” and the “High-Copers.” These labels apply to rather common stressors and not extraordinary ones like severe interpersonal abuse, violence, exposure to warfare, or severe physical illness or injury.
Low-Copers do not cope well with even mild adversity. They whine and cry a lot and usually wind up getting other people “to do it” for them – solve their problem, make the decision for them, or take it off their hands.
High-Copers try and cope with all adversities with a “do-or-die” attitude. They will tackle very difficult and complex life issues on their own – divorce, death of a relative, and illnesses. They are reluctant to give up even when the situation is insolvable. And, High-Copers almost always take on the problems of others to solve, adding to their burdens.
Do you know any High—or Low– Copers or are you one of them?