Written 10/30/12: Your reactions to Hurricane Sandy, here on the East Coast, and to other challenging situations in life reveal your default coping style.
What’s your hurricane coping style?
Are you someone who goes with the drama? If so, all the world is your stage! You will find plenty to work with, even more than in all the everyday situations that you pump up for dramatic effect.
Are you someone who finds the cloud in front of every silver lining? If so, you’ll find plenty of material: out of water, no power, possibly out of your home, things falling from the sky, and the sky falling, too.
Are you someone who doesn’t feel alive without taking risks? Oh, you’re the person walking around during the hurricane last night, dodging trees blowing off terraces, or walking to the East River in time to see the transformer explode!
Are you someone who never plans in life, so that you haven’t bought non-perishable food, candles, and drinking water to tide you over in case you lose power and water?
Camping, but with comfortable beds
In talking with patients who called in for sessions on my old-fashioned corded phone that I have for situations in which we have no power, I’ve heard all of the above styles. Luckily, no one in my practice lost their home, had significant damage, or was injured. So I’m writing from the standpoint of inconvenience, not tragedy. One patient found comfort in my framing my family’s situation (no power and no elevator, no water, up on the top floor of a high-rise) as “camping, but with comfortable beds.” We’re planning some old-fashioned boardgame tournaments by candlelight tonight, cooking food from the freezer before it goes bad using the gas stovetop, and eating our favorite snack foods. We feel lucky to have our windows intact and to be able to stay in our home, instead of having to evacuate.
In hurricanes, and life, “freaking out” doesn’t help!
After watching the balconies across the street fall, narrowly missing pedestrians who were out in the storm last night, my teenage daughter asked what we would do if we had been in the position of having our balconies fall (not an issue, since we don’t have a balcony!). I replied that there’d be no point in freaking out, just taking care of whatever needs to be done: making sure no one was hit by the falling objects, calling the wonderful insurance agent who handles our homeowner’s policy (thanks, Gregg Knepper of Integrated Coverage Group!), and cleaning up whatever we could manage. Whatever happens, you just do what you can. The freaking out and drama are, thankfully, optional and just get in the way. This is an important life lesson for riding out hurricanes and any other of life’s many challenges.
If your default coping style gets in the way of dealing with Hurricane Sandy and other natural disasters, as well as more ordinary challenges, therapy can help you learn to cope more productively and find the joy in everyday life! If you’d like to learn more, reach out to me here. I look forward to speaking with you.