Coping is action directed at the resolution or mitigation of a problematic situation. There are a number of ways in which this may be attempted, and a number of ways of classifying coping strategies. This paper presents a simple schema of six coping themes, ordered in terms of their defensiveness and the degree of attempted personal control which they imply. They comprise rejection, control, resignation, dependency, avoidance and minimization, and characterize the meaning or qualitative 'style' of the individual's response, rather than the formal characteristics of the strategies employed. Data from studies of breast cancer and surgical patients are cited to illustrate the substance of the themes.