On Coping Mechanisms

Tonight I watched the movie Precious.

Though I’d read the book it’s based on (Push), I wasn’t quite sure what to expect in the cinematic version.

The book had been very graphic and complex and difficult to get through at times.

Though I read it in one night back in January, I cried and wanted to throw things when reading it — the injustices are just sickening.

I was not disappointed by the film, but, like the book, it certainly wasn’t easy to get through. I mean … how much can one woman be put through?!

If you’re not familiar with the story, it’s about a poor, obese, 16-yr old African-American girl from Harlem who is physically and sexually abused by both parents; bears two children from her own father; is force-fed; and is more or less illiterate until she starts attending an alternative school and falls under the wing of her ABC teacher, Ms. Rain.

The way Precious copes with being taunted, teased, beaten, raped … is by blocking it all out and envisioning herself as a super-star … a glamorous woman commanding the attention of men from the stage or the red carpet.

She literally cuts her  thoughts away from whatever heinous crime being committed against her and pictures this perfect world in which no harm can occur.

While I’ve never experienced the atrocities Precious did, as someone who suffers from anxiety issues, I couldn’t help but find her coping strategies admirable. Even in the most incomprehensible of situations, Precious was able to override those atrocities being done to her and seek something bigger, better, more appetizing to get her through the moment.

Though I wouldn’t dare compare my own disordered eating issues or anxiety issues to those Precious dealt with, you can see how valuable that coping mechanism was for her, and there are lessons to be learned.

It allowed her to get out of whatever uncomfortable position she was in and put her in control — in situations where she had no control.

What she did — “overriding” — is something I learned about in therapy … I try to remember to do it, but I don’t always succeed. (And example of overriding one a DE scale would be wanting to buy Chex mix but overriding the impulse and saying “no;” focusing on something else I could do instead).

After seeing this film, I have a new appreciation for the act of overriding. I’m not dealing with anything nearly as complex or challenging as Precious ever did, but I can learn a lot from her and it was a good refresher that if she could cope with hell on earth — quite literally — I can cope with Chex mix, so to speak.

If you haven’t seen the movie, I strongly recommend it — it’s social commentary to the nth degree and, I feel, a must-see film. I’d also recommend the book.

Gabourey Sidibe (who I blogged about here) and Monique were absolutely incredible and deserving of every accolade bestowed upon them. I’d love to know your thoughts about the book/film.

How about you? What are your coping mechanisms for anxiety? Distress? Do you think Precious’s coping mechanisms were healthy?


12 thoughts on “On Coping Mechanisms

  1. Excellent post, Melissa! I have the book on my “to get” list – hopefully soon! And then will see the movie after that. As far as coping mechanisms, I don’t really have any. I have major issues with anxiety and have never really learned to deal with them, except to use avoidance until things just have to be dealt with – not very healthy!

    1. Thanks, Pam. Therapy helped me a lot, but I still have work to do — that said, it’s a great first step to dealing with anxiety — learning new coping mechanisms. Often for me, blogging/writing is a good coping mechanism and a healthy one, at that.

  2. Precious’ coping mechanism could be considered “dissociation” which is common in people experiencing trauma, abuse, etc. It is the mind’s way of “escaping” the horrible reality. It probably does get people through these horrible situations. I loved the movie despite how disturbing it was.
    I have dealt with actual anxiety/panic disorder over the years and what helped me was cognitive/behavioral type stuff along with relaxation and breathing techniques and distraction (reading, calling a friend, taking a walk, etc) I recently started yoga and while I am not in a “high anxiety” time now I can see how it would be very helpful as well adn wish I would have done it back when I was really suffering.

  3. It’s unfortunate, but I cope by projecting my emotions onto my body image and use food/exercise to control when I can’t control anything else. Life gets so out of hand. I’m so glad to have blogging as a place to admit that. We all struggle with something

    1. Katherine, sometimes we just need that escape place — and if writing is therapeutic, it’s a good thing. Hopefully you (and I) will get to the place where it’s beyond food/exercise and we can cope in other ways. We do all struggle sometimes, and being honest about those struggles is half the battle.

    2. That is how my ED started, using body image/food restiction so I wouldn’t have to deal with what was really going on.

  4. WOW. Isn’t that a sobering reminder, huh? GREAT post. I definitely need to see the movie for myself – what you blogged about here is SUCH a good reminder that perspective is everything, isn’t it?

  5. Interesting on the overriding – I hadn’t thought of it put into that term before. But it really is a similar concept no matter what you struggle with.

    I just read the book and plan to see the movie as soon as my Netflix queue will allow. I remember reading and thinking “Wow, Precious does so much with so little – what is my excuse?” I’m interested to see how the movie plays out. I imagine I’ll have an even more visceral reaction to all the injustice.

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