Defense Mechanisms That Both Protect and Hurt Us
Orange County Christian Counseling
Think about the things that cause you to feel stressed. Have you met anyone else who isn’t fazed by the things that cause you to worry? Maybe they seem to be able to deal with them without much fuss. Do you know people who get stressed out about things that seem like they shouldn’t even be a consideration for a problem? Perspective is everything when it comes to stress.
How the walls are built.
The variety of life experiences that people draw from causes them to react uniquely to the same source of stress. Triggers are circumstances, people, or emotions that you are particularly sensitive to as a result of things that have happened in your life. These things might induce stress by making you more sensitive to them.
For example, consider anger. An individual who was brought up in an unstable environment in which anger led to yelling, intimidation, or physical violence is likely to respond to anger in a manner that is distinct from the response of an individual who was instructed to express anger constructively. Only one of the two people is likely to be triggered when their spouse becomes furious with them, even if they may both feel the anger.
Another illustration of this would be infertility. When they find out that a friend is pregnant, a person who is dealing with reproductive challenges may have a different reaction than someone who conceived without any challenges. Those who suffer from infertility may experience fear, grief, and jealousy when they hear about another person’s pregnancy.
Because there is such a wide variety of things that can affect human beings, there are an unlimited number of ways in which individuals can be triggered. In addition to the wide variety of factors that might operate as triggers, there is also a wide range of responses that individuals can have to those factors.
People have the propensity to cultivate defense mechanisms, sometimes known as unconscious reactions, which shield them from the discomfort caused by their triggers. It is very typical for people to be unaware of these defense mechanisms or when they are being used.
Many of us have heard or used the term “become defensive” when we have the impression that someone is trying to protect or defend themselves in an argument rather than listening to the opposing point of view. This occurs when we feel that someone is trying to protect or defend themselves in an argument.
When a person is emotionally triggered by the topic at hand, defensiveness frequently occurs. Even after the triggering event has gone, the defensive mechanism is still active. Someone may respond negatively when they feel defensive, and this may have an impact on both work and personal relationships.
During a therapy session, counselors can observe the defense mechanisms that clients bring up. People need to make progress on whatever issue brings them to therapy to have a therapist who is qualified to recognize their defense mechanisms and assist them in working through them.
Types of defense mechanisms.
There are a great many distinct kinds of defense mechanisms, however, the following are some of the more widespread ones:
A person with a good sense of humor.
Isn’t it true that laughter is the best medicine? Not in every case! People who use humor to talk about unpleasant situations frequently have pain that they are trying to hide behind the surface.
Some people will intentionally embarrass themselves to stop others from doing it first. Others spin tales flavored with humor around unfortunate events to avoid realizing how much they hurt. There is nothing inherently wrong with making light of a challenge. However, it is essential to also be able to discuss the gravity of the situation honestly when it comes up in conversation.
The strong, silent type.If you aren’t one of these yourself, you almost certainly know someone who is. This person is the rock of the family, the dependable one at work, and the foundation upon which the family is built. If someone is using this defense mechanism, it causes them to try to appear strong and steady on the outside, even if they do not feel like that on the inside.
Because there is always someone else who is in need, the attention does not need to be focused on the person who is continually taking care of others. Maintaining one’s composure and keeping one’s mouth shut not only avoids other people from recognizing a person’s suffering and weakness but also assists that person in forgetting about it.
A laid-back kind of person.
People with this protection mechanism tend to go with the flow or to be overly accommodating, never making waves. Someone who uses this defense mechanism is typically passive and waits to be told what to do or for someone else to decide for them instead of taking initiative themselves.
This defense can be used to conceal emotions of inadequacy or a lack of confidence, both of which are necessary for decision-making. When a person is laid-back and doesn’t feel the need to have or exert an opinion, they eliminate the possibility of making someone angry or being turned down.
Contrary to popular belief, perfectionism is not a virtue in most contexts, and the pursuit of perfection is impossible in any case. A person who is impacted by the perfectionistic defensive mechanism would stop at nothing to ensure that they never commit an error or look foolish.
This barrier masks a deep-seated anxiety about being criticized. This line of defense may cause an individual to feel anxious on a more general level because there is always the possibility that something will go wrong.
A passive-aggressive person.
Do you know that passive-aggressive behavior is a protective strategy? While many of us use the phrase to characterize the actions of other people in our lives, we may be exhibiting passive-aggressive behavior too. When someone is being passive-aggressive, they are giving off the impression to those around them that they are upset or in need of something without coming right out and saying it.
A person who engages in passive aggression makes an effort to get their demands met without directly expressing those needs. Fear, together with the need to avoid wrath and confrontation, is the driving force behind it. It is possible to let someone know in a passive-aggressive manner that something is wrong by pouting indirectly rather than by explicitly telling them what the issue is.
The irony is that passive-aggressive acts are typically more frustrating and result in greater levels of irritation than confrontation does.
These activities are typically performed unconsciously, and the majority of people are not even aware that they are engaged in them. Every day, all of us, regardless of how emotionally healthy we may or may not be, put our defense mechanisms into action. When the defenses have a major detrimental impact on a person’s life, the emergence of concerns is inevitable.
You can improve your self-awareness, heal from past suffering or trauma, and learn how to cope in a healthy way with any triggers that you experience with the assistance of a skilled therapist who can help you.
The counselors in our office are ready to help you shift from using defense mechanisms in ways that hurt you to becoming aware of them, ultimately making healthier choices for you and those around you.
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