A Memoir of Vietnam and Its Aftermath
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Help When You Need It Most…

If you are facing Fearful Odds, many professional organizations can provide support and assistance. Recognizing the need is the first step.

Resources
File NameSize (KB)Download
2014 Aug 19 Combat Stress Article.pdf864
Psychology Today.pdf205
Rising Number of Veterans Seek Help Decades After War part 1.pdf207
Rising Number of Veterans Seek Help Decades After War part 2.pdf61

Coping Mechanisms vs. Defense Mechanisms

Understanding the difference between “coping mechanisms” and “defense mechanisms” is essential in the treatment of PTSD. For most of my life, I have used these terms interchangeably, however they are not. In psychiatric terms, there is a clear distinction:

Coping Mechanism: an adaptation to environmental stress that is based on conscious or unconscious choice and that enhances control over behavior or gives psychological comfort.

Defense Mechanism: an unconscious process, as denial, that protects an individual from unacceptable or painful ideas or impulses.

Throughout this journey, I employed my own defense mechanisms to deal with post-traumatic experiences. These were all generally positive pursuits, relating to my family activities, my business and my gardens. Despite appearances to the contrary, I was often unconsciously going through the motions that had become familiar to me which inhibited any progress that I was making.

What I have learned from Fearful Odds is that there are positive coping mechanisms also referred to as “strategies” and “skills” that can be employed to deal with post-traumatic events to reduce stress levels, enhance control, and consciously adapt to the situation in real time.

I hope you will find the following list of coping mechanisms helpful.

  • Professional counseling & therapy
  • Writing. Journals. Music. Creative pursuits as healthy diversions.
  • Live more in the present. Verbalize thoughts and inner conversations. Recognize that the conversation is occurring in your head and get it out.
  • Understand the difference between “Coping Mechanisms” and “Defense Mechanisms”. Invest time and resources in positive pursuits and work that brings pleasure, but not to excess or as a means of blocking out feelings.
  • Discussion groups – not for everyone. Avoid isolation.
  • Rebuild personal relationships with those that are possible. Let go of the rest.
  • Study cognitive behavior therapy to understand triggers and coping mechanisms
  • Recognize toxic individuals and environments. Learn to manage both immediate and long term impact of these experiences.
  • Create 2 positive thoughts for every negative one; then 3:1; 4:1, etc.
  • Exercise and work to improve personal skills on a regular routine. Breathing exercises. 4-7-8
  • Develop and explore new hobbies. Be social. Engage in activities with other people. Take risks in this area.
  • Expand charitable work but be comfortable to allow others to be in charge. Volunteer at a school, church or food bank
  • Spend quality time with pets – a great resource for unconditional love.
  • Understand partners & family member needs. Reply as a mentor not as if it is a threat. Project sincere, positive attitude.
  • 50 smiles a day.
  • Initiate your own intervention. Ask for understanding. Inform and educate.
  • Recognize that the future depends on settling with the past.
  • Maintain a daily log of elements that do not fit into a coping mechanism category. Once these thoughts are routinely listed, they tend to leave your consciousness.