4 Ways We Don't Realize We Suck at Coping With Adversity
The human condition is not just a song by musical circus Jhameel, it's something by which we're all afflicted all the time, like scurvy on a pirate ship or crabs after a Vegas weekend. What makes it interesting is that we're so very unaware of our humanity from day to day, seeing as it's just the necessarily human way we live our lives. We do things without question, we have reactions without consideration as to why we do them, and we let ourselves get all swept up in being certain ways that, individually, we rarely notice about ourselves.
One of the most ridiculous ways we do this is in facing adversity. When the world kicks our ass, we let it. Hard. And we never even notice. Next time you're feeling that you're standing in front of the fan as shit gets ladled into it by an industrial-size spoon, see if this is how you're reacting to it.
The absolute worst thing about this method of confronting adversity is that we're actually taught to do it. We present it to others in a comforting way, in fact, and we try to internalize it. Here's a fine example -- say you have a job at Old Navy. All day every day, you make people buy mediocre clothing, and life is pretty alright. Then your hours get cut drastically, because people only need so many hoodies, and as a result you're pretty sure you won't get to go away this summer, paying your bills is going to become a real hardship, and you're worried you might need to find a cheaper place.
This is a pretty serious issue. Now of course there are numerous ways to deal with and fix this problem, but your gut reaction to it is what? For a lot of people, after the initial "Fuck you, you Old Navy ass bandits!" they'll seek solace in something like "Well, at least I didn't get fired" or "There's plenty of people who can't afford any kind of home" and so on and so forth. It's the count-your-blessings approach to dealing with bad news. Sure, you got skin cancer, but the guy down the hall had his dick bitten off by a wolf that was on fire.
Oh, the beast was ravenous for dicks it was!
No one likes a whiner, and no one wants to see you shut down like an organic vegan burger joint in Chicago when things get tough, but by the same token, be pissed off. If you get fucked, you don't have to say thank you and offer the fucker a napkin. Things could be worse, yes, but that doesn't mean things are good. Anything could be worse. Flaming-Wolf-Bait Dick could have had someone jam a Thermos of bleach up his ass at the same time, but you don't expect him to be thinking that and getting back to work.
At its core, making something trivial is a coping mechanism. It's like telling kids that bullies are just afraid on the inside. What a load of horseshit that is, but we tell it to the kid who gets his face dunked in a toilet every day in the hopes he'll take some comfort from knowing that Brutus in third period Spanish wasn't actually forged in the devil's womb and has real humanity and weakness, too. It's a way to fit yourself on a scale and not be on the very bottom of it. Cosmically, you're making your cup half full, because if you have to deal with literally being in the worst place ever, you're going to cry until you die of dehydration. Not that that stops some people ...
The exact opposite of trivializing your troubles is amplifying them. It's much nicer to deal with people who trivialize things because they're upbeat, if nothing else. Those who amplify them are like a black morass of despair. They stub a toe and will tear their shoes and socks from their feet before your eyes, lifting their afflicted and palsied digit to the heavens as though sacrificing it to the very God who betrayed them in a desperate attempt to understand and ameliorate their terrible pain.
Most people are guilty of this to some degree; you'll find yourself doing it when you get overwhelmed, and it's often why people hate the holidays. You have to travel, clean up, buy gifts, cook a turkey, get the whole house prepared, deal with family, and try not to drink all the scotch, and by the time your relatives show up, you want to remove their faces with concentrated acid for making your life the equivalent of a colonoscopy performed by a jittery monkey with a webcam on the end of a broomstick. Is that how bad things really are? Let's hope not, because if so, you need a vacation. But it can feel that way.
"Just relax, Jerry, let's see what's going on down here."
On the day to day, you'll find these same people bemoaning every tiny inconvenience they face in a way that makes you never want to deal with them again. Ever see someone in a grocery store literally shout obscenities at a cashier because they couldn't use an expired coupon? This is the kind of trogg I mean, a person for whom 30 cents off Sunny Delight is a serious life event and being denied it has caused them to lose any modicum of decency and just go full fucktard on some kid who clearly has his own shit to deal with.
Bad shit happens in life, and when it piles up, it feels like the universe itself is conspiring against it. It's the realization that the universe doesn't care about us that really gets you through. Basically it's a sign of terribly misplaced ego to get so wound up about things that are not earth-shattering, because who the fuck are you that you need a closer parking space, or that driving behind a cyclist ruins your day because you were going to do what, perform brain surgery in half an hour? It's understandable if you start losing faith in life itself if your cat dies on the same day everyone in your family falls into a volcano and you get diagnosed with leprosy, but those big kicks in the ass are few and far between. Those are times when you can lose your shit and no one blames you. On smaller issues, maybe just a hint of sanity is in order. Or else this happens ...
Being Defined by It
Do you know any losers? Like total, full-on sad sacks? They may be friends or relatives, and you don't want to be mean and call them that, but the fact is they seem to court failure and morbid depression the way Shakespearean heroes courted underage girls.
Into everyone's life a little rain must fall, but these people have that constant cloud overhead keeping them wet and downtrodden, and it seems like nothing will ever fix it. And the longer you hang out with them and interact with them, the more you realize that their position in life seems to be a solid 30 percent bad luck and 70 percent self-inflicted bullshit.
"Once I master Pong, I'll figure out employment."
The people who choose, consciously or not, to be defined by their own adversity are the sorts of people who are chronically unemployed or underemployed. Their go-to phrase is "Well, in this economy ..." or something similar, but they haven't updated their resume since Bush Sr. was in office, or they apply to jobs online that maybe three people in the country are even qualified to fill, and when you confront them about why they don't apply to the five places down the street that are hiring, they claim the hours are too hard to manage, or the pay is too low, or the work is beneath them. When the choice is between not working at all and working at any damn place at all that pays and doesn't require you to fellate strangers, there is no work that is beneath you. Not if you're serious.
Unfortunately, the stunning lack of motivation and wallowing in self-pity that defines these people creates an Iron Man-like veneer that is pretty impenetrable. No one wants to hear that their patheticness is their own fault, so they won't hear it. Or if they do, they add it to their shitty cocoon made of ways the world is beating them down. They don't have a job, plus their friends are mean to them. Life sucks.
I have little evidence to back me up, but I suspect that a large part of religion and the idea of karma are firmly rooted in the idea that you need to take what you get in life and like it. For whatever reason, people dislike that which has no explanation; disorder is unappealing to the human mind. That's why we see faces in clouds -- we try to find something that makes sense in things that don't make sense. So in the grand scheme of things, in the way the universe works, we want order. We created God. And this doesn't even imply that I think there is no creator -- how the hell would I know, look at what I do for a living. I'm not qualified to account for the creation of reality; I barely qualify for credit. But the God of man, a God who demands that you not eat fish one day of the week, or that women not drive cars, or that you avoid bacon, that's something a man made up to control another man. A lot of them, in fact.
As a byproduct of our creating a fairly petty representation of the creator of the universe, we ascribe this being a lot of petty human characteristics, chief among them being what would best be described as a schizo penchant for assholery. When a flood rolls in, who gets blamed? God. Someone gets shot accidentally during a drive-by? It's part of God's plan. An asshole flies a plane into a building, and he did it for his God. That's a lot of people assuming that the universe and everything in it across trillions of light-years and billions of years of history is being run by a fucking doucher. Don't be offended by that. In fact, I refuse to let you be offended by that if you're a religious type. I'm not saying that any real God is that way. I'm saying that this dick God people invoke all the time is that way. And in invoking this dick God, we just accept terrible things. After all, who's fighting the almighty?
"I'm coming down on this beam of light to put my foot in your ass."
There's a degree of comfort, I suppose, to be drawn from the idea that a tragedy is part of a bigger, better plan -- God and his mysterious ways. But it's also a crutch. It's a way of shrugging off having to deal with real issues, and, a lot of the time, it's not fair. Sometimes shit happens; that's what that bumper sticker means. It's hard for people to accept, though, too hard for some people, and that's how you end up in a world where people refuse life-saving medical procedures because God will save them if that's his plan. But come on, what if his plan was to work a miracle through Dr. House and you just fucked it by not going to the hospital? What if he didn't even make plans today because he runs an entire universe full of billions of worlds and your flash in the pan existence literally couldn't possibly mean anything to him, so he's off playing skeeball today?
What if the universe was created by and exists within a force of nature so unknowable and foreign to the human mind that it not only exists beyond thought and emotion, but functions as existence itself? Life happens because it is existing. The way your very cells divide totally without your influence, so too do worlds come into and out of existence in this being simply as a function of its existence. It has no motivation to know you or influence you in any way whatsoever. If that's the case, dealing with tragedy by blaming it on this force would be a total cop-out and just as sensible as blaming it on beavers. You wouldn't expect a beaver to provide for you, would you? Yeah.