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Week 10 Reflection Question

See Bee & Bjorkland (5th edition) p. 350. Read the section on coping behaviors. Then thik of a recent problem you have faced. Which of Folkman and Lazurus's ways of coping did you use? Did you use more than one? Explain.


A situation that comes to mind involves everything that happened which prompted me to leave my job. The physician that I worked with was becoming unbearing in her micromanagement style of working with me and she was no longer treating me as a thinking human being. It was frustrating because I felt like there wasn't anything I could do to remedy the situation because of who this person was. I couldn't tell if she was on some kind of power trip or if this was a cultural issue for her. I went to my supervisor and told her about the problems I was having, but because the culture of the area I was working in was to let the physicians do whatever they wanted and behave any way, she didn't do anything. I was stuck.

My coping behavior involved three of the types of coping that Lazarus describes. First my coping was "self-controlling," I held my feelings in because I didn't feel comfortable talking to this physician about the issues. Then I took on "confrontive coping." I started to express anger toward her whenever she treated me in a way that I didn't think was fair. I also coped by "escape-avoidance," where I prayed that a miracle would happen and she would either see how badly she was treating me or something would happen to take me out of that situation. In the end, I took matters into my own hands and look for other jobs. Thankfully, I found one that is not only a huge promotion, but also gives me part time hours so I can stay home with my son twice a week. The frustrating thing about it all though is that because I just left the situation, nothing is going to be done about her behavior. No one can stand up to her, so she is never going to learn that she treats people badly. She is never going to know that I left that job because of HER. I don't want to burn bridges myself and she is a very prominent physician at Mayo, so I have said nothing to her. I am sure this will only continue and the new person will eventually tire of being treated like a second-class citizen as well.

I had a situation recently where a friend said something that really hurt my feelings and made me feel like I was not welcome as a member of a book club. At first I was really quite mad and talked to another good friend about what happened. I talked to her partially to let off "steam" and partly to get advice as to what to do. I guess I would equate this to "seeking social support." (This is probably the coping method I use most often.) The coping examples don't talk about defensiveness - I tend to go through a kind of "blame the other person" phase before I can begin to see my own responsibility in the matter. In this situation, I began to see that I may have overreacted to the situation and I chose to talk to my friend about it just to "check things out". She, of course, reassured me that I misunderstood her. It was resolved after I coped by expressing my feelings (confrontive coping).

The example of "confrontive coping" sounds a little like you are reacting to the situation in not so positive a way. But, I think that confrontive coping can be a very positive exchange if done in a respectful way. I think it is interesting when looking at approach coping versus avoidance coping because I think my pattern may be avoidance coping until I can gain perspective on the situation and then to use some type of approach coping to resolve the issue or bring closure to a problem. An example of this is that I worked in a job for 5 years where I was generally frustrated and usually unhappy. I would come home frustrated, talking poorly about my coworkers, finding all kinds of things about them that made my life miserable. But, it took me a long time to make the decision to leave the position - I needed time to process the situation, realizing that the job fit just wasn't right for me - and to do something about it. In regard to positive reappraisal, I often think about this. There are many times when I have found that I have benefited from a lousy situation - for example, I've been forced to make a change in a situation or in myself as a result of a conflict.

I can not think of a specific incident, but I can think of times I have used most of the coping behaviors. If I am surprised by a comment or situation, I usually can't think of anything to say so I don't say anything & I keep things to myself until I have a chance to process the experience. Then I can decide if it is worth confronting the person about or if I should just refuse to waste my time/energy. I also use avoidance with people I don't like interacting with. Certain personality traits are not going to change just because I don't like them. I am sure there are people who don't like some of my personality traits & I am not going to change to please them. Positive reappraisal is necessary for positive thinking. I have to really "talk to myself" to see that I am better off after an experience. I don't like unpleasant/uncomfortable experiences & would not voluntarily choose them. We are told that the best way to confront someone is with self control. The focus should be on behaviors, not on the person themselves. Of course, one could argue that, in certain situations, if the intensity of the emotion is not seen then it may not be believed.

The problem I'm thinking of is also a work-related one, although it is not that recent -- it occurred a few years ago. I was working for in a temporary position for small company and although I just adored my co-workers, I could not stand my boss. He was condescending, sexist, and rude. What bothered me the most was that he would frequently put down his employees – he’d make not-so-subtle comments about our ideas, our performance with the company, etc. He actually made me feel really bad about my work and my performance, even though my coworkers assured me that I was doing well.

Anyway, from the beginning I used a “self-controlling? coping method, in that I did not let my boss know how I felt about him. However, from the beginning I was also talking to my coworkers and my family about him and the situation, which I would say represents the “seeking social support? coping method. (Like Karen, I think this is the coping method I use most often also.) Shortly after starting working there I realized my coworkers felt the same about the boss… so we “vented? together frequently, and even had some fun doing impersonations of him.

Eventually I could take it no longer, and I confronted him… Well, actually, I quit. But, it felt like a confrontation, because after I quit, he came to talk to me (wanting to know exactly why I was quitting) and I told him. Then he offered me a slightly different position in the company that would allow me to work less with him directly, so I accepted that offer and agreed to stay until the completion of our project. So, perhaps my quitting started out as an “escape-avoidance? technique and turned into a confrontive one…

When I was in this situation I definitely wasn’t thinking “I’ll be better for this someday,? but after the fact I can say that I experienced some positive reappraisal… I think because of the situation I’ve learned to be more confrontive (in a good, problem-solving way) and not to let problems go on so long. And by observing my boss, I learned a lot about how I don’t want to behave at work.

Recently, I was faced with having to dismiss a student from my program for a minor but very real episode of cheating. The problem I faced was that it occurred only 5 weeks prior to graduation from a two year program. Since the program is vocational training, dismissal meant a career ending decision. Because it is a small class, many faculty and all of the student's classmates were aware of the incident, the policies, and the consequence for the infraction. Everyone had an opinion about what ought to be done. I used "social support" and appraisal-focused techniques to get through this incident. I depended heavily on the advice of trusted colleagues as well as analyzing past behaviors of the student. It was difficult to disconnect from the emotional aspect that my decision would affect the student's career. On the pother hand, as the text states, my stress about the decision was really a moot point. The policy has a zero tolerance toward cheating and therefore there was nothing that could be done except to dismiss the student. While I did you these techniques, I still have stress over the decision I made. When I do, I tend to think in terms of the "Positive Reappraisal" technique and tell myself that I came out of the situation having learned something about myself that will prepare me for future situations that might come up.

Oh this is perfect. In March I quit my job and here is how it went.

Seeking social support-I went to my network and said. "I feel stagnate and I am thinking about selling my condo, moving in with my sister, going to the U in Saint Paul full-time but first I am going to study in China for 11 days." They said, "Do it!"

Planful problem solving-I am a J, I listed every possible scenario and line itemed how I could make my dream a reality. Once I felt comfortable with this plan I proceeded to the next stage.

Confrontive Coping-I went to my employer and said after six years it was time for me to move on. I negotiated a termination plan and agreed to resign May 19. I would also assist with hiring and training the new person.

Positive reappraisal-My employer said he appreciated my honesty and they are even throwing me a going away party.

Conclusion: during my six years at the Chamber, I believed I grew tremendously in my psycho-social development. I used to be passive and a victim. After becoming a teacher and having to teach Covey's habits in my curriculum, I have embraced an active and pro-active voice. Expressing what I want and learning to compromise to reach reasonable ground.

Things are pleasant here at work and I am leaving on good terms. It's just time for the next phase.

Dawn Brunn

"Leap and the net will appear." Rumi

I would say that I use all of the different mechanisms depending on what the presenting problem is; although, my first response has always been seeking social support. Whether it is a problem that I will be able to solve by an action or a problem that has no solution I always discuss how to handle it with friends and family. On that note, recently I have been dealing with several family members who have potentially severe health problems; to deal with this I sought support from other members of the family. When it came to time with my friends though, I needed to avoid the situation. In that part of my life avoiding the stressors allowed me to have time to keep from getting depressed about the situation. Dealing with any certain stressor rarely means sticking to one method of coping for me. Usually I will talk to people, find out if I can do anything about it, pursue trying to fix it, then, if that is not possible, I will avoid the situation.

Dawn- I am glad to hear you have foud a positive solution. You are definitely a strong person.


A Very Stressful Weekend that was bombarded with several problems

First stress factor: On Thursday, March 15th, my husband and I discovered that one of our two year old mares was severely injured. She had her hind leg tendon severed from getting caught and cornered in the electric fence and thus panicking. Our local veterinary was called in the next day but the damage to the leg was irreversible. The prognosis was that the mare would never be able to be a riding horse but could recover from the injury and be an addition to our broodmare herd. The medical treatment would consist of rinsing the injury with sterile water from a syringe, applying an ointment and bandaging with a disposable baby diaper and wrapping, along with giving daily antibiotic shots for the next several weeks. This treatment was to be incorporated in with the barn chores done twice daily.

Second stress factor: Our youngest son went on spring break that Friday to San Antonio to visit his girlfriend in the Air Force Reserves. She picked him up at the airport and then checked him into the air base’s visiting quarters. Early Saturday morning, our son calls to tell us that his girlfriend broke up with him and he is stuck on the base. He had a debit and credit card on him but no cash. Not only was he stuck on base but emotionally our son was reaching an all time low in spirit and self esteem. After checking several airlines, an option to get an early flight out of San Antonio was impossible due to spring break traffic.

Third stress factor: Our daughter who lives out by Seattle, Washington calls at 2:30 am on Sunday morning to tell me that her husband and her got in a big fight and possibly separating after one year of marriage. She had been sick over the weekend and her husband’s anger flared up from other stress factors in their lives; new home construction, a new baby and a new job. He left the house and was coming back later to discuss what direction they should take.

Fourth stress factor: My workload for the past six months has been hectic due to a change in reduction of staff. Duties had been added to my slate and to one of my co-workers so tension to get everything done on time was always present. I had taken some of the my work home to complete over the weekend.

Fifth stress factor: After Sunday morning service at church, my pastor notifies me that the new church secretary is having personality and communications problems with the former secretary who is having a hard time letting go of her job duties. As the Staff Parish Relations Committee Chair, my committee would have to address this issue and come up with an amicable way of creating harmony.

Sixth stress factor: My mother-in-law who has been a widow for a year, left for two months to visit my brother-in-law in Arkansas. I was asked to water the plants and check her mail while she was gone, which at the time seemed very minor.

Now faced with having all these factors in one weekend, my body was dealing with putting out a lot of fires. It ended up being a major blood pumping experience for me. If I had to rate all this stress on the Holmes and Rahe Social Readjustment Rating Scale, the number of points assigned to me would have to be in the 200’s. Other factors added into it like lack of sleep, bad eating habits, lack of exercise & relaxation time.

How did I cope? I used the approach coping of appraisal-focused strategy for the injured horse. Since both my husband and I went over the medications and had done the treatment together, I knew what needed to be done. My sense of control was strong at that time but I knew that I would need some outside help with the antibiotic shot once my husband had to go back to work. Since he can be gone from home up to seven days at a time, I started to make contacts with neighbors and friends that could help me out.

Shortly after putting that fire out, our son being stranded needed to be addressed. I felt that I used my problem-focused coping strategy for that situation. My husband was scheduled to be back at work on Monday and had the weekend off. After some discussion, thinking and feeling for our son’s despair, it was decided that my husband would check to see if he could get on a jump seat (a seat available in the cockpit for pilots only) to San Antonio and spend some time with our son since he could not fly back before Tuesday. My husband is retired military so he could get on the air base and spend some time showing our son (who was actually born in San Antonio) some of the places we used to live and give him some uplifting family support. I would handle the problems on the farm.

My husband was already on his way to San Antonio when I received the phone call from my daughter. No way could I get back to sleep after receiving her distressful call and food binging was a way to cope at least temporarily with this stress. I started to call my mom, one of my sisters and a good friend seeking social support as my coping mechanism. I wasn’t sure what to do since it was a bad time for me to leave the farm because of chores and an injured horse, having to keep up with my mother-in-law’s things while she was away and dealing with the workload from my job. My sense of self control was slipping away. I had to let my daughter know that I was her support from afar but that I was not able to come in person. As it turned out, she was able to seek additional social support from her friends and resolve the argument issues with her husband.

Thinking that the Sunday church service would be a time for reflection and spiritual strength, I was faced with a new stress. The pastor expressed concerns about the training of the new secretary and the secretary who was leaving the post. The church staff dispute needed to be address as soon as possible so I coped with planful problem solving. I contacted another committee member and set up a meeting with those involved and had an open forum to get things out in the open that were causing conflict. It helped relieve the tension and staff was able to move on with the training of duties.

There were times over the weekend where I felt emotion-focused to cope with some of my stress by crying or feeling frustration but I knew I had to keep going. My chest was experiencing some pain but I took a few minutes to take deep breaths and try to relax if only for a moment. Positive reappraisal came from the whole experience but I hope that I don’t have another weekend like that one!

Kathy, wow, that was quite a weekend! I'm glad that everything seemed to work out in the end. In the curriculum I teach, we talk about how one stressful event can cause other, unrelated problems--it's like bad luck attracts other bad luck. We also talk a lot about what needs to be done to break a cycle of stressful events. This is one of the most beneficial lessons for my students, quite likely because most of them have resorted solely to violence to cope.
Myself, I could think of a time that I used each of the coping behaviors outlined in the book. That said, I almost always go to "seeking social support" before considering any of the others. Whether I'm going to ignore a situation or make a plan, I always talk to at least 1 other person first. It's not that I need others to make my decisions, but I do value their input and like to get other viewpoints before I jump into something.

For me the problems that require coping skills the most are personal. When I was young I was trained by my boss to leave personal issues outside and not bring them to work. Dale Carnegie training did the rest. Now small problem need the most coping sometimes. My freind likes me to babysit for his grandchildren. He wants them safe and can't always leave his business to be there. His ex-wife has made comments to his children about me. I make light of the situation by distancing myself. I have discussed the situation openly with my freind and he is glad that his grandchildren like me. We did plan how and where I will babysit until he can close his business and get home to babysit himself. Although this seems like a small problem it does create conflict that my be only apparent in a divorce situation.

Somewhat recently, my mother was hospitalized with a lung infection. Although everyone who loves her had urged her to seek treatment, she waited almost six month to see a doctor. She was immediately hospitalized and put in ICU where she remained for almost a month.
It was evident that the doctors had no idea what the cause of the infection was. She was kept in isolation due to their uncertainness.
For the six months leading up to her hospitalization, I used several coping strategies. First, I sought social support from a doctor who was also a friend. I researched information to share with my mother, trying to persuade her to go to the doctor. Feeling helpless, I confronted my mom. First trying to make her feel guilty, saying things like, “Can’t you see how worried Dad is?? and “If I was this sick, you would drag me to the doctor and tell how irresponsible I am.? I then tried anger. “You are really being selfish, causing everyone who loves you to worry like this!? I was desperate.
Once she was in ICU, planful problem solving mixed with self-controlling kicked in. I unconsciously made a plan to become the positive caregiver to my mom, going each day after work to make sure was being taken good care of and monitoring any changes. From there, I would go see dad to see how he was and to make sure he understood what the doctors were telling him. (Dad was freaking out and was really a mess without mom). I intentionally kept a tight lid on my own feelings as I knew that there where others who needed me to be there for them. Fortunately, mom returned home after a month and has been in good health ever since.

Talking about the stock exchange is always interesting and enlightening. I'll wait for the next posting. Thank you.

I was suggested this blog by my cousin. I am not sure whether this post is written by him as no one else know such detailed about my trouble. You're wonderful! Thanks!

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