black man inquisitive

When we struggle, we make adaptations to our personalities and our behavior to get through the discomfort. I’ve previously written about coping strategies. They generally develop because we need more attention or less pain from our primary caregivers and family members.

We may learn to be a people-pleaser or extra nice so as not to upset our alcoholic mother. We may become self-reliant at an early age because our parents are not reliable resources for care.

Is this trait good or bad?

Often we evaluate our coping mechanisms as positive or negative. Some people might say stubbornness is negative and being a workaholic is positive, but Matt Brauning (Neurolinguistic Programmer (NLP) and author) says our adaptations are neither positive or negative but only useful or not useful in different contexts.

NLP is a method that helps alter our patterns, beliefs and thoughts. Tony Robbins famously practices it.


Getting back to our stubbornness and workaholism examples, we can see how it is possible for these traits to be useful in one context and not useful in another. For instance, a child who steadfastly refuses to listen to any guidance their parents offer, uses their stubbornness in an unhelpful/not useful way. A child who refuses to let the school bully sway her opinion or push her around uses mulishness to her advantage.

Workaholics tend to achieve. Our culture reveres the busy and productive person, therefore workaholism serves as a useful adaptation in the career world. Meanwhile, family life may suffer as we toil away long hours at the office or lab or station. Our long hours may not feel useful to our family’s desire for closeness but they may provide financial security. It’s important to see our coping mechanisms in many lights.

Positive narratives heal

Finding ways to employ our adaptations, helps us make lemonade from lemons. We create a positive narrative for our lives from a situation that originally caused us pain.

Think about how you have shaped yourself to receive attention and avoid pain. How are those adaptations useful or not useful in different contexts.

What adaptations serve as useful? Not so useful? Where do they work? Where do they not work?

My work schedule precludes me from writing long form posts. I plan to continue my weekly posts but they may be shortened. I still intend to give you thoughts and ideas to chew on. Perhaps a new way to look at things or an insight you need. It’s important to me to keep our connection. 🙂

Photo by Ayo Ogunseinde on Unsplash