Defense mechanisms are behaviors people use to separate themselves from unpleasant events, actions, or thoughts. These psychological strategies may help people put distance between themselves and threats or unwanted feelings, such as guilt or shame. The idea of defense mechanisms comes from psychoanalytic theory, a psychological perspective of personality that sees personality as the interaction between three components: id, ego, and super ego. Defense mechanisms are a normal, natural part of psychological development. Identifying which type you, your loved ones, even your co-workers use can help you in future conversations and encounters. Dozens of different defense mechanisms have been identified.
As infants, we learn the best techniques to get our needs met by our parents, and as we grow up, we make adaptations to help us endure pain, be it psychological or existential. Early in our lives, our defense mechanisms can feel like tools for our very survival.
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However, as we grow up, these same psychological defenses can start to hurt rather than help us. By recognizing and shedding our outdated defense mechanisms, we can develop within ourselves, form deeper relationships, and start to live a life that looks more like the one we desire and less like one we were prescribed by our past.
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Here, we will explore where our defense mechanisms come from, why we keep them around, and how we can get rid of the ones that no longer serve us. A defense mechanism is essentially a strategy someone comes up with to help them avoid pain or anxiety. However, a defense can operate very much like antiquated armor we wear with the hope of protecting ourselves, but instead, it actually limits our mobility and shuts out much more than we imagine.
Ironically, our defense mechanisms can do a lot more damage than good when it comes to the quality of our lives. As Dr.
Jan 22, Rationalization is a defense mechanism that involves explaining an unacceptable behavior or feeling in a rational or logical manner, avoiding the true reasons for the behavior. For example, a person who is turned down for a date might rationalize the situation by saying they were not attracted to the other person anyway. Letting Go of a Defense Mechanism. Once we begin to catch on to our defense mechanisms and the critical inner voices that drive them, we can start to choose different actions that move us closer to a state of feeling and vitality. We can seek out the things that give our lives meaning, rather than blindly believing old messages, outdated. A defense mechanism is a habitual behavior that distorts reality to suppress thoughts and emotions that might bring up ego threat. Defense mechanisms function in life to help us deal with stress. However the defenses keep people from being real and living life to the fullest.
To the extent you are defended, you are cut off from being able to experience genuine feeling - the good, the bad and the ugly. To varying degrees, you walk through your life in a numbed state. All children experience hurt and frustration. Whether we experienced neglect, rejection, intrusion, or anger directed toward us, we all made adaptations to handle unfavorable circumstances in our childhood.
As neuropsychologist and author of Parenting from the Inside OutDr. A father who is intermittently available, sometimes dousing us with affection and other times disappearing, teaches us we need to cling to get what we need from him. The attachment pattern we experience from our first day of life plays a heavy role in forming our long-term beliefs about how relationships work and how we should react to others in order to make our way.
Even if we form a secure attachment with parents or caretakers who are kind and sensitive to us, we all eventually face distressing existential realities that can incite us to retreat from life. Because when we are children, our very survival depends on those who care for us, seeing our parents as flawed or incapable can feel tremendously frightening. Thus, we form our defenses as a means to protect ourselves without having to fully face the limitations of our caretakers.
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Instead of seeing a parent as rejecting, we see ourselves as unlovable, and we form a defense to stay out of the way, so no one can hurt us. In this way, the defense mechanisms we form are actually distortions of who we really are or who we would have been without the harmful overlays of our past.
The shape of our specific defense mechanisms is heavily informed by how we are related to as children, ways we observe our parents or influential figures, and the attachment pattern we experience. When we are babies or young children, the coping strategies we form can include self-soothing habits like cradling a blanket or sucking our thumb.
As we get older, we may take on the defensive posture of trying to take care of ourselves or become pseudoindependent. This is often the case with people who experience an avoidant attachment. On the other hand, our defense may be to try to command attention by acting out, a defense often adopted by someone with an anxious attachment.
As kids, our defense mechanism may be to keep quiet, or it may be to shout and in order to be heard. We may feel driven to rebel against rules and restrictions, or we may attempt to achieve perfectionism. We may have learned not to trust anyone for fear of being hurt or to feel self-reliant and guarded against wanting anything from anyone else. Our defense mechanisms may influence us to engage in self-soothing rituals or to avoid perceived dangers.
Defense Mechanisms in Adulthood. As adults, catching on to our defenses can be challenging. We all cut off from emotions in different ways. Our defenses are complex and can range from engaging in self-destructive or self-limiting behaviors to developing a dependence or addiction. One defense mechanism we form can keep us from staying close to a romantic partner.
Another can sabotage our success at work. Of course, the degree we engage in our defense system is not black or white. We may use a defense mechanism one day and put our guard down the next.
The helpful thing is to identify which patterns fit the above description and hurt us in our lives. For example, do you notice yourself being nitpicky and overly critical toward your partner?
Are you so self-hating that you hold yourself back with your kids? Do you seek escape from pursuing things that mean something to you? Are you looking for numbing activities for instant gratification that fail to make you feel good in the long run? Do you feel cynical toward coworkers? Are you cut off from feeling throughout your day?
After all, we came by this defense honestly and have carried it with us most of our lives.
If we were rejected as children and adapted by learning to meet our own needs, it may be very hard to give up control and let a romantic partner get close to us. If we felt misunderstood and distorted in our family of origin, we may be on the defense and unable to take feedback at work without reacting. However, they source from deep in our past and are rarely adaptive to present circumstances.
Even though they may feel necessary, they actually undermine what we want, like the ability to be open to a loved one or to excel in our career. Oftentimes, a defense mechanism can offer instant gratification or immediate relief by alleviating our anxiety or cutting us off from a deeper level of feeling. We may not be conscious of it in the moment, but the reason we reach for that second glass of wine, pick that fight with our partner, or shy away from a challenge may be because we got scared and felt we had to retreat into our shell or put ourselves back in place.
For example, say we had an incredibly close night with our partner in which we felt both loved by them and loving toward them.
That feeling can trigger myriad unconscious reactions: the anxiety of relying on that person, the fear of losing him or her, or the shame of not having felt that kind of love as a child. The next morning we may find ourselves feeling a slightly critical and starting to act irritable.
It may even feel like a relief to complain to them or make little comments that push them away.
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Ultimately, we no longer feel as close to the person, and although we may feel bad, we also feel a bit safer having retreated into our defense mechanism and covering over those deeper feelings being stirred. This process of numbing our vitality and limiting our scope of connection and experience is the ultimate sacrifice we pay to our defenses.
It hurts us, and it hurts those close to us. Their capacity for offering and accepting love is impaired, and they tend to limit personal transactions of both giving and receiving. It isolates us by encouraging cynical attitudes toward others and self-hating thoughts toward ourselves. The critical inner voice is not an auditory hallucination but is typically experienced as negative thoughts or commentary that seamlessly weave into our day and frequently ruin our mood.
No one wants to hear what you have to say.
What is wrong with you? In addition to critiquing us, our inner critic can also sound seductive or soothing. It will help you relax. What a loser! Our critical inner voices can comprise all kinds of content and come at us from all directions, however, its goal remains the same - to uphold our defense mechanisms.
Defense mechanisms protect what's inside. Defense mechanisms are born out of a desire to protect the inner self. They are psychological and emotional barriers intended to provide safety and security. People create personal defenses to ensure that they are separated or protected from being hurt by situations, events and other people. Regression is a defense mechanism proposed by Anna Freud whereby the the ego reverts to an earlier stage of development usually in response to stressful situations. Regression functions as form of retreat, enabling a person to psychologically go back in time to a period when the person felt safer. This defense mechanism is a bit different from the others because it doesn't feature outright negative behavior like the rest. When you engage in altruistic behavior you use kindness towards others to defuse an anxious situation. If you feel that your partner is upset with you, you .
Like our defenses, our inner critic is shaped by hurtful experiences and negative messaging we internalized as kids, so it can feel frightening to challenge it. Ignoring the beliefs and directives of our inner critic would mean challenging our sense of identity and giving up the very defense mechanisms that uphold our destructive ideas about ourselves. For instance, if we grew up in an ukeitaiplus.comedictable household where we were often seen as needy and burdensome, we may grow up seeing ourselves as needing to be stubborn and in control to survive.
They will just take advantage of you. Time and their own self-image may not flow continuously, as it does for most people. Compartmentalization is a lesser form of dissociation, wherein parts of oneself are separated from awareness of other parts and behaving as if one had separate sets of values. An example might be an honest person who cheats on their income tax return but is otherwise trustworthy in his financial dealings.
In this way, he keeps the two value systems distinct and sees no hypocrisy in doing so, perhaps remaining unconscious of the discrepancy. Projection is used especially when the thoughts are considered unacceptable for the person to express, or they feel completely ill at ease with having them. For example, a spouse may be angry at their significant other for not listening, when in fact it is the angry spouse who does not listen.
Reaction Formation is the converting of unwanted or dangerous thoughts, feelings or impulses into their opposites. For instance, a woman who is very angry with her boss and would like to quit her job may instead be overly kind and generous toward her boss and express a desire to keep working there forever.
She is incapable of expressing the negative emotions of anger and unhappiness with her job, and instead becomes overly kind to publicly demonstrate her lack of anger and unhappiness. Less primitive defense mechanisms are a step up from the primitive defense mechanisms in the previous section. Many people employ these defenses as adults, and while they work okay for many, they are not ideal ways of dealing with our feelings, stress and anxiety.
Repression is the unconscious blocking of unacceptable thoughts, feelings and impulses.
The key to repression is that people do it unconsciously, so they often have very little control over it. But because memory is very malleable and ever-changing, it is not like playing back a DVD of your life.
Displacement is the redirecting of thoughts feelings and impulses directed at one person or object, but taken out upon another person or object. People often use displacement when they cannot express their feelings in a safe manner to the person they are directed at. He instead comes home and kicks the dog or starts an argument with his wife. The man is redirecting his anger from his boss to his dog or wife. When a person intellectualizes, they shut down all of their emotions and approach a situation solely from a rational standpoint - especially when the expression of emotions would be appropriate.
Intellectualization is the overemphasis on thinking when confronted with an unacceptable impulse, situation, or behavior without employing any emotions whatsoever to help mediate and place the thoughts into an emotional, human context.
Rather than deal with the painful associated emotions, a person might employ intellectualization to distance themselves from the impulse, event or behavior.
For instance, a person who has just been given a terminal medical diagnosis, instead of expressing their sadness and grief, focuses instead on the details of all possible fruitless medical procedures.
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For instance, a woman who starts dating a man she really, really likes and thinks the world of is suddenly dumped by the man for no reason. Undoing is the attempt to take back an unconscious behavior or thought that is unacceptable or hurtful. For instance, after realizing you just insulted your significant other unintentionally, you might spend then next hour praising their beauty, charm and intellect. Mature defense mechanisms are often the most constructive and helpful to most adults, but may require practice and effort to put into daily use.
While primitive defense mechanisms do little to try and resolve underlying issues or problems, mature defenses are more focused on helping a person be a more constructive component of their environment. People with more mature defenses tend to be more at peace with themselves and those around them. Sublimation is simply the channeling of unacceptable impulses, thoughts and emotions into more acceptable ones.
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For instance, when a person has sexual impulses they would like not to act upon, they may instead focus on rigorous exercise. Refocusing such unacceptable or harmful impulses into productive use helps a person channel energy that otherwise would be lost or used in a manner that might cause the person more anxiety. Sublimation can also be done with humor or fantasy. Humor, when used as a defense mechanism, is the channeling of unacceptable impulses or thoughts into a light-hearted story or joke.
Humor reduces the intensity of a situation, and places a cushion of laughter between the person and the impulses. Fantasy, when used as a defense mechanism, is the channeling of unacceptable or unattainable desires into imagination.
Both can help a person look at a situation in a different way, or focus on cts of the situation not previously explored.
Compensation is a process of psychologically counterbalancing perceived weaknesses by emphasizing strength in other arenas.
You can be clear and assertive in your communication, without needing to be aggressive and blunt. Communication styles exist on a continuum, ranging from passive to aggressive, with assertiveness falling neatly in-between.
People who are passive and communicate in a passive manner tend to be good listeners, but rarely speak up for themselves or their own needs in a relationship.
People who are aggressive and communicate in an aggressive manner tend to be good leaders, but often at the expense of being able to listen with empathy to others and their ideas and needs.
People who are assertive strike a balance where they speak up for themselves, express their opinions or needs in a respectful yet firm manner, and listen when they are being spoken to.