Defense mechanisms

In my earlier post on navigating the maze, i talked about stress and what differentiates it from depression. Some of the tips given to overcome included, adapting healthy coping mechanisms, that could be going to therapy, listening to uplifting music, going for walks and exercising regularly, to get the endorphins (feel good hormones) kicking in. speaking words of affirmation to oneself is equally important because as we know, the mind is very powerful and what we feed it, is what we become. So what are these coping mechanisms that we should avoid, or should look out for, incase we are doing them subconsciously? Lets discuss some of them.

Repression. This is when you banish thoughts, feelings and experiences that cause you anxiety, from your consciousness. In other words you cheat your mind to forgetting that an unpleasant experience occurred. This, can be helpful temporarily or say, when you experience sudden unexpected loss, been to war, or witnessed something gruesome. it gives your body some time to process. However It is extremely dangerous if you don’t seek help, and deal with the issue, then the chances of something triggering these emotions and lead to unusual behavior, or adverse effects later like, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), is high.

Subsequently this leads to regression, which is another maladaptive defense mechanism. A good example is, when children are exposed to harsh environments or abuse, they retreat to an earlier stage of development, example, thumb sucking or wetting the bed. please note, these are not always signs of abuse because, as i was stuck in the thumb sucking stage myself, for some reason, Sigmund Freud’s psychosexual theory can explain that. (Topic for another day.) However, it is important to note the differences in your child’s behavior, and find the etiology. For adults, a once outgoing and extroverted person will start keeping to themselves and avoiding things that made a huge part of who they were.

Projection is a commonly used word, and this contributes to toxicity in most relationships. The reason why your friend or partner, disguises their threating impulses, and attributing them to you, is to preserve their self-esteem by making their unpleasant emotions more tolerable. Hence the “it’s not you it’s me” phrase, which a person can honestly use after doing some introspection. Otherwise it looses its meaning as it has in todays society.

Lets talk about rationalization, which to be honest, all of us are guilty of at some point in our lives. When there is an incongruence between our subjective evaluation, and the reality, we tend to justify the actions to hide the real reasons for our actions. The danger is we are a creature of habit, and this is a very unpleasant one to acquire. To avoid this, be open to correction, and flexible enough to align our subjective views with reality.

You ever wonder why a close relation would suddenly treat you differently or so cold out of the blue? That could be displacement. It is when one diverts their aggressive impulses towards a more psychologically acceptable person or object. For example, your dad had a bad day at work, but he can not yell at his boss. So when he comes home, and you are watching television instead of doing your homework, his reaction appears to be harsh than it normally is. This can be linked to a lot of marital problems as well, its best to discuss with your partner about how your day has been, be open about your struggles and make your house a safe place, for everyone to express themselves openly.

To summarize, being aware of these tendencies, helps to keep ourselves in check, and understand the people around us, hence building a peaceful, loving and progressive community around us.

Did you see some of the defenses you use here? Do not panic, now you have the knowledge apply and change where applicable, remember we are a work in progress.





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