Defense mechanisms are natural and normal psychological strategies that are used to protect a person from anxiety arising from unacceptable and/ or unpleasant thoughts or feelings. These are the ways in which we cope.
They operate at an unconscious level. They are different for different people. It is how we respond to various situations. They are a part of our mind protectors.
In fact, most people use them without realizing the type of defense mechanisms that they are using.
These behaviours are adapted to compensate for the anxiety a person feels regarding their socially un- acceptable unconscious thoughts or emotions.
We learn these defense mechanisms during our growing years. It depends on our temperament, genetic make-up and our experiences.
Defense Mechanisms can be either:
IMMATURE DEFENSE MECHANISMS
These are not of much help to us. They cause more harm rather than relief. Even if they do cause relief, it is temporary. They suppress emotional awareness and hinder normal development into various psychological stages of life at different age.
Some of these include- projection, isolation of affect, devaluation, splitting, rationalization, denial, acting-out, autistic fantasy, dissociation, somatization, passive-aggressiveness, and displacement.
When they (immature defenses) get out of proportion (i.e., used with frequency), neuroses develop, such as anxiety states, phobias, obsessions, or hysteria.
Children cope with immature mechanisms, but as they grow older, they learn mature defenses to respond to different situations that they are faced with.
These defences allow a healthy way of coping and dealing with reality. They help us accept reality even if we don’t like it. By using Mature Defenses, we can transform threatening and uncomfortable thoughts into less threatening and acceptable ones. We cope better and positively.
Anyone can learn these Mature Defenses (through practice).
6 MATURE DEFENSE MECHANISMS
You choose to not engage or talk about disturbing feelings or thoughts.
You are aware of them, but just decide to put off dealing with them for a while.
For example: You are at a party. You and your friend had a disagreement. You wait till the party is over and you both are alone to discuss the matter.
The energy from uncomfortable feelings and thoughts are put towards a different, constructive purpose.
For example: "I'm mad at my brother for teasing me all the time, but instead of yelling at him (which won't help things), I'm going to practice my piano lessons.
FOCUS on transferring your negative energy and feelings to help someone in need.
As the name suggests, distract yourself from unwanted thoughts and feelings by something which is more acceptable and productive.
For example: I have had a fight with a colleague and I want to yell at him. But, shouting and yelling is not acceptable. So, I distract myself by playing a game with my friend.
When you know you’ll be faced with a PROBLEM or presentation, etc., you try to plan ahead. For example: preparing for an important presentation at the office.
Try to see the funny side of situations, even when they’re stressful.
SO, Mature defense mechanisms can help us cope better and improve our psychological resilience, thus improving our mental health.