As we all live our lives we are constantly asked to "cope with the situation". The next question that we ask ourselves is "how". I have been using the phrase "Coping Mechanism" for many years— but never pondered its meaning until recently. I will attempt to give you my perspective on the phrase so that you can draw your own conclusions about how coping mechanism works.
The human body is an amazing machine. I love the fact that it knows how to take care of itself when injured or under stress. For example— when walking in tight shoes your heel develops a blister. You may think that this blister is very painful— but consider the fact that your heel was being rubbed constantly by that tight shoe and your heel needed to create a barrier so that your skin wouldn't be rubbed off. You didn't have to tell your foot to do this— it did it on its own. Looking at the mind/body/spirit combination you find similar mechanisms occurring as well.
The senses are very selective when it comes to observing the world around us. When situations become stressful— the mind tends to sharpen and focus in order for us to decide the best course of action rather than being distracted by other things. These snap decisions are automatic and save our lives because we are focused on surviving.
When the body is under stress the mind tends to compensate. The term "mind over matter" describes this situation very well. This is probably why we tend to get sick after the holidays are over. Our minds no longer have to worry about keeping pace and our bodies are then allowed to recover… which results in us being sick because we drove ourselves too far.
When your mind is stressed the spirit tends to compensate. Much like the fluid that builds up in the blister— your spirit will try and protect you from painful thoughts. This is not to say that the spirit will cloud the mind with other thoughts— but rather will lessen the pain so that those thoughts have less effect on you. I find that some people tend to handle tragedy better than others. It is these people that seem to face difficult situations in stride and do not appear to be overwhelmed by the circumstances. This is not a learned behavior— but one that appears to be automatic.
Everyone handles the stresses and strains of their lives differently. Much like the difference between someone who has a "short fuse" and one who has "the patience of Job"— everyone has a different coping mechanism. Recognizing these differences and allowing people to use their own coping mechanism will let everyone handle their lives naturally without feeling ridiculed or incompetent.