The Uphill Slide

There is always something.

Coping

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My son used to tell me when I just could not stop thinking of the accusations and the accompanying stresses and the frustrations of dealing with his lawyer and the criminal justice system that he was able to compartmentalize. Compartmentalization is described as a coping mechanism on Wikipedia (not the best source of such information) which might be a good thing or it might be a bad thing. One quick read of an article on Forbes was an executive’s recommendations for using compartmentalization in his work life and personal life http://www.forbes.com/sites/ryanblair/2012/06/26/5-steps-of-compartmentalization/#5aa36ce24b2b. I am sure there are boundless stories of how compartmentalization has had positive and negative effects on people’s lives.

This mechanism helped Jacob to go on with life in those months before the trial. He was able to use it to deal with the betrayal of the people who had entered his life with the relationship  and to deal with the fear and apprehension of his possible loss of freedom. It helped him believe and have faith in a criminal justice system that would not make a mistake. Unfortunately, it may have stopped him from being as aggressive as he should have been with his lawyer and allowing faith to play a bigger part than fight. After the trial I think this mechanism helped him accept the life in jail. He was so often much calmer than we were when discussing the frustrations of jail and the justice system.

I am not as good at compartmentalization as Jacob, but I do think it might be helpful to me. I let thoughts of the future over which I have no control take over too much of my mind and heart.

Perhaps it sounds sexist, and this is purely anecdotal; but I think men may be better at compartmentalization than women. I have seen it at home with my husband, with my friends’ husbands and in the workplace. At home, I am frustrated when I want to share my anger and fear; but my husband has put the events of Jacob’s life into a separate place. It might be comforting if I allowed myself to think that he has faith and confidence in life’s outcome….. if I could let myself believe that.

Obviously, there may be times that compartmentalization is not good. It may explain why Jacob stayed with a woman who was distrustful and unhappy with him almost from the time they moved in together. It may explain how he shrugged off her complaints about his laziness and lack of ambition. He pushed the reality of the relationship into a separate compartment that remained boxed until fights and embattlement. He did not see or confront the truth that we and his friends claimed to have seen of the folly of that marriage. Obviously she also needed someone quite different from Jacob.

Why did it take her years to leave when she was so unhappy with the relationship? It was not that he changed who he was in that year of marriage. I asked her on our last meeting why she married him. She replied that she asked herself that question; it was one of those times that I thought I already had an answer to my question-an answer that had nothing to do with love.

This is simply my pop psychology. Jacob and his wife were certainly not the first couple to be together for years and then end a marriage after only a short time. You might think that the divorce came after the accusations, but in fact Jacob’s wife had been saying she was leaving for months yet never did. She told me she had suggested marriage counseling immediately after the wedding. That statement was mind-boggling to me to think that they went through with this wedding with such unhappiness. I blame Jacob for compartmentalizing this relationship and thinking everything would work out. Quite obviously it did not.

Compartmentalization of the marriage was a horrible mistake that cost him not only the marriage but the career and life he hoped to live and will have limitless negative impact on his future. I know that people may not understand why I always connect the accusations and his marriage, but the two are inextricably connected.

We all have our coping mechanisms to deal with life’s stresses. Some drink, take legal and illegal drugs, eat too much, eat too little, smoke, shop, exercise or whatever helps us to avoid dealing with problems and stresses until we are ready or we are forced to do so.

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