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BRENDA: thank you SO much! Your advice is exactly what I need to do. I am amazed how much you “get” me after only exchanging a few messages!… Again, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. You’ve helped me more than a year of therapy sessions! – Megan on space2live
Megan
You’re so honest in your writing. It’s bold. It’s frank. It’s wonderful. I could definitely see the work you are doing here as a useful book. It could save/make a lot of relationships! — Jimmi Langemo
Jimmi Langemo
This is me. This is me from the day I was born. For so long I felt misunderstood and rejected, even by the people closest to me, because they could never understand my need for solitude, and I had no idea how to explain it to them. Even now that I know more about Introversion and have a more informed understanding of my hard-wired need for solitude, it’s still very difficult sometimes to help my loved ones understand this profound craving for time and space all to myself. This is one of the best…
Sharon
your depth of understanding, and talent at sharing it amaze me. Speechless… and for your sharing of it.. Thank you… deeply. *sigh, its like coming back into my body through acceptance….. Sherrie on space2live
Sherrie
For the first time in my life I could truly explain, through your words the way in which I experience life and myself. Brenda… It all fell into place. I had found myself and had such a moment of clarity. It felt like such a big weight was lifted off of my shoulders. Finally I felt like it was ok to be me. I was not the only one. I had found people and a little space where I fit in. … I was at work and crying on the inside. Emotions ran wild inside me. I was ecstatic, sad, confused, motivated, i…
Niko
THANK YOU….. you just summed up my swirling thoughts into something i can read with out everything else in my head meshing with it. I finally feel like i can explain what happens within without getting distracted. I’m an Introvert with ADD and it makes it so hard to explain quite what im feeling sometimes. — M.G. on space2live
M.G.
I have been dating an introverted man who I am very in love with for almost 2 years.  Reading your posts have helped me to be more supportive and understanding to him especially during the times when he needs space.  I just wanted to thank you for your weekly posts and let you know how helpful they are for someone who is in a relationship with an introvert. C.M. on space2live
C.M.
During one of the harder times in my life I found Brenda’s website
and reached out to her. To say the least it has been one of the best
decisions I have made. Being an extrovert I never quite understood
what it meant to romantically involved with an introvert. Brenda does
an incredible job listening, giving in the moment feedback, and helped
me understand the how an introvert functions. She helped explain to me
that I am introspective extrovert, and this gave something to identify
with and allowed me t…
Evan H.
Your site has saved my sanity and my life. Maybe even my marriage. I work part time and have two young boys at home, my husband is supportive of me but until recently I thought I was going crazy. … Reading your writing not only inspires me to pick up the pen again, but gives me nourishment in the deepest places. I will fight for balance. Everything you write is spot on… And wellness is so incredibly multifaceted.  I was ready to give up hope, but understanding myself through your words is bring…
J.K.
I think I want to print out your articles and hand them out as a sort of relationship waiver form. “You want to be my friend?….You are interesting in going out? Here read this first. Sign here to acknowledge that you have read and understand the enclosed material. Thank you.” Seriously. I think it would work. — Guerin Moorman
Guerin Moorman

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Your Coping Strategies: Are They Still Serving You?

As we plunge into the holiday season, I thought it would be a good time to take inventory of our go-to behaviors for relieving stress.

Internal resources

According to Julie M. Simon, LMFT and author of When Food Is Comfort, if we grew up with encouraging nurturing caregivers, we acquire capabilities such as personal competencies and strengths that support our development, bring relief from distress and help us meet life’s challenges.

Some of these capabilities include the ability to: Soothe ourselves, express emotions, perceive others’ emotions, focus, learn, solve problems, ask for help, cooperate with others, feel worthy of relationships, express warmth, delay gratification, have a sense of humor, express creativity and be in tune with our bodies.

Other internal resources also include our talents and natural gifts like playing an instrument or being an excellent reader.

When we don’t believe in our internal strengths

Experiences with caregivers or past loves who let us down consistently, did not tune into our emotions or worse, traumatized us with physical or psychological abuse, make it sometimes difficult to identify and trust our internal resources. Continual criticism, shame, absence or rejection give us a diminished sense of worth. We often resort to other behavior and resources to soothe us.

Survival resources

Survival resources or coping strategies are physical or psychological adaptations that allow us to manage challenging early experiences. They help calm our nervous systems. According to Julie Simon, examples of these resources are:

  1. Running away
  2. Reading a parent’s mood to avoid them when they are angry, drunk, anxious, etc.
  3. Being a good girl or boy and not making waves
  4. Emotionally withdrawing
  5. Adopting a subservient demeanor
  6. Getting good grades and striving for high achievements
  7. Getting angry
  8. Thumb sucking
  9. Rocking back and forth
  10. Escaping into books, movies, programs or games
  11. Using drugs, alcohol or food to comfort ourselves
  12. Cutting
  13. Excessive exercise, shopping, masturbation
  14. Hyper-vigilance: looking out for threatening behavior
  15. Getting into trouble
  16. Withdrawing
  17. Oversleeping
  18. Striving for perfection

Some of the above ways to cope calm us down in chaotic settings. Others rev us up in non-stimulating or depressive settings.

I can own at least six of the survival resources listed. Do you think these strategies are especially common with highly sensitive people? Highly sensitive people are born into this world with above average nervous system reactions. Put us in an insecure parenting or romantic relationship and we are in a double bind. We may resort to these adaptive responses.

To help increase awareness of our behavior, take a moment to list all the coping mechanisms you employ. Consider if they are useful to you today. Hint: Some of them are. The rest may be inhibiting your personal growth.

What can you do to stop using the ones that no longer serve you? List the internal resources that do serve you. Look to develop strength in the those, such as in delayed gratification and creativity. Nothing changes overnight, so prepare to make baby steps every day.

External resources

Beyond the internal resources, we have external resources. They can also help us avoid leaning on unhealthy coping mechanisms. External resources are different from internal and survival resources. These we get from people or things outside of us. They can be relationships, spiritual practices, work, communities, health care and material resources such as money, a home, a car or food to eat.

What external resources give you the ability to manage your emotions? Navigate difficult career decisions? Handle life’s ups and downs?

Noticing coping strategies over the holidays

As the holidays unfold pay attention to the coping strategies you default to when family drama or money stress ensues. Consider the benefits or problems with these survival resources. As a child, you needed them to thrive. Could another resource better support your personal growth now?

Thankful for resource

Writing is a creative internal resource I use weekly. When I share it, it becomes an external resource because it connects me with you, my readers. Since it is the week of Thanksgiving here in the United States, I would like to take a moment to express my gratitude for all of you who read my writing and make me feel less alone. I appreciate your presence in the world and thank you for sharing your time and thoughts with me. May you have many, many blessings in your lives.

Photo by Eugenia Vysochyna on Unsplash Photo by Preslie Hirsch on Unsplash

Top photo courtesy of Pixabay

Yes, it’s that time again. If you’re doing your holiday shopping early, good for you! Don’t forget The Quiet Rise book for the introverts in your life. Non-introverts love it too. It’s the perfect guide for creating healthy interdependent relationships. .

Click the image to purchase.

The Quiet Rise of Introverts

 

 

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6 Comments

  1. J Katz November 27, 2018 at 8:26 am - Reply

    Attempting to soothe/tiptoe around others, to be the ‘good girl’, to strive for perfection and acting subservient- these have been anymong my coping strategies. I’m beginning to see them as counter intuitive though, because they take so much energy to perform even if they provide some degree of safety. Trying to manage others around me by pleasing them is not very restful, more like constantly jumping about while patting my head and rubbing my stomachs!

    I also tend to self-soothe by withdrawing to books and the internet but I’ve been working on being more present especially in group gatherings. The holidays can be overwhelming and I try to balance that with quiet activities- writing in a journal, visiting friends and grandparents one on one, going to see a concert or film or doing some kind of volunteering I find are nice alternatives to big parties and dinner gatherings.

    • Brenda Knowles December 4, 2018 at 2:58 pm - Reply

      You sound like you have a good handle on keeping yourself centered. Acting subservient and people pleasing is exhausting, especially when it does not grant us the peace or respect we hope for.
      I’ve found that being consciously present with others is taxing at first, but often has big payoffs in support and connection that make life richer and even relaxing. Good luck enjoying the holidays at your own pace. Sounds like a great plan!

  2. Michael Buley November 23, 2018 at 7:03 pm - Reply

    “Withdraw” … be alone … lol … I do NOT suck my thumb! Alone remains the safest for me, brief ventures into the company of other people.

    It’s been interesting the last few years. The need for solitude has increased. I think my ability to shield myself from others’ emotions, to not sense where they are, has diminished. So I feel everyone around me. Like a deluge of ‘stimuli,’ I think.

    I can tune into anyone at pretty much any time, in my presence or not. When people are in my presence, it’s the most difficult. I was going to say ‘it’s the worst.’ It’s just difficult. I use the ability to sense other people in the things I create for my work. That’s a huge gift, ability. The flip side is that I’m like this sieve that can’t really stop the energy of people in my space from coming through. Conflict, anger, upset, disappointment, unhappy … those things flow into me.

    It’s why writing is best for me. I can control my intake of what might be written to me. I can control what I send out. Sometimes I can barely stand to read something written to me, fearful that whatever they are writing is angry, disappointed, irritated. Sometimes I only glance briefly at something written to me, and I can feel it without taking it in consciously.

    Weird stuff. Solitude is where I find peace. No thumb sucking! Or most of the other things on the list. I could, and do not, give in to alcohol; have carefully avoided drugs, knowing that they could take hold of me; while I smoke, it’s not excessive.

    • Brenda Knowles December 4, 2018 at 2:54 pm - Reply

      Studies show we get more sensitive as we age. I wonder if your nervous system has been especially primed to be alert to others’ energy/emotions. Have past relationships put you on high alert? There’s no right or wrong about it. I’m just curious. I can understand feeling flooded by others’ emotions. I tend to take on those too. I also flood myself with my own emotions.;) Writing is a nice way to manage what crosses our vision. We determine what we put out and how often we read what is returned. Sometimes, I am remiss in responding to writing (like responding to comments on my posts, doh!).
      The thumb sucking was referring to a coping strategy we may employ in childhood. I am glad to know you do not resort to it now.:) I say embrace solitude as long as it feels beneficial to you. If you start to feel lonely, do something else.
      Thanks for your input and insight my friend.

  3. Ronnie Bellocq November 23, 2018 at 4:01 pm - Reply

    Some of the things listed,overlap other recovery.Thanks for a look at how these can also apply to my Introvertedness,I can embrace Me!

    • Brenda Knowles December 4, 2018 at 2:45 pm - Reply

      Glad you saw the overlap with recovery. That’s a good point I would not have known. Thank you!

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