Coping Failure and Collateral Damage

Michael Church and Charles Brooks

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” How many people who suffer from adversities – like Type II diabetes, coronavirus infection from risk-taking or carelessness, family alienation related to their behavior, compulsive gambling, or drug/alcohol abuse – wish they paid more attention to preventing suffering to themselves and others? Unfortunately, far too many people are so self-preoccupied and self-absorbed that they are not worried about negative consequences until it is too late. The truth is, people have a remarkable capacity to deny, rationalize, and distort reality, thereby opening the gate to ignoring the need to make changes and blaming others for their self-destructiveness. Much of the time this amounts to “little white lies” they tell others or themselves. Other times, it leads to cascading and catastrophic effects. Often, by the time they see the troubled waters they have waded into, their habits create the difficulty of having to swim against the tide. And then they lament, “I wish I had done….”

For example, drug/alcohol abusers do not plan to cause so much havoc in their life and those around them when they first begin using. However, their refusal to accept that they are developing a problem leads to stress and complications with their mental and physical health. These complications impact their family and larger social systems, including health care professionals, police and judicial systems, and businesses. The collateral damage from self-sabotaging behavior patterns means students have to deal with teachers who are absent and vice-versa, homeowners have to deal with crime and drug-related offenses in their neighborhoods, businesses have to adapt to circumstances where their workers are absent because of preventable physical and mental health problems, and the list goes on and on. These reverberating effects on society reduce the quality of life of many people who had little or nothing to do with the individual who engaged in the self-destructive processes.

The fact of collateral damage from self-destructive behavior shows the importance of empathy when coping with your personal stressors. Being aware of, and sensitive to, the effect of your behavior on the welfare of others, can play a significant role in helping you accept reality and take more responsibility for your actions. Such awareness can also help you include others in your coping plan of action, an inclusion that brings you humility and acceptance of help from others, both of which will increase your odds of success.

How about you? Do you engage in selfishly-motivated actions that bring others down with you? Do your denial patterns and inability to deal with reality infect others who are innocent bystanders? The fact is, coping with stress has significance far beyond your personal betterment. Remember that fact when you seek to enhance your ability to cope with your stressors.

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