Defense mechanisms (Part 2)

In a previous clovertheory post, I did talk about defense mechanisms and what they can do to our everyday life. So generally, as I said, defense mechanisms enable the mind to cope with conflicts which are hard or impossible to resolve at the present moment. This process is controlled in our subconscious mind and we may have a hard time resolving and realizing what is our problem.

Last time I wrote about this matter, I mentioned that there are ten major defense mechanisms and I explained only five of them – denial, projection, displacement, sublimation and turning against the self. If you have not read that post, I highly recommend you to do so because it will ease you into the subject (I will leave a link down below). Today I am going to wrap up this topic and clarify the remaining mechanisms – regression, rationalization, reaction formation, intellectualization, and fantasy.

Okay, let’s dive deep. 🙂

  1. REGRESSION – “I am not guilty of missing the doctor’s appointment, my mother should have reminded me, she is the one to blame” Reality check : You are guilty because you are a grown adult responsible for taking care after himself but instead of taking the blame, you curl up in a child-like innocent position and evade responsibility.

Regression is a defense mechanism which can impact our behavior, thoughts and feelings because of unconscious revetment back to an earlier stage of development. People usually use this when they find it difficult to express and cope with some stressful situation in an adult manner. And don’t get me wrong, we can always get lost in our emotions and forget the age-appropriate way of coping with things. The real problem occurs when we become dependent on dealing with the problems this way – repeating old habits or thinking that someone else should fix things or try to understand our every need.

What are the options here? Well, you can always reflect on your own actions and try to be more aware of every action you take. To do this, you must spend some quality time in self-analyze and understand how your subconscious works, from where do that feelings come from? Is it a fear of abandonment? Maybe fear of confrontation? Whatever it is, you must start from your childhood and understand what caused you pain and peacefully deal with it.

Let it go, everything is behind you now, you are a grown mature adult who can handle things in an adult manner.If you are an observant of this behavior don’t engage in and support the child act for too long or behave like a parent and scold with authority but try to kindly explain the situation. Maybe you can open someone’s eyes and change their life for the better.

  1. RATIONALIZATION – “Oh well, it doesn’t matter that they rejected me, I never even wanted that job. It is plain stupid and boring as hell. I only went to the interview because I had nothing else to do at the moment.” Reality check: You did want that job so much and being declined is painful to deal with right now.

Excuses, excuses! This one is my personal favorite 😀 . It’s like, you’re not even lying to other people – you’re lying primarily to yourself with or without actually being conscious about that at the very moment. Rationalization is our necessity to explain things and maintain some kind of consistency between our actions, feelings and the harsh reality. The need to rationalize things to other people comes from the inner desire to avoid embarrassment and keep our esteem at the highest level possible.

You did not pay taxes? It’s time for an excuse! – “The government is lying and stealing from the people”. Did you buy something expensive out of boredom and vanity? Guess what? Time for an excuse! – “I did need that laptop, the previous one was slow and old”. Maybe you force your child into a medical school because that was your long lost dream? Excuse? – “It’s for my child’s good.”

So basically, rationalization is about something that we have done and are not proud of it, or about something that has happened and seems uncomfortable for us to share with other people. Try to reflect on yourself more and realize the truth in your everyday actions. Whatever you did or felt can be easily resolved if you are honest with other people and yourself, there is no point in living a life of lies. You may even be appreciated and gain esteem for your courage and integrity and that has a higher value than any kind of perfect imaginative story line.

  1. REACTION FORMATION – A highly religious man may preach about morality and talk strongly against young women for dressing inappropriately because at the same time he is deeply attracted to them due to his lustful “sinful” thoughts.

This one may confuse you, but it’s fairly simple. This is a mechanism in which you will act in a totally opposite manner to your own feelings and thoughts because you are disgusted and ashamed of them or they are unapproved by society or the majority of people. Morality and society values play a huge roll in this one as we are taught from a young age the “proper” way of thinking, feeling and generally leading a life. When our “dark” side arises we have to remain clean and true to those principles. Our brain has managed to cope with this through (as you may suggest already) a defense mechanism.

This reaction may be on a subconscious level even though it can also happen when we are fully aware of it. For example, a man may feel gay and have fears or doubts about accepting his own desires – in that case, he may end up disapproving and hating homosexuals while being vocal about it. Or, if you find yourself in a situation where you like someone but it’s is somehow unacceptable to feel that way towards that person, (your friends don’t approve him/her, he/she is married, you are a child and this is a weird and unfamiliar feeling etc.) you can end up behaving inappropriately, rude and mean with that person.

If you are suspicious and want to know if someone is acting this way, then all you have to do is disagree with them and see if they burst into rage 😀 . Then, when the coping mechanism is assured you can help that person with making them realize their behavior. You can set a positive and supportive environment, so they can feel “normal” and accepted for who & what they really are. And if you find yourself in this situation, don’t engage yourself any further in it. As I said, honesty and integrity are more important than any principles. Morality represents an important part of society and I think that everyone should respect and apply it, but not at the cost of your ego wearing a mask for the rest of your life.

  1. INTELLECTUALIZATION – After her mother’s death, a woman is keeping herself busy with tasks and arrangements around the funeral without actually realizing the fact that her mother is really gone. She is blocking her emotions because she is not ready to deal with the feeling of sadness and loss at the moment.

This is a common defense mechanism nowadays which can protect us from feelings of anxiety, stress, sadness etc. As humans, we tend to react differently to some events and feelings. Intellectualization occurs when a person avoids to deal with something and directs all of his/her energy into logic, facts or different topics of interest. For example, it can happen when you are hurt or left a relationship and find yourself going out every night in order to dodge thinking about how much it pains to be alone. Or doing another unusual thing for you like excessive reading for a few days about the Roman Empire. 😀

Don’t confuse rationalization with intellectualization – they are different. Rationalization justifies the actions and feelings in some way, while this one blocks emotions and relies on facts, logic or avoidance. It can even be used in speaking with the usage of a more complex terminology – in that way we focus more on the words and less on the meaning behind them. Even our memories are somewhat intellectualized in order for us to function properly and leave our emotional baggage intact.

This is the raw human nature. We are definitely not ready, alarmed or secured at all times from the rocks life throws at us. All we can to is mature, stand up, face the problem and let go, because in that way we can evolve and improve into better human beings.

  1. FANTASY – A boy can watch television or play football all day even though he needs to study for tomorrow’s exam. A girl can fantasize about being with her crush for weeks instead of actually go and talk to him.

Fantasy as a defense mechanism can be described as a two-way street. It can be really beneficial and help your future goals and dreams or it can knock you down and involve you into a pathological behavior. You are the one with the power to decide which path you are going to choose.

This mechanism is a way of escaping the present moment and real problems, but not like intellectualization. Here, imagination plays a role along with daydreaming, television, Internet or any kind of non-related matter that has nothing to do with the actual problem. We enjoy ourselves and have fun because we avoid stressful or anxious situations and decide to deal with them later.

How can this be beneficial? Well, many life coaches teach the importance of positive thoughts and how it’s very crucial for you to engage and fantasize about an imaginative future filled with success in order to succeed. Somewhere in your mind, you create a shade, a version of you which is prosperous and that helps your confidence – ergo you start behaving like you’re already successful which is highly beneficial and will lead you to great fortune.

But, it can also go downhill if you lack self-discipline and occupy yourself with fantasies and different worlds created in your mind. If you start to live inside those worlds instead of facing the reality, your behavior becomes pathological. Or equally bad, you can start to imagine the worst possible outcomes and that will surely lead to anger and depression which is also not good.

As I said with every one of the defense mechanisms – you need to stay focused and aware of your persona, your actions, thoughts, feelings…If you feel like you can’t control them or have a hard time figuring them out, don’t be afraid to seek professional help. I think that every single one of us should have a personal psychiatrist because we are deeply flawed and imperfect. We act without thinking and that’s in our human nature. The real test of our personas comes when we are faced with the opportunity of growth and maturity when we can become more self-aware and use it to our advantage without pressure. And I know, it’s perfectly normal to feel the pressure of being perfect, but believe me – no one is.

So lighten up, analyze yourself more and have a nice day! 🙂

P.S. Here is a link from the first blog post about defense mechanisms in case you haven’t read that already: https://theclovertheory.com/defense-mechanisms-part-1/

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