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Everyday Defense Mechanisms You May Not Be Aware Of

Updated on February 6, 2018
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I find myself reading and learning something new everyday so i decided to share that knowledge on a platform filled with curious minds.

Navigating through life is like a never ending roller coaster of ups and downs. There are days where we feel we can conquer the world or achieve anything we put our mind to, and there are days where we just want to stay in bed and avoid the world. Even during those lows, majority of people try to get through the day the best way they know how.The rest of the days you feel like you regularly would and nothing is out of normal. During these times, if had a better understanding of why you act a certain way toward someone or something, you can take the necessary steps to avoid those actions or find a way to deal with it. Your quality of life will change for the better.

What are Defense Mechanisms

Defense mechanisms are involuntary and unconscious responses to anxiety or guilt. Our unconscious mind works from behind the scenes to protect our well being from the onset of negative emotions. The unconscious mind stores and utilities memories, information and thoughts we are not aware of and don't necessarily need on a daily basis. The unconscious mind can be triggered by a certain stimuli like a smell, sound, or taste as well as a stressful situation we want to avoid.

Anxiety can be linked to feeling overwhelmed in a particular situation like presenting in front of a class or where you feel your life is in dangerous like someone attempting to rob you. The physical symptoms can include a nauseous feeling in the pit of your stomach, sweating throughout the body and sweaty palms, increased heart rate, and potential dizziness.

Guilt is a powerful negative emotion that can influence whether we act in a certain or not. If you act in manner that goes against your own principles and standards or the standards of society, then you may experience guilt. A feeling of self loathing or even disgust can be brought on when we experience guilt so avoiding these feelings can be beneficial to our overall well being.

Types of Defense Mechanisms


  • Prevents disturbing or threatening thoughts from becoming conscious. Traumatic experiences, especially faced as a child, such as physical or mental abuse is often hard to forget or move on from. A way to deal with this is repressing or keeping these thoughts out of our conscious mind. You may not be able to recall certain events or experiences because of this.


  • Refusing to acknowledge certain aspects of the outside world. The reality of a situation may not be to your liking so you avoid it or pretend it never existed. You may have lost your house keys but refuse to acknowledge you have because that is not the type of person you see yourself as. (forgetful or irresponsible)


  • Allocating ones own unacceptable feelings and motives onto another person. You protect your self image by casting a projection onto the person who is the root of your negative thoughts and feelings. You experience hate and disgust toward a fellow coworker so you avoid them whenever you can, but you may rationalize this by telling yourself "he/she is avoiding me, they probably hate me."


  • Redirecting a negative impulse onto an inappropriate substitute. Aggression is a common impulse that deals with violent behavior usually with the intent to harm. When the cause for the aggression is not confronted or dealt with right away, you may deal with the bottled up feelings by lashing out on someone else without cause.


  • Reverting back to a particular age or point in time. When you come across a stressful situation and feel overwhelmed, you may act in a way appropriate to when you were a child. Dropping down to the fetal position and rocking back and forth may be the behavior you take when confronted with a spider for instance.


  • Satisfying an impulse with an appropriate substitute. The previous defense mechanism of displacement should be avoided and replaced with sublimation. The pent up feeling of aggression should be dealt with but in a safe or socially acceptable way. You can visit the gym and go a few rounds on the punching bag or join sport. Whichever outlet works for you.

Defense mechanisms are a normal and everyday occurrence. The problem arises when we start relying on them too often. After a while you may start developing problematic disorders like neuroses, anxiety, various obsessions or even phobias. I hope this article helps you identify certain problematic behavior in your life so you can either deal with it in an appropriate manner or avoid it all together if possible.


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