Coping and Copers: What It Is to Cope, Personalities, and Effective and Non-Effective Coping Strategies

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  • Topic: Emotion, Personality psychology, Coping skill
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Coping and Copers: What it is to Cope,
Personalities, and Effective and Non-effective Coping Strategies
Kerry Williams
Psychology of Stress
The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand

Coping and Copers: What it is to Cope,
Personalities and Effective and Non-effective Coping Strategies
This essay discusses coping, a complex process exercised by people to suppress, change, or eliminate stress or threat. This essay also discusses copers, that is, people who exhibit certain personality characteristics, known as distress resistant personality patterns, which can significantly influence whether they stay healthy or become ill. Also covered are coping strategies, -strategies people draw upon to solve life’s stressors, some effective, while others are ineffective and often result in causing ill health.

Coping is viewed as a process used to reduce or eliminate stressors or threats. Coping is an approach, or set of strategies, used to ease, change, or eliminate unpleasant emotions or situations. Coping is the way people respond to a problem that causes stress.

Schafer (2000) defines coping as a response, which reflects the way a person thinks, behaves, and the way they negotiate demands. Weisman (1979) as cited in (Miller, 2000) defines coping as the way a person resolves a problem, that results in release, reward, serenity, and balance. A psychoanalysis perspective refers to coping as a stable personality-based response that corresponds to a person’s emotional and behavioural modes (Miller, 2000). Lazarus and Folkman (1984) as cited in (Miller, 2000) view coping as emotional and behavioural processes, involving the way an individual assesses, encounters, and recuperates from a stressful situation. In all definitions, the coping response constantly changes and shifts, which determines how the person reacts and adapts to an event or to the people they are dealing with.

There are three stages in which people cope (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984) as cited in (Schafer, 2000). The first stage, primary appraisal, relates to how a person perceives an event (e.g., threatening or irrelevant), which is formed by the persons knowledge and experience about themselves and the situation. If the situation is assessed as unimportant or insignificant, the coping process ends. However, if the event is deemed as threatening, the coping process continues into the next phase, called the secondary appraisal stage. In this stage the individual assesses all available resources which include beliefs about the self and environmental, their problem solving skills, available social support, and how much control or influence they have over the situation. The individual will also take into account past experiences and look at a number of different options that will provide them with a satisfactory outcome. The final phase, called coping, relates to the individuals course of action, which may also involve situational or cognitive changes (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984) as cited in (Schafer, 2000).

Being able to tackle life’s struggles and stressors can be largely influenced by a number of factors. One in particular, personality, in terms of appraisal, attitude, and behaviour, can guard or protect from distress and illness, when faced with clustered change (Schafer, 2000). When under stress, a person’s enduring personality traits significantly influence whether they stay healthy or become ill. For example, in a study by Suls, Green, and Hills (1998, as cited in Westen et al., 2006) participants were asked to record their moods and events of the day, in a daily diary. Participants who were higher in neuroticism, (i.e., the inclination to experience more negative emotions such as depression or anxiety), reported more daily problems, were more reactive to stressors, and were more distressed by bad things that happened to them.

According to Schafer (2000) and Westen et al. (2006) individuals with Type B personalities behave in a...
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