Lesson of the Week

Coping well: I can face and deal well with problems

You can deal with the untidy, disordered, confusing, embarrassing, jumbled, or messy situations of the day.  Choose a salutary system of removal — that of coping well.

A new mother discovered each day generated more soiled diapers, dirty dishes, unpaid bills, and all the other responsibilities of raising a family.  So what did she do?  She coped.  She didn’t put all the stuff in a backpack and carry it around with her.  She figured out a way to clean up and remove the messes.  Coping well means sustaining order and letting go of those things that are not salutary.

Likewise, success on your mission depends on how well you can cope with the untidy, disordered, confusing, embarrassing, jumbled, or messy situations of the day.  Virginia Satir wrote, “Life is not what it’s supposed to be.  It’s what it is.  The way you cope with it is what makes the difference.”  Virginia Satir is the author of the book, Peoplemaking (1972).  Her idea is that the presenting issues in life or reason why people say they have problems is quite often not the problem at all. She wrote, “Problems are not problems.  Coping is the problem.”   Coping means dealing with the issue.

Another example of coping is found in the children’s story about a bear, Winnie the Pooh.  Winnie the Pooh grabbed a bunch of helium balloons and was carried up into the air.  Winnie called for help.  Christopher Robin came with his popgun and shot Winnie.  Winnie the Pooh screamed to Christopher Robin, “Don’t shoot me, shoot the balloons.”  Christopher shot the balloons and Winnie came safely back down to earth.  Coping means targeting the problem not something else.

Two thousand years ago, a story was told about a farmer.  An enemy came and sowed weed seeds in the farmer’s wheat field.  The farmer knew exactly what to do.  He waited until the weeds were discernable, harvested the weeds and the wheat together, and then separated them out.  If the farmer had tried too early to remove the weeds, he would have also killed the wheat.  Coping means waiting and thoughtfully dealing with the situation.

All the stories are practically applied in the following true account. One day a man bullied a woman and her child.  The woman became incensed.  This was not a tidy picture, but a mess.  She knew the problem was not the problem.  Coping was the real problem.  She used this line of thinking to cope well with the situation:

1.  Coping means sustaining order and letting go of upheaval: She recognized bullying was like the poopy diaper.  She didn’t have to carry around the stinky residue of the problem all day, she could figure out a way to remove the problem.

2.  Coping means dealing with the issue:  She learned from Virginia Satir that the issue was not the issue.  The real issue at this point was her own anger and hatred.  She would have to cope with that first and she did.  This would free her emotional self centeredness to work towards doing something about the bully.

3.  Coping means targeting the problem, not something else:  She worked with the bully to help him realize some of his behaviors were hurting the neighborhood.  He was able to differentiate bullying from being a good neighbor.  For instance, he maintained a beautiful yard.  Therefore, the intervention focused only on the bullying behavior.

4.  Coping means waiting and thoughtfully dealing with the situation:  At the right time, the woman worked with the neighbor and the bullying stopped.

Coping well is essential to a successful mission.  When untidy, disordered, confusing, embarrassing, jumbled, or messy situations occur in your day, find a way to both face and deal effectively with these problems.  You and your mission will thrive.


Problems are not the problem; coping is the problem.

- Virginia Satir, Educator, author, the "Mother of Family Therapy"


Activity:  What are you carrying in your backpack?

Materials:  Paper and pen or pencil

Time:  Ten minutes to write and ten minutes per person to discuss


1.  Pretend you are wearing a backpack full of all your problems.  What would be in that backpack?  Make a list of these problems.  After each item leave a small space.

2.  Remember what Virginia Satir wrote:  “Problems are not the problem; coping is the problem.”

3.  Review the list and after each item in your backpack, write down one way you are going to cope with this problem.  One way to cope is to relegate and remove the item altogether by assigning it to someone else!  This is called an exit strategy – a way to dispose of a problem.  (You can do that you know.  You can delegate a problem to someone else or remove it altogether to decrease your load.)

4.  Choose several problems/with coping or exit strategies in your backpack and discuss them with your group.

5.  Keep this list and look at periodically to see how you are progressing and coping with the items in your backpack (the load or responsibilities you are carrying in life).


I am coping well so I can …… We’d like to hear your story about facing and dealing with problems. Write your story below.