“Defense mechanisms protect us but also blind us at the same time”
– Joseph Tropper
Defense mechanisms are built-in ways we try to protect our ego—the problem with these mechanisms is that they often blind us from our behavior.
We will discuss defense mechanisms that are built into us as human beings. Though they are intended to protect our ego and state of mind, they often end up damaging our relationships and pulling us further into blame and anger. We will uncover the 7 most common defense mechanisms we all use to protect ourselves. My greatest hope in opening this discussion is that we become aware of our defenses and understand our ability to develop healthier ways to respond or deal with emotions, especially when involved with difficult interactions.
Why We Have Them:
Let’s face it we all use defenses, though they are a lot easier to spot in others. Defense mechanisms are ways to protect our ego. Defense mechanisms tend to blind us from seeing our own self-sabotage or how we are actually causing or making the problem worse.
7 Defense Mechanisms:
Denial or “cognitive dissonance”—We deny negative things said about ourselves to protect our ego.
An adult could have a 5-year old temper tantrum; they regress to an earlier stage of behavior instead of dealing with a problem the adult way.
We zone out from things we don’t want to focus on because those events or situations hurt—how much am I present in the moment, and how much am I disassociating from the moment?
We ignore one piece of information that doesn’t relate to rest (ex. compartmentalize one bad action of parents that doesn’t fit into our perfect view of them).
We project past experiences with people into our new relationships and then try to protect ourselves from perceived threat.
When you oppose something that you actually endorse
“Don’t feel, just think”—This is when you blame other people for our problems or the situation that we contributed to.
We are complex human beings, but being aware of how we often uses these tactics will help us work to become more healthy. Your first gut reaction when reading many of the above attributes may be to think about someone you know, probably a loved one, who uses these defenses. You are probably correct, but before you go point it out to them, first ask yourself whether you also use some of these defenses. Therapy, or an outside perspective, can help guide us to better be aware of our blind spots.
There is a medical condition called blindsight. It is where your eyes open but cannot see. You can have something right in front of you, but your brain is unable to project its image into your consciousness, while still sensing it and looking right at it. This is what defense mechanisms often are, they lead to emotional blindsight, until you shine light onto them and find healthier ways to advocate for what you are trying to get.