We all have faced situations that need us to deal with negative emotions.
None of us desire to face them and when we find that the negative emotions are bothering us, it triggers a kind of panic and anxiety. Automatically, almost without our notice, we begin to find our way out of it at least for the time being.
Our mind comes up with strategies unconsciously to protect us from the potential danger in a given situation. These strategies are called defense mechanisms.
Isn’t it obvious that we first try to defend ourselves before we calm down to think and observe the issue in detail?
Think of a situation where someone confronted you saying they don’t like your behavior or accused you of some wrongdoing. Most likely we deny it first and defend as much as we can. This usually happens because when we find ourselves in situations like these, it triggers anxiety. Our body initiates reactions which are called the “fight or flight” reactions. Rapid heartbeat, excessive sweating, and breathlessness are a few to name.
Like at times of physical dangers where we find ways to escape and save ourselves, in places of mental tensions also, where things go against our expectations, we resort to different ways to cope with that disappointment.
Here are a few defense mechanisms that we all use or come across very commonly!
- Displacement: We see this with almost every other person! Remember the last time you’re dad snapped at you for no reason that you did but because he had a bad day at the office? Or when your sister screamed at you for no reason because she fought with her friend? They were venting their emotions in a different place than the one where the negative emotions were actually triggered.
- Sublimation: Have you ever seen somebody vent their anger or frustration over some physical activities rather than sharing it anywhere else? Aggressive sports and gaming are examples of this defense mechanism. People usually resort to this way because letting out their emotions through these means is more socially acceptable than expressing their frustrations directly.
- Projection: For example, your friend complains that you don’t like them at all and that’s why you don’t pay much attention to him/her usually. What would one of our most common reactions be? We’d say “No! Nothing like that! You don’t like me and that’s why you are saying this to me.” Most people do that usually, they try to project and push their emotions onto the other people saying that they feel a particular way instead of admitting their own opinions or thoughts.
- Regression: Didn’t we all come across people who throw tantrums around to get their work done ahead of everybody else or irrespective of anybody else’s priorities and conveniences? Well, this is their way of dealing with the anxiety of being left all alone and not finishing their work at all. In this defense mechanism, people resort to childish behaviors which they might have exhibited as kids to get what they wanted. It means they go back to their long lost behaviors to accomplish some task.
- Reaction formation: We all might have seen people who react in an exactly opposite manner to what they hold for a particular person. This behavior is surprising but many people actually do that. They might just hate some person and go around complaining about them to every other person. But when they face that person directly, they interact with them very nicely. This is a way of dealing with the tension that triggers at the sight of that person. It does sound weird but it is a fact.
- All these behaviors come to us instantly and spontaneously and we might not even be aware of these reactions we project sometimes. Our bodies and minds are structured in a way to come up with reflex reactions to cope with dangers or tensions that occur very suddenly.Defense mechanisms are an integral part of this coping system that we all have. There is an underlying positive intention behind every defense mechanism that presents itself. At a given moment when we do not understand how to react to a particular situation, these mechanisms come to our rescue and save us from causing more damage. And these are really useful for such scenarios.But, we need to be aware of and try to think over our behaviors once we are out of stressful situations. We might find ourselves at the doors of new problems if we use these defense mechanisms very often and try to escape from the issue on hand rather than trying to solve the issue in the long run.
These defense mechanisms are useful when they do not stop us from resolving issues. They should never become our primary way of dealing with issues and doing so could create new problems.
The knowledge of these behaviors could come in very useful to understand ourselves and our behavior in a better way and would therefore help us in dealing with situations more effectively. It would largely minimize the issues that we face generally and also would help us solve any other problems that we may face.
There are so many more of these defense mechanisms. Do let me know if you’d like to know more about them in the blog posts going ahead.
Thank you so much for reading through this and I hope you found it interesting and useful.
I’ll see you next Sunday with another post.