Everyone has their own persistent labyrinth that can lead them to their downfall or triumph. However, it all heavily depends on how they cope with their Labrinth. In Looking for Alaska, the protagonist is a mystery throughout the book, and the reader later learns that she coped with her suffering with an avoidant coping strategy. There are various healthy, effective ways of coping with intense suffering including exercising, talking to someone, and entertaining themselves. Due to the fact that Alaska had avoidant coping mechanisms, she never really dealt with her pain and suffering. Instead, she tried avoiding or lessening her pain by drinking alcohol and smoking. By Alaska being avoidant, she never faced her demons, and eventually her demons faced her.
What is known about the theory of coping is that there are good and bad coping mechanisms. Those coping mechanisms activate under different life circumstances, however, particularly it is how we manage conflict. For example, when we are under a lot of stress, we try to develop an adaptability to dealing with that stress. A healthy coping mechanism is having fun or entertaining yourself, by doing this your occupy your mind to have fun. This coping mechanism can be effective short term, however, if not combined with other coping mechanisms it will turn ineffective. “Y’all smoke to be cool. I smoke to die” (Green 44). In the book, instead of working through her suffering and finding healthy ways to cope with her problems, Alaska resorted to using unhealthy coping methods such as smoking cigarettes. Thousands of people die each year due to the harmful chemicals in cigarettes, which leads to various illnesses including cancer and can ultimately lead to death. It was a bad decision from Alaska to resort to smoking as one of her coping mechanisms.
Another healthy, effective way of coping with intense suffering is by exercising. Physical stress, can relieve mental stress (“Exercising to relax”). When a person exercises, there are hormones released that make you feel happy. Serotonin and norepinephrine are hormones that relieve feelings of depression, which usually accompany intense suffering. Endorphins are also released, which are known to induce positive emotions and reduce awareness of pain by staying focused on exercising. Although Alaska did not physically exercise, she did read. Joseph Addison once said, “Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” By exercising her mind, she was able to insert herself in different worlds, and gain different outlooks on life than her own. Reading increases mental stimulation and this can help to relieve stress.
After she died, Pudge and the Colonel started reflecting on all the conversations they had had with Alaska. Alaska never truly communicated how she felt, only through crypted sentences and rare vulnerable moments. It did not end up well for her, and her inner torments are what made her come to her demise. If she would have opened up to her friends about how she was feeling, it is very likely they could have helped her cope with her intense suffering. Everyday, she blamed herself for not dialing 911 and possibly saving her mother. The constant guilt and feeling of uselessness ate up at her, and this is why it is important to talk. Talking about ones intense suffering can be as informal as openly speaking with a trusted adult, counselor, or friend, or it can be with a therapist. Depending on how severe ones suffering could be, it may be ideal to visit a therapist. There are various types of therapies including psychotherapy, which is talk therapy. Going to therapy has been a very effective coping mechanism for intense suffering, and in most cases has been the most essential part of recovery. In a study conducted in Canada, it was proven that Intensive Short-term Dynamic Psychotherapy (ISTDP) is very effective. “Patients’ mean self report scores went from abnormal to normal range after an average of 14.9 hours of therapy. Returns to work, reduced healthcare utilization, and medication stopping accounted for a cost reduction of over Cdn$400,000 at one year after therapy” (Abbass 1).
“You just use the future to escape the present” (Greene 54). In a conversation with Pudge, Alaska said these words and in the book it is clear to see that everyone has their own labyrinth. Alaska’s labyrinth was the past. It is very important to properly cope with past and present suffering, so that it will not become a labyrinth in the future. By exercising the mind and body, you engage yourself and hormones are released that aid in becoming emotionally cured. By entertaining oneself, you enable your brain to concentrate on something else. While an excess of distractions can be ineffective, a balance of distractions and communication is essential to coping with intense suffering. Lastly, communication is absolutely essential to not just coping, but healing as well. Most of the time, just communicating how you feel to someone you trust, can be what you need to let go. It is never easy to cope with intense suffering. Intense suffering can come in many forms, however, these three coping mechanisms can aid in being able to properly heal. “We need never be hopeless because we can never be irreparably broken” (Greene 220).