April 30, 2011

How to avoid using defense mechanisms

by Suzanne Rose
Created on: April 24, 2011

Defense mechanisms are commonly used to reduce anxiety and allow people to deal with stressful stimuli. According to the Department of Cognitive Science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, these can be either positive or negative for a person. You can reduce your use of defense mechanisms through the following strategies.

Identify the defense mechanisms you employ

You will have difficulty avoiding the use of defense mechanisms if you do not recognize that you are utilizing them. First you should learn about the different mechanisms. You may repress some of your bad memories by pushing them to your unconscious mind. Projection occurs when a person projects feelings to someone else. For instance you do not like a person so you think that they do not like you. Rationalization occurs when you find pseudo-logical reasons to support an action such as cheating on a test. Other defense mechanisms include intellectualization, regression and displacement.

Enlist others to help you recognize your defense mechanisms, because it may not be apparent. You may miss some of your maladaptive behaviors, even when they are glaringly obvious to others.

A mental health counselor such as a psychologist can also help you recognize defense mechanisms so that you can take steps to eradicate them. This may be especially useful if you do not understand all of the different types that exist.

Develop healthy ways to reduce your stress

The problem with defense mechanisms is that they are not always effective at reducing the stress of the situation. For instance, some voluntarily or involuntarily choose to repress feelings of sadness when a spouse leaves. The person may think that the feelings of sadness are all gone, however they may still be in that person silently eating away at them. Without a healthy way to get out, these feelings of anxiety manifest themselves in even more dangerous ways. For instance, the person may start to drink or even use drugs.

Instead of using defense mechanisms or unhealthy measures, try to find healthy ways to deal with stressful situations. For instance, you may have a good friend or a mental health counselor to talk to about your problems. You can deal with your anxieties and problems directly. Although it may be difficult to face them in unabashed truth, you will hopefully be able to bring them to a healthy resolution.

Other healthy behaviors may help you get out anxiety. Exercise may be of use to you. Meditation allows you to calmly acknowledge and get out your stress in a healthy way. The more positive ways you can find to manage your anxiety, the less need of defense mechanisms you will have.

Defense mechanisms can help one to deal with anxiety, however they can be unhealthy. The above tips can help you change your usage of these.


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