Defense Mechanisms

"When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us." --Alexander Graham Bell

Defense mechanisms are used by all human beings and may be necessary for survival in some situations.

We've all used defenses to distance ourselves from distressing feelings and maintain a sense of emotional stability. Our defense patterns began in childhood when they prevented us from becoming overwhelmed with anxiety. However, as an adult we outgrow their usefulness. If we continue to use outgrown defenses we are more likely to create rigid constrained relationships and risk never truly encountering another human being.

Part of therapy is identifying our defenses. If we can discover which defenses we use, we can replace outgrown ones with more healthy ones. Defenses are not conscious excuses to avoid problems. Actually, we are usually unaware we are using them.

Counseling can be helpful in uncovering our most used defenses, and help us learn new ways of defending and coping in life.

Just for fun, scroll down and check off those defenses you have used...

rationalization: providing "explanations" to excuse inconsistent or irrational behavior, and not being aware that this is happening.

minimizing: protecting yourself from worry or anxiety by viewing significant events or problem behaviors as being less important (smaller) than they actually are.

externalization: believing outside forces or circumstances are the cause of your self-destructive behaviors. This defense mechanism allows you to avoid accepting responsibility for behavior.

intellectualization: using lengthy argument or small detail (deflecting behavior) to distract from the task at hand.

projection: attributing your own undesirable traits or thoughts onto another person.

displacement: redirecting emotions such as anger form the source of frustration, and discharging them onto other persons, objects, or ideas.

undoing: engaging in behavior designed to symbolically make amends for or negate previously unacceptable thoughts, feelings, or actions. This is not to be confused with actual and direct amends made to persons we may have harmed.

regression: returning to a less mature level of behavior.

fantasy: escaping from an unpleasant or undesirable situation through daydreaming, "tuning out", or not paying attention.

acting-out: acting without reflection or apparent regard for negative consequences.

passive aggression: indirectly and unassertively expressing aggression toward others.

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