Californian psychology professor and stress researcher, Richard
S. Lazarus, defines coping as cognitive and behavioural efforts
to manage specific external or internal demands (and conflicts
between them) that are appraised as taxing or exceeding the resources
of the person.
Coping is synonymous with efforts to gain control over a situation.
Coping is dependent on our resources: health, energy, outlook on
life, engagement, ability to solve problems, social skills, social
support and material resources.
Lazarus distinguishes between eight different adaptation areas,
called coping strategies, which we use (consciously or unconsciously)
when faced with a problem.
1. Confrontational coping.
This strategy involves fighting back against difficulties or opposition.
During crises or problems, you say: "This problem is not going
to get the better of me, I will prevail".
This strategy is simply the expectation that the problem will resolve
itself. You do nothing, even though the problem is known.
3. Outward emotional coping.
This strategy involves talking about your problem with others -
expressing your feelings and experiences in relation to the problem.
4. Inward emotional coping.
This strategy involves keeping everything to yourself. The advice
and guidance of others would just be distracting and make it
difficult to make choices and decisions. You do not want to share
your feelings with others.
5. Responsible coping.
This strategy involves careful reflection. What have I done wrong,
and how can I avoid doing this in the future?
6. Irresponsible coping.
This strategy involves complete denial that there is a problem.
7. Intellectual coping.
This strategy involves careful examination of possible solutions
after a thorough analysis of the problem. Clear goals are defined,
and the barriers that might impede attempts to achieve a solution
are considered. The same mistake is rarely made twice.
8. Hope-oriented coping.
This strategy involves believing in and hoping for the best. It
is based on a very optimistic and positive attitude to life.
Positive feelings influence the coping processes in three different
1. They create a kind of breathing space, allowing us to take
a break from the need for adaptation.
2. Positive feelings such
as hope and positive expectation serve as supporting elements in
3. Positive feelings have a restorative effect.
They help to heal psychological strain.
Hardiness: commitment, control and challenge
American psychologist, Susan Kobasa Quellette, has extended the
concept of internal locus of control by introducing the concept
of hardiness. Hardiness is a mixture of the internal locus of control,
and a person's quest for challenges and a deep and focused participation.
This participation involves the perception that you identify with
and are actively involved in the events, things and people in your
surrounding world. It also leads to a self-perception that permits
you to recognise inner aspects of yourself and hence to sense your
own feelings more accurately. All this should help promote a more
appropriate self-adjustment in problem situations.
The most important consequence of hardiness is that you view difficult
events as challenging instead of threatening, and controllable
instead of uncontrollable. Hardiness involves overcoming difficulties
by flexible adaptation, gaining control over new situations and
Coping with an insoluble problem
We can sometimes suffer from a physical or psychological problem
that we cannot solve, at least for the present. We can then end
up focusing an unreasonable proportion of our awareness on the
burden, compared to all the positive values in our life. In order
to reduce the burden, you can think about the precise nature
of the burden (possibly write this down) and compare it with
the positive things in your life.
A positive result from such an assessment can be graphically
illustrated as shown below:
Henry Dreher: The immune power personality, A Dutton Book, Penguin
Books Ltd., 1995.
Richard S. Lazarus & Susan Folkman: Stress, appraisal, and
coping, Springer, New York, 1984.
Richard S. Lazarus: Emotion & adaptation, Oxford University