Defense Mechanisms

“In psychoanalytic theory, a defence mechanism, is an unconscious psychological operation that functions to protect a person from anxiety-producing thoughts and feelings related to internal conflicts and outer stressors.” ~Wikipidia

We use defense mechanisms to avoid being aware of something we don’t want to be aware of or uncomfortable feelings, avoid facing the truth about something, keep from hurting others, avoid the consequences of our actions, avoid taking responsibility for our feelings and actions, avoid having to avoid uncomfortable changes.

Note: Some defense mechanisms listed may seem acceptable or even desirable. But even they can block your awareness of what is real and need to be resolved.

Addictions – Dependency upon a substance, behavior, event, person, or something similar in order to escape from unpleasant feelings or realities. Relief is only temporary and pain is deepened in the long run, thus setting up the need to further seek out continued relief.

Anger – Anger is a secondary feeling that can cover up or replace primary feelings, which could be much harder to bare, such as shame, sad, fear or grief.

Arrogance – Having an exaggerated sense of one’s own importance or abilities.

Avoidance – Won’t go there; mind or body goes elsewhere when undesirable awareness is present. Omitting, silence. “I will not talk about it.”

Blaming – (Also called Projection): Denying responsibility for certain behavior and maintaining that the responsibility lies with someone or something else. The behavior is not denied, but i’s cause is placed “ou there”, not with the person. “It’s your fault that I…”  or, “If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t have…”

Candy-coated memories

Comparing – “I’m not as bad as you,” or,  “I’m better than you.”

Complying – Submit or adapt. “I’ll do whatever you say.”

Control —Fake being in control when you really are not, or attempting to control others into being and reacting the way you want in order to gain some sense of control inside.

Conversion – A mental dilemma converted to a physical symptom such as a person who is financially stressed experiencing lower back pain.  

Defiance – “If you don’t like it, you can go take a hike!” or, “I’ll do whatever I want no matter what you say.”

Denial – Believing something is not, despite evidence to show that it is. Usually, this is obvious to those around, but not the one suffering the denial.  Denial is not deliberate lying or willful deception. It is a serious psychological mechanism that operates unconsciously. Denial distorts one’s perception and impairs their judgment so that they become self-deluded, incapable of accurate self-awareness. “I don’t have a problem,” or “I’m not being abused.”

Delusion – A false belief or deceptive fantasy resistant to reason, fact or confrontation, in spite of the evidence.

Dependency – Heavily relying on others to give you what you need and paying the price of self-love and care to get it.

Dishonesty – Lying to yourself and/or others to keep from the truth. Saying what you think others want or expect rather than being genuine, honest and real.

Displacement – Redirecting negative reactions to a safer, more acceptable target. For example, if you’re mad at your spouse you kick the dog.

Dissociation – Cutting off the reality of an unacceptable memory or part of you from your awareness; distancing it far away from you in an attempt to make it be gone.  Numbing out, zoning out.

Distractions – The mind easily looses focus on the subject at hand and moves to another. Causing another person to be distracted to keep the focus off of what is really wrong.

Diversion: Changing the subject to avoid a topic that is threatening or uncomfortable.

Escapism – Leaving or escaping painful realities by work, sleep, TV, video games, shopping, moving away or getting lost in fixing other people’s problems.

Excuses – Seek to defend or justify a fault or offense, attempt to lessen the blame

Excessiveness – Talking, withdrawing, working, spending, care-taking, controlling others, etc.

Fake smile or Fake Happiness—Using a fake smile or appearance of happiness as a mask to hide the misery on the inside.

Fantasy Obsession – Constantly daydreaming your life is different than it is rather than taking the responsibility of making change happen.

Filtering – Only hearing what you want to hear or seeing what you want to see or being aware of what you want to be aware of.

Generalizing – “Everyone else does it.”

Gossip – Taking the focus of your own flaws and insecurities and placing the focus on the weaknesses of others.

Grandiosity – Looking down at others, better than attitude, arrogant, self-centered, rejecting, intolerant, self-righteous, superior.

Harming self – Cutting skin, hitting head on the wall, slapping or hitting self, or even suicide atempts all serve as a way of distracting one’s self from inner pain, which may seem so much worse.

Hostility – Attacking, aggression, glaring, disagreeing, sarcasm, judging, arguing, putdowns, impatience, shouting, threatening, swearing, meanness or cruelty when reference is made to uncomfortable subjects. This is a good way to avoid the issues as it serves to back people off. If you are angry with someone when he or she talks about a certain topic, that person is going to change the subject or avoid bringing the topic up to you again.

Humor – Distracting with jokes, humor, silliness

Intellectualization – Avoiding emotional, personal awareness of a problem by dealing with it on a level of generalization, Intellectual analysis, or theorizing and questioning. Only thinking, not feeling – staying in the head. Ex: “I can fix this if I can make sense of it.” “I don’t have a problem because….”

Intimidation – Becoming angry, threatening or glaring to make someone back off.

Isolating – Remain alone or apart from others to avoid anything unpleasant

Joking – Never get serious – always clowning around to avoid discomfort.

Judging – Form an opinion or jump to conclusions about others that may or may not be true.

Lying – Present a false impression, or being deceptive

Magical Thinking – The idea that one’s thoughts can influence the outside world without acting upon them.

Manipulating – Game playing and/or head games. Taking advantage of a person’s weaknesses or vulnerabilities. Avoidance of empathy, negotiation and compromise.

Minimizing – Making something much less serious or significant than it actually is. “It really isn’t that bad,” “It didn’t hurt that much,” or, “He only hits me once in a while.”

Mind-Wandering (sometimes referred to as task-unrelated thought) is the experience of thoughts not remaining on a single topic for a long period of time, particularly when people are not engaged in an attention-demanding task. ~Wikipedia

Moral High Road – Placing yourself in a more holy or godly position, with self-appointed authority to point out other people’s failings rather than focusing on your own.

Narcissism – Because of deep shame, a person will build a desirable image of the self to show the world. S/he falls in love with this image, which he uses to convince others how great he is. Because the narcissist has no real self-love, there is no love for others. Thus others are used to promote the image, rather than being cherished in a relationship.

Need to be right – Trying to affirm one’s self-worth by never being wrong or showing any kind of weakness.

Over-achieving – Exerting more physical and mental energy than is healthy and balanced, trying to look good to others or feel good about yourself.

Over-analyzing – Staying out of feelings; always in one’s head

People Pleasing – Compensating for negative feelings about the self by trying to please others and make them like you

Perfectionism – Refusal to accept any standard short of perfection

Physical Symptoms – Headaches, stomach aches, body pain, ec.

Placating – Overly polite, flattering, appeasing, pacifying or phony.

Projection – Projecting your own undesired issues onto another person or institution, such as an unfaithful wife accusing her husband of cheating on her.

Rationalizing –Making excuses, alibis, excuses, justifications and other explanations for bad behaviors or for something wrong. Trying to make something reasonable, even if it’s not. A form of self-deception: “My dad had a right to beat me because I deserved it.”

Reaction Formation – In your mind, converting something unacceptable into its opposite. Example: Becoming a perfectionist to compensate for feeling worthless.

Regression – Returning back to an earlier level of maturity such as regressing into a child.

Repression – Pushing away unacceptable realities from conscious awareness. Withhold truth.

Rescuing – Saving others to feel important

Rigidity – Unbending, inflexible, narrow-minded, seeing the world in terms of black and white. 

Sarcasm – The use of irony to mock or convey contempt

Scapegoating – Blaming, justifying, projecting, excusing what is yours to own, onto some innocent party

Self-Mutilation – Cutting or injuring the body as a means of distracting one’s self from deeper pain or unacceptable awareness.

Self-Pity – Sullen, poor me, want others to rescue me, playing the victim.

Silence – No speech or discussion about an issue

Stubborn – Unyielding, unmoving, difficult to work with or convince.

Stuffing – Pushing unpleasant feelings and information away from awareness. Will not allow self to be aware of undesired realities, would rather stuff them.

Suspicion – Won’t trust or believe anyone.

Superiority – Needing to be better or smarter than others

Suppression – Pushing out of your awareness anything that seems unacceptable, threatening, awful or too hard to deal with.

Switching – Changing to a different person, topic or idea when things get uncomfortable.

Talking Excessively – Talking as a way of keeping the mind busy to divert awareness of feelings/emotions, or meaningful communication.

Threatening: Frowning, glaring, staring, sparring

Wandering Mind – Mind is distracted to irrelevant matters.

Wishful thinking or fantasy – If only thinking or daydreaming instead of facing reality.

Racing or distracted mind – Can be a coping strategy to distract oneself from what seems uncomfortable.

Violence – Distracting from the real issue by creating some kind of damage or physical force to hurt others

And more…

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