Recognizing Our Defense Mechanisms and How They Impact Us

Stress and anxiety are part of everyday life and it’s natural as humans for us to find ways to deal with or even run away from them. Oftentimes we use defense mechanisms even before failures or setbacks cause us any stress. And because we use it unconsciously it can get out of hand and instead of helping you cause even more issues.

It’s about time to discover which defense mechanism you are prone to use and what it tells about where you are emotionally. So hopefully you can start dealing with things in your life the way you should – where healing and growth can begin.

Recognizing Our Defense Mechanisms and How They Impact Us

Common Defense Mechanisms and Do You Use Them

1. Denial

Do you refuse to talk about the problem? 

Do you avoid thinking about it? 

Do you convince yourself nothing is really wrong?

If your answer is Yes, then you are in DENIAL.

One of the most common defense mechanisms is denial, which is frequently used to characterize circumstances in which someone appears unwilling to confront reality or acknowledge an evident truth that is overwhelming or distressing.

This defense mechanism may serve a helpful role at the moment. It could provide you some breathing room to get used to an abrupt shift in reality. As you might be able to accept, change, and eventually move on if you give yourself enough time.

A person who has fears and insecurities can always be in denial. They protect their emotional state and are often feeling hopeless and fearful about facing harsh realities they feel they will be unable to overcome.

Being constantly in denial however can lead to issues in your life, especially if it prevents you from solving a problem or making a crucial change. Denying a problem exists enables the person to carry on with harmful conduct without dealing with the issue.

Common Defense Mechanisms

2. Repression or Suppression

Do you feel nervous?

Or numb?

Do you become annoyed or stressed when others ask about how you feel?

Are you forgetful?

Do you feel stressed without cause?

Then you might be dealing with repressed emotions.

Unpleasant emotions, impulses, memories, and thoughts can be repressed (unconsciously) or suppressed (consciously) to lessen feelings of worry and guilt feelings. Although it may initially be successful in settling these challenging feelings, it can eventually result in increased anxiety

If you habitually repress unpleasant emotions, you could experience numbness or act out unconsciously (by drinking alcohol, overeating, overexercising, or spending a lot of time on social media, for example). It can lead to physical symptoms like obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, low energy, etc

Repressed feelings or memories could also make a person have difficulty expressing themselves and perhaps get hostile. They may explode at any minute.

Accepting unpleasant emotions, as opposed to repressing or suppressing them, may improve a person’s capacity to cope with stress and promote psychological well-being.

3. Projection

Do you often blame others for things you may be responsible for?

Do you feel overly sensitive or defensive about something someone did or said?

Then you might be projecting

You disown a negative aspect of who you are—such as your sentiments, beliefs, inclinations, and fears—and project it onto someone else. It might be challenging to recognize when you’re projecting, even though almost everyone has done it at some point in their lives.

Your sense of reality may become distorted and obscured through projection. This makes it difficult to perceive things clearly as they are and instead transforms people or situations into something they are not. For example, you feel that a person dislikes you when in reality it is you that dislikes a person.

A cheating spouse may accuse his or her partner of infidelity. They become extremely jealous when in fact it’s them that needs to be in check. 

4. Rationalization

Do you often give excuses for your bad decisions placing the blame on anything or anyone else other than yourself?

Then you might be using rationalization as a defense mechanism.

To explain a disappointing event or unwanted behavior or feeling, while avoiding the real causes of the event or behavior, you can use rationalization as a defense mechanism.

A person who has declined a promotion, for instance, can explain why by claiming that they weren’t interested in the promotion in the first place. Instead of blaming their own lack of preparation, a student may blame the teacher for poor performance in exams.

In addition to reducing tension, rationalization may also safeguard one’s sense of worth and identity. When attempting to explain success or failure, people frequently ascribe success to their own traits and abilities while blaming failure on other people or external factors.

Common Defense Mechanisms

5. Displacement

Do you take out your anger from school or the workplace at home?

Are you a bullied bully?

As a kind of self-preservation, displacement is the act of shifting one’s unfavorable emotions from one thing or person to another. 

You deal with the tension out of your fear or, anger by releasing them on a non or less-threatening target. Because you cannot tell your boss your frustrations or can’t fight them back for fear of losing their job they release their anger out on someone less threatening, like a family member.

A child who experiences abuse and is unable to speak up at home may take the hurt or anxiety out of being a bully at school. Be careful as you may be doing it unconsciously as a defense mechanism causing strain in your relationships.

Common Defense Mechanisms

The Path To Healing

The fact that you are now willing to recognize your defense mechanisms is many steps forward toward a more mature way of coping with life’s stresses and challenges.

Self-honesty, self-acceptance, and mindfulness are the first steps. Have you noticed the symptoms mentioned above? Find out what’s triggering these often unhealthy defense mechanisms. Recognize where your fear or anxiety is coming from and what you can do to help yourself.

You can reach out to friends and family, or even seek professional help – whoever you are comfortable with or whatever type of help you think will be effective for you.