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Tropes to Cope

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Index of coping mechanisms from fiction, aka "cathartic tropes".

It happens that our characters have problems, issues, traumas, and emotional baggage they need to deal with. If our characters feel bad for whatever reason - like stressful jobs, loneliness, relationship troubles, family problems, issues with friends, loss, injury or illness - here is a list of useful (and less useful) stuff they can do to relieve the tension that might help them feel better. Some of them rely on suppressing their emotions which is not a healthy thing to do in the long run.

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Tropes:

  • Angrish: Sometimes devolving into incoherent rambling can help someone calm their nerves during their (usually sudden) rage.
  • Angry Dance: Someone is so furious and so distressed they have to dance it out.
  • Bathroom Stall of Angst: A character angsts and deals with their grief in the bathroom because it's the only private place available.
  • Because You Can Cope: A character, typically a teenager, is neglected or abandoned because their caretaker decides to look after someone else who needs their attention more.
  • Bad Mood Retreat: A place where the character goes to when they're sad, scared or unhappy.
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  • Blatant Lies: Characters lie to deal with a difficult situation even if their lies are so obvious they lack all plausibility.
  • Break-Up Bonfire: A character burns mementos of their failed relationship, often items that belonged to their ex or their letters, photos or gifts. It's therapeutic!
  • Brig Ball Bouncing: A character locked up in solitary confinement is bored. They pass time sitting down against the wall, throwing a ball against the opposite wall over and over.
  • Burn Baby Burn: This distressing item needs to be burned! It's soothing to see it go in such a symbolic way.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: A mistreated child tells off their parent or guardian to let off their frustration.
  • Candlelit Bath: A characters draws a relaxing bath to make the cares and stresses melt away and wash away.
  • Catharsis Factor: Audience Reaction: Video game violence is stress-relieving.
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  • Cathartic Chores: Doing mundane, repetitive work like cleaning, cooking, gardening, carpentry etc. as a mechanism to redirect frustration felt at something uncontrollable.
  • Cathartic Scream: A character is so frustrated that they have to scream.
  • Cigarette of Anxiety: A character is so angry, anxious or stressed out that they have to smoke even if they might be a non-smoker.
  • Comfort Food: A character munches on their favourite food to make them feel better.
  • Companion Cube: Misdirecting empathy at inanimate objects.
  • Compensating for Something: A character who thinks he has a small penis and thinks it's a problem deals with it by getting, using and/or building grandiose things.
  • Compliment Fishing: A character acts humble, or deprecate themselves, in order to get compliments from people, which, to them, feels cathartic. While characters that do this are often unsympathetic, this can occasionally happen due to a deeper inner problem that the character cannot deal with.
  • Confess in Confidence: A character confesses to a person who is supposed to help them or advise them, and who is bound to keep it a secret. Subtypes: priest and penitent, doctor and patient, and attorney and client.
  • Confessional: A character confesses things to a priest to let their emotional burden off.
  • The Confidant: Someone trustworthy who the character can confide in. The Confidant is always a good listener who understands, keeps the secret and may offer insight and valuable advice.
  • Consulting Mister Puppet: For whenever you're facing trouble saying things by yourself, there's Mister Puppet with you that you can ask opinions from. Which would likely reflect your own opinions, but it's the thought that counts.
  • Contemplation Location: Where a character goes to think/meditate.
  • Converse with the Unconscious: Having your loved one unconscious is hard. It's believed that talking to them might help them, but it can be therapeutic for the conscious person as well. Often prompts deep confessions.
  • Cope by Creating: A depressed, stressed or anxious character creates something to feel better. It can be art such as painting or crafting or something more practical like cooking, sewing, or building. (Dancing has specific subtropes.)
  • Cope by Pretending: Dealing with something hard by pretending things aren't as bad as they are.
  • Corner of Woe: A character sulks in a distant corner, sitting on the ground with their arms wrapped around their knees. Screw the whole world for making them miserable!
  • Cradle of Loneliness: Out of misery, a character tenderly holds a treasured keepsake of someone who isn't around.
  • Crazy Cat Lady: A poorly adjusted character hoards animals often to fill their otherwise empty life.
  • Crocodile Tears: Insincere, fake tears shed to gain some sympathy points.
  • Cry into Chest: A character tries to be tough and holds it together despite being troubled but they finally break down and bury their head into someone else's chest, sobbing and willing to be comforted.
  • Dance of Despair: A character is so desperate that they see no other way: they have to move and dance it out. Let it all go and let the anxiety or desperation disappear in the rhythm!
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: Sometimes masturbation is portrayed as a way to release tension when is character is stressed out.
  • Defenestrate and Berate: A spouse throws their significant other's stuff from their home and tells them off for good measure. Usually because they're garbage of a human being and a cheating bastard/bitch. They're a sign of the stuffs "weighing" the person, and thus the act lifts the weights off them.
  • Diary: Writing about one's experiences and hardships can be therapeutic as it helps you to understand the situation. It gradually eases emotional trauma, relieves tension and establishes self-control.
  • Distressed Woodchopping: A character who is angry or upset chops wood to relieve his anger, stress or anxiety.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Characters drinks alcohol to cope with their sadness or something bad that has happened.
  • Drowning Our Romantic Sorrows: Two characters who are desperately in love with the same person bond over the fact and talk about it while they drink alcohol together.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Characters take drugs to deal with their problems, and it's portrayed as dangerous and problematic.
  • Drugs Are Good: Characters take drugs to deal with their problems, and it's portrayed as positive, relaxing and generally good.
  • Emotion Suppression: If being emotional would make it hard to deal with the problems at hand, then suppressing it would be helpful.
  • Facepalm: Covering one's face with their hand(s), raising one's hand to the forehead, pinching the bridge of one's nose, rubbing one's forehead, slapping one's forehead or sliding the palm of the hand down their face — a common gesture used to deal with exasperation, irritation, shame and other, usually very intense emotions.
  • Face Your Fears: A terrified person decides to deal with what scares them directly and bitch-slaps their fear into submission.
  • Faking Amnesia: A character pretends to have lost their memory. This can be done to cope with their issues/problems.
  • Fell Asleep Crying: Being so sad, depressed and lonely that crying themselves to sleep is the only thing to do. Crying and sleep may soothe them.
  • Five Stages of Grief: Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. A model of the grieving process, developed for dying people and terminally ill patients. It tends to pop up in other contexts as well.
  • Fleeting Passionate Hobbies: Someone who changes their hobbies/pastime over and over may do so to cope with their boredom.
  • Fortune Teller: A character having a hard time or facing a difficult decision seeks advice and visits a fortune teller.
  • Freudian Couch: Visual short hand for therapy: Someone lies on their back on a couch to avoid eye-contact with the therapist.
  • Functional Addict: A person who takes drugs and becomes addicted. However, they're able to function normally but it's usually treated as a ticking bomb.
  • Fuzz Therapy: A sure way out of misery for all animal lovers: cuddling with pets. They're so soft, warm, loving, cute and playful.
  • Gallows Humour: There is a healing power in comedy. If the character can make fun of themselves and laugh at their problems, they'll almost always feel better.
  • Happy Place: Imaginary space inside the character's head where everything is well.
  • Heartbreak and Ice Cream: What makes you feel better after a bad breakup and other relationship troubles? A delicious cold sweet treat: ice cream!
  • Heroic Self-Deprecation: Trying to make one's own abilities or achievements seem less important, usually to cope with their shortcomings.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: When characters feel down, downing a shot of whisky or a glass of wine helps. A lot.
  • Inelegant Blubbering: Blatant, often gross or very realistic sobbing and crying as a response to something bad that has happened. Helps relieving tension.
  • Inferiority Superiority Complex: Someone looks down on others and treat them as inferior, to cope with the fact that he/she's secretly suffering from low self-esteem.
  • Intimate Psychotherapy: A character sleeps with their therapist for comfort.
  • In-Universe Catharsis: Somehing in universe that feels cathartic to a certain character, depending on their situation.
  • I Want My Mommy!: When a character is stressed and scared, they want their mother to comfort them.
  • Living Emotional Crutch: A character on whose presence and help another character relies to remain emotionally stable.
  • Mid-Life Crisis Car: How to solve a midlife-crisis? Buy and drive a Cool Car!
  • Munchausen Syndrome: Characters act sick to get attention and sympathy, and thus to cope with their real situation (i.e not illness). Usually more serious than Playing Sick.
  • Must Have Caffeine: Coffee-coffee-coffee! A nice cup of coffee helps a lot in many situations. It's energizing and helps you deal with sleep deprivation.
  • Must Have Nicotine: A character needs to smoke to relieve their stress or anxiety.
  • Obfuscating Disability: A character fakes being disabled. This (and other "obfuscating" tropes) can be used as a way to run away from their problems and escape their responsibility.
  • Obfuscating Insanity: A character pretends to be crazy.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: A character is not as stupid as they act.
  • Off the Wagon: An alcoholic, chain smoker, or a drug addict who has become sober relapses into addictive use, usually because of some traumatic or stressful experience.
  • On the Rebound: Somebody is unhappy and confused because their romantic relationship has recently finished and they often deal with it with casual sex or casual short-term relationship(s).
  • Playing Drunk: A character pretends to be drunk to get away with something.
  • Playing Sick: Pretending to be sick to avoid something unpleasant or to gain sympathy from others.
  • Percussive Therapy: Dealing with anger by hitting, kicking or destroying things.
  • Phony Psychic: A character finds relief talking to a psychic. Unlike Fortune Teller, however, this guy only pretends to be a psychic - usually just to get a kick out of the miserable character, but sometimes to help them.
  • Post-Stress Overeating: A character is upset, and gorges on their favourite food (usually something sweet or very fat or otherwise unhealthy) because usually it calms them down and makes them feel better.
  • Precision F-Strike: Foul language (particularly when used at the right time) has been known to relieve stress and pain.
  • Psychological Projection: A character projects their own character traits/emotions/desires to another character by presuming they feel/are the same as they. To them, thinking that everyone thinks similarly to them makes them feel better.
  • Put Them All Out of My Misery: A villain believes that causing mass destruction (up to planetary scale, or more) is their way of coping with their problems.
  • Rapid-Fire Descriptors: Depending on the situation, using tons of adjectives or adverbs in one very long sentence that is often linked to exasperation to relieve their stress and vent their frustration (or their amazement, in some cases).
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Telling someone off for being a horrible person. It's often cathartic.
  • Retail Therapy: A character is depressed or unhappy and goes shopping to make herself (it's almost always a woman) feel better.
  • The Runaway: A child runs away from their parents or guardians, usually due to a perceived (or actual) problem between them. It at least helps relieve their tension, but it may not solve their problems.
  • Running Away to Cry: A character is so upset they have to cry but they don't want to look vulnerable in front of others.
  • Sad Clown: Humour as a coping mechanism. They cope with horrible situations by cracking jokes.
  • Security Blanket: An item that leaves its owner feeling vulnerable if bereft of it.
  • Security Cling: Grabbing onto another person in response to something scary or distressing.
  • Self-Harm: Deliberately injuring oneself, for example by cutting, as a result of having serious emotional or mental problems.
  • Sex for Solace: A character has sex with another character because they're grieving.
  • Shower of Angst: When someone gets in the shower in an attempt to wash their problems away.
  • The Shrink: Therapists come in various levels helpfulness.
  • The Shut-In: A character is unable to leave their house at will, sometimes due to stress or anxiety. So they cope with it by being alone.
  • Songs of Solace: People listen to music when they are feeling depressed or sad, or if they have gone through a rough time.
  • Spot of Tea: The British drink tea all the time, and especially if they need to calm down.
  • Stepford Smiler: A characters pretends to be satisfied as a coping mechanism, but they're only happy on the outside. They're badly messed up and unhappy on the inside. The happy act may be a way to deflect other people's concerns and suspicions.
  • Stepford Snarker: Using sarcasm as a coping mechanism to hide they are messed up deep down. Revealing their true emotions would be too vulnerable.
  • Stockholm Syndrome: A coping mechanism, or a way that some victims of kidnappings develop. It's thought it helps victims to handle the trauma of a terrifying situation.
  • Surrogate Soliloquy: Conversing with an inanimate object. Coping is one of the common reasons for it.
  • Talking to the Dead: A one-sided conversation with a deceased loved one, often at the site of their grave and often about important issues that stayed unresolved while the loved one was alive.
  • Tears of Remorse: A character, grieved by their own guilt, cries. Tears might wash the guilt away. Crying is self-soothing.
  • Thinking Out Loud: A character tries to understand their problems and deal with them by talking to oneself.
  • Trauma-Induced Amnesia: A deeply traumatized character forgets their horrific past in order to not let them haunt their minds.
  • Troubled Fetal Position: Curling up in angst. This gives a cathartic feeling for them.
  • Unbroken Vigil: A character refuses to leave a sick charge's bedside, believing it'll help them both and believing the charge will recover.
  • Working Out Their Emotions: A character is upset and needs to let off some steam so they exercise the pain away.

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