People handle difficult situations in many different ways. Have you had news that upset you, but instead you carried on with your day as if it didn’t happen? Or perhaps you have heard stories of people who went through traumatic episodes yet have no memory of them?
Defense mechanisms are the different ways that people deal with challenging experiences.
It is important to pay close attention to them and understand how they can be better controlled. If they go unnoticed, these reactions could end up causing more harm in the long term. Not addressing your emotions in a healthy way could lead to issues such as anxiety, stress or depression. It could also have an adverse effect on your relationships with those around you, especially if you react in a way that may end up being hurtful to the other person.
There are 10 common defense mechanisms:
Your mind purposely buries a painful memory in your subconscious that prevents you from being fully aware. It blocks out specific emotions or memories as a way to protect you.
An example of this could be not remembering a particularly difficult childhood occurrence.
This is the inability to address something that is difficult. It is regarded as one of the most primitive defence mechanisms and it is a common coping strategy for many people.
An example of this could be not believing that you have a substance abuse problem, despite getting into debt to fund the habit.
You revert to an almost childish way of dealing with problems. The reaction is stemmed in a seemingly immature behaviour since you feel unable to deal with it rationally.
An example of this could be sulking or having a tantrum when you get into an argument.
You attribute your own insecurities or thoughts on someone else. Generally it is adopted when certain actions or thoughts are unacceptable and despite potentially knowing this, you are not able to express it as such.
An example of this could be accusing your partner of flirting when you are having an affair.
This is where you channel your emotions onto something or someone else. You may be in a situation where you are unable to express it directly, such as with your boss.
An example of this could be throwing something in a fit of rage.
Justifying behavior with positive attributes, whether it is right or not. It is seeing something from a different point of view that benefits your side of the story.
An example of this could be lying to your partner about something you know would really upset them, because you love them and treat them well.
7. Reaction formation
This is acting the opposite of how you really feel. This transforms your current emotions or thoughts into being in a position where you do not have to address them.
An example of this could be saying that you are not angry when you are.
You focus your emotions onto something that has no attachment to the problem. By doing so, you channel the energy elsewhere instead of the root, which could prove to cause further problems.
An example of this could be feeling upset because of something at work, but addressing that anger while driving in the form of road rage.
This is the act of reversing how you feel by an action. As the name suggests, it is trying to “undo” how you feel or think about something specific.
An example of this could be going out of your way to help someone whom you dislike.
You deal with your own pain by making a joke of it. You try to make light of a situation by attempting to behave as though there is a funny side to it.
An example of this could be finding out you have a terminal illness but joking that it means you will get time off work.
While we can’t take away our defense mechanisms, we can have them in better control.
Look for red flags
Behaviors can become habit-forming. Pay close attention to how you act when you are faced with emotional dilemmas.
Is it likely that you may throw something on the floor or are you quick to lash out in anger? Could a coping strategy be that you walk away or that you simply breathe deeply and count to ten?
Have you formed a habit that is proving to be negative to your well-being such as drinking too much or overeating? Could changing your environment or social circles promote a more positive lifestyle?
Don’t transfer the blame
It’s easy to not want to take responsibility for feelings or actions. But passing that on to someone else could also jeopardize your relationship with that person as well as make them feel bad.
Perhaps instead you could be honest and tell them what’s really happening. There is no shame in going through a bad patch. Sometimes getting another point of view can make the world of difference and also make you feel less alone.
Don’t deny your negative emotions.
Embracing your emotions can be quite liberating. No one is perfect, and no one should aspire to be. Bad things happen and trust that it is ok to feel bad when they do.
Don’t deny your body the ability to cry if it needs. Tears are your body’s way of giving you that hug that you need.
Adopt a healthier lifestyle
Even though it may not change your circumstances, nourishing your body, mind, and spirit with more positive things, will have an impact on your feelings and defense mechanisms.
Try changing your diet and finding outlets such as exercise, meditation or incorporating a hobby that makes you feel more uplifted.
Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io
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