Saturday, July 13

How Do Defense Mechanisms Affect Our Mental Wellbeing?

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No matter the reasons, negative feelings, and emotions take a toll on our mental wellbeing. We find it hard to accept romantic rejection or job loss. Some traumatic experiences (for example, abuse and someone’s death) are extremely hard to process and work through. To deal with stress, people subconsciously use defense mechanisms. A defense mechanism is a way to respond to an internal discomfort or an external conflict. The concept of defense mechanisms dates back to the founder of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud (1856 – 1939). He noticed that some of his patients used to mentally distort external reality. They did it to maintain the balance of their inner world by reducing anxiety. 

Defense mechanisms help us remain in a better psychological state. They can be very beneficial in the short term. However, they may be harmful and unhelpful if you constantly fall back into self-defense. To find out which defense mechanisms are good or bad for you, start recognizing them in your day-to-day behavior. 

There are more than twenty different defense mechanisms. Let us introduce to you the most commonly used of them. 

Identifying Common Self-Defense Mechanisms

Denial

When people use this common primary defense mechanism, they refuse to accept certain aspects of external reality. These aspects are overwhelming to them. Subconsciously they understand everything but they prefer to escape the reality of stressful situations. For instance, people can deny major loss or death, serious illness, traumas, or other threatening and tough situations. Another good example of denial is the behavior of the person who pathologically gambles at Hellspin Casino online but ignores its destructive effects. This is how he or she protects his or her vulnerable self-esteem. As soon as the person acknowledges the unpleasant reality, he has to accept unpleasant things about his personality or act. Generally, denial can be very helpful in coming up with a new reality and dealing with information that is beyond your control. But active denying of negative facts for a longer time makes people less self-aware.

Displacement

In displacement, you transfer negative or traumatic feelings to other people or activities. The original feelings or showing them make you anxious or can get you into trouble. Here is a classic example: A person just had a stressful day at work, but he couldn’t show his anger towards his colleagues or boss. Then he comes home and “takes it out on” his family members. Displacement has negative consequences not only for people who routinely take their frustrations on “safe people”, but also for people around them. 

Regression

To escape traumatic feelings the individual slides back into an earlier stage of (mental) development. It may have different forms from behaving like a small child to making something that is psychologically immature. The problem is that reverting back to a childish behavior can be self-destructive. Similar to other defense mechanisms, it doesn’t let you confront reality and deal with real problems. 

Repression 

While denial is a refusal to accept reality, repression blocks out one’s traumatic memories and feelings. It buries them in one’s subconscious. Be it a memory from an abusive childhood or war, this defense mechanism helps people repress painful feelings. However, repression doesn’t make them disappear. For instance, the person who represses his traumas constantly experiences bursts of anger or phobias. He thinks they “come out of nowhere”. But they come from traumatic experiences the person has been suppressing. 

Projection

A common coping tool for denying one’s own negative qualities, projection has to reduce anxiety. An individual who doesn’t accept some negative qualities in himself, subconsciously attributes them to other people. Recognizing negative qualities in himself would mean he has to deal with his flaws and frustration. By projecting his insecurities, he protects his ego from criticism. Moreover, he makes other people responsible for his own thoughts and flaws. 

Sublimation

Sublimation is one of the healthiest defense mechanisms. This is the transfer of destructive energy to achieve positive results. For example, you go through a difficult breakup, but begin to write lyrical poems instead of grieving. Channeling one’s unacceptable impulses healthily helps deal with them. Moreover, by pouring the energy into other spheres of your life you can grow. 

Breaking Self-Defense Habits

Each person deals with anxiety and stress in his own way, and stressful situations are unavoidable. There are many other defense mechanisms like intellectualization, rationalization, reaction formation, and delusion. They may vary from person to person, but basically follow the same 1Bet formula. The person subconsciously protects his ego from uncomfortable feelings or unacceptable impulses. And he forms his unique way of covering them. 

These coping mechanisms don’t help you face the issues head-on and solve the problems. They may be helpful in times of stressful circumstances. But what if you routinely use self-deception to cope in your day-to-day life? Then you reduce your self-awareness. The use of these patterns makes you unable to grow in the long run. Hiding behind defense mechanisms makes you feel better but it is better to work through stressful situations. To break self-defeating habits, it is important to start recognizing them. The next step is to find healthier alternatives and stress management methods. If you are struggling to do that, don’t hesitate to contact a clinical psychologist.

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