Defense Mechanisms to Cope with Painful Emotions
February 17, 2012 in News
Finding ways to cope with painful emotions can be one of the most critical ongoing efforts of your life. Change is an inevitable part of the human life: a family breaks up, a child leaves home, a mother or wife returns to work, you find a new job or go to new school. You are forced to adapt to all these changes. Luckily, your mind and body are adaptable. You may work through such adaptations by using your defense mechanisms- mental strategies to for preserving yourself from anxiety, stress or depression.
Defense mechanisms can lead to problems if they become your primary or only way of dealing with such problems. However, they can also be used to help you to adjust to stressful situations. Check out the common defense mechanisms, understand them and use them when you need.
Repression is considered the most basic defense mechanism. People who are repressing deny any awareness of thoughts, feelings, memories or wishes that are threatening. They refuse to acknowledge a response that would ordinarily be expected in specific circumstances. For example, a child who shows no anger or distress during his or her parents’ divorce may be repressing fears and anxieties.
Rationalization is a defense mechanism in which people assure themselves and others that they acted from better motives than was probably the case. A student that claims that his poor performance doesn’t matter because he was too busy helping others may be rationalizing negligence of responsibility for schoolwork.
Denial is a defense mechanism in which people cover up the truths about the outer world, ignoring those which threaten self-esteem or create anxiety. Thus, people may not hear an insulting remark even though it is spoken clearly and within hearing distance.
Projection is an attempt to attribute your undesirable feelings, wishes and motives to other people. A man who is about to get married, for instance, may claim that his roommate is interested in every good-looking woman who walks down the street. He may be projecting onto his roommate the unacceptable feelings he has about other women.
Phychic contactlessness refers to an inability to communicate with or become intimate with others. People, who are deeply afraid of being hurt by intimacy, perhaps because they have been hurt in the past, are suffering from psychic contactlessness. Such people keep their self-esteem intact, nobody can hurt them because nobody is allowed to get close enough to do so.
People, who do not acknowledge, that other people are fully human, with human feelings and emotions, are using the defense mechanism called depersonalization. Racial prejudice often contains strong elements of depersonalization. It has been used to justify slavery, pogroms and other acts of violence against entire groups of people.
Sublimation refers to the substitution of socially acceptable behavior for unacceptable impulses such as hostility and aggression. Some people, for example, may become workaholics who work compulsively long hours each day rather than face the angry feelings they have about their home lives.
The use of these various defense mechanisms is normal. Everyone resorts to them to one degree or another. They are not necessarily negative. They can help you to cope with many stressful situations in your life. Try to know more about them, use them moderately when needed, and they will improve your life for sure.