The outside world is challenging, there is no doubt about that.It is not enough just to be well prepared to walk freely in it, but we must keep our own inner good protected, so that it is not affected by the negative influences we receive from it.
Such strength is achieved by acquiring great confidence and self-esteem, which allow us to generate practical solutions to the problems we face along the way.
However, there are times when obstacles can overtake us and cause us such an impacting discomfort that it diminishes our acquired confidence, resulting in us hiding behind an impenetrable wall so as not to have to deal with those distressing problems ever again, known as ‘defense mechanisms’. However, this can lead us to acquire maladaptive and non-functional behavior in any sphere of our life, if we let these mechanisms rule us completely.
Are defense mechanisms really so dangerous or can they benefit us in certain situations? If you want the answer we invite you to read this article where we will talk about the most common defense mechanisms of people.
What are defense mechanisms?
This is a concept proposed by Sigmund Freud, being the natural and unconscious way that our mind acquires to protect us from the threats that exist in the outside, especially those that generate great anxiety. In order to avoid going through these situations and subjecting the body to a psychological collapse, preserving the emotional tranquility within us in a known and safe environment, such as the ‘comfort zone’.
However, when these defense mechanisms become a shield of protection to a bubble of confinement, we can become involved in social dysfunction because we do not allow ourselves to experience new things for fear of what will happen, to face difficult situations involving strong feelings or as a safe to hide inappropriate behaviors waiting for their moment to burst.
This is why it is of utmost importance to recognize the defense mechanisms we use on a daily basis, in order to know how we are doing it.Am I being helpful and taking care of my being, or are they the perfect excuses for not acting as I need to or as I am doing now?
The dark side of these defense mechanisms
Freud claimed that the mechanisms were only a way to completely distort reality in an unconscious way, so that people were never really sincere in front of this or even worse they could not have the opportunity to know themselves.Therefore, people were never really sincere in front of him or even worse, they could not have the opportunity to know themselves. Living, thus, in an eternal lie that protected them from the anxieties that were generated on the outside and although this does not sound bad at all, it is a great impediment to grow personally, professionally and complicate relationships and interactions.
As a consequence, we are always living with an emptiness, with that constant feeling that something is missing and that we cannot be satisfied with our life. Because we have had an incorrect idea of our needs, desires and aspirations all along.
Most common defense mechanisms in people
Freud postulated eight defense mechanisms, which have their particular characteristics, but he also warned that it is very rare that we use only one because they vary according to the circumstance experienced. We will know below what these defense mechanisms are.
One of the most common defense mechanisms in some occasions, it is (as its name indicates) the denial of the existence of an event that has occurred. denying the existence of an event or some external factor that causes us a certain threat (even if we are not aware of it). (even if we are not aware of it). Generally, this denial comes from a traumatic experience that left behind negative emotional sequels, either in us or in very close third parties and that at all costs we want to avoid experiencing.
A clear example of this is when we keep everything the same in the room of a deceased person, completely denying the fact that he or she is dead, or in the case of an infidelity, we may ignore the fact that it exists and continue with the usual routine as a couple.
This is another of the most common defense mechanisms and is closely related to denial. it is about suppressing in an unconscious way something from our memory.This can cause a kind of mental lacuna or spontaneous forgetfulness about something that generates significant discomfort. In this sense, this ‘forgetting’ can be about different representations, such as a stressful memory, a traumatic event, a person who hurt us or a current reality that is very difficult to face and we prefer to ignore.
This is the defense mechanism is perhaps the most used by all of us and the most difficult to counteract, since it becomes part of our normality, besides, if it protects us from a threat to our psychological stability, why eliminate it? Well… think about this: how can you get rid of the threat if you don’t face it?
In this unconscious strategy the person has the desire to return to a previous time in his or her life that he or she considers safe for him or herself.A stage where he/she perceives that everything was easier and there were no anxieties that put him/her in constant stress or frustration. Thus acquiring behaviors, conducts and characteristics of that time, which in most cases tends to be from a period of childhood.
This can generate that the person acts in a childish way, generates tendencies of dependency towards a person and manifests tantrums or whims as needs that their environment must satisfy.
This is also one of the most common defense mechanisms used by people, since it is about finding justifications for the behaviors and attitudes we have, so that they are perceived as something rational, acceptable and perfectly normal.It is about finding justifications for the behaviors and attitudes that we have, so that they are perceived as something rational, acceptable and perfectly normal. The same happens with thoughts, ideas, obsessions, manias or behaviors that always seem to be bothering us, but there must be a valid reason for them to occur and for us to carry them out.
An example that we can appreciate very well in this case, is when a negative consequence occurs (a dismissal, a love breakup, an academic failure) we tend to blame others, before accepting that there was a failure on our part, as this generates less anxiety.
5. Reactive training
In this defense, we fervently insist on demonstrating the contrary attitude towards something that causes us discomfort. It is somehow a more intense and compulsory repression of an impulse that is still present within us and that we want to carry out in an unconscious way, but that for fear, morality or insecurity we prefer to change for the opposite impulse.
In this case, we can give the example of those people who fear their sexual instincts and show themselves with extreme chastity (a behavior that they perceive as socially more acceptable) or a person who is envious of the success of another, behaves as his best ally to continue growing.
One of the most classic defenses and also one of the most used by people who feel rejection towards behaviors, attitudes or impulses within themselves that they are not able to perceive consciously, but in order to get rid of them, they attribute them to another person. In this way, whatever it is that bothers them, they can justify it on the grounds that it is a negative attitude of others and not their own..
A good example in these cases is the constant criticism of a person’s lifestyle, which in reality we wish we had for ourselves, or the classic reason for getting along with someone for no apparent reason: ‘I don’t hate him, he hates me’.
In this one, the intention is centered in changing the desires towards an object that is inaccessible to us or represents some type of discomfort for us, towards another object to which we can access in order to satisfy that desire. or represents some kind of discomfort for us, to another object to which we can access in order to satisfy that desire. Although changing an object for another object that is not threatening does not completely reduce the tension generated by the main object, by unloading all the frustration on that one.
A very visible example in this case is when we feel frustrated at work by a boss who constantly pressures us and we can not vent our anger against him, for fear of retaliation that would generate, but instead we can do it with our family, friends, partner or children, since they do not represent any kind of threat.
In this defense the opposite is the case, since in sublimation we seek to completely alter the impulses generated by an object, instead of replacing them with something we can afford. in sublimation we seek to completely alter the impulses generated by an object, instead of replacing them with something we can afford….. Channeling these unconscious and primitive impulses by socially acceptable behaviors. The problem lies in the fact that this is a change that is made consciously and needs a permanent effort, so there is no satisfaction, but in contrast, it only generates more tension.
An example is that, instead of releasing accumulated tensions, such as anger, love, rage, sexual desire, sadness, etc., they are sublimated in human creativity, such as paintings, literature, poetry or sculptures. Freud firmly believed that many artistic works were actually charged with sublimated impulses.
Have you recognized the defense mechanism you use the most?