Defense mechanisms are psychological strategies used to cope with reality and maintain the self-image. A healthy person can actually use these for the rest of his life. However, when there is persistence involved, an ego defense mechanism becomes pathological and leads into a maladaptive behavior. Although its true purpose is to protect the mind, self, or ego from anxiety, social sanctions and serve as refuge from any situation, where one cannot cope in real time.
Whenever I feel so much social stress in the workplace, where people grapple you left and right with so many hang ups of their own selves and tries to persuade you according to their means, I just simply use my favorite mature defense mechanism, which is the humor. Actually, I’m just battling with the defense mechanisms utilized by other people who wants to cover up their own weaknesses as well. Of course, most of them do not notice that they are using them unless they know the true meaning of the term and its true demonstration.
Battling with someone else’s defense mechanism is actually a better skill for me to consider. I say so because it is like playing poker with someone that both of you are keeping all the defenses under your sleeves, just waiting for the right time to put them out and clash out each other. However, you have more better cards compared to your opponent in this event. And again, this is metaphorically speaking. I consider events like these as challenging bouts I ever had in my life. So far, my greatest battle are with people powered by projection, which is the primitive form of paranoia and of course the people powered by denial. But I still consider the most memorable one was the battle I had with a person powered by hypochondriasis.
There are actually four levels of defense mechanisms and by knowing all of them actually place me in a situation that can better face the anticipated anxieties of life and the same with a workplace-grappling environment. This also adds up to my workplace ethics list. It is just a matter of using it properly and knowing when to control it to avoid being eaten up by your own defense mechanism.
Everyone is privileged to use their own defense mechanism, may they are aware that it is a defense mechanism or not. It shows up naturally and most of the time they are believed to be a bunch of metaphors that put up someone on a podium of power when they are caught up in between powerful conflicts. It is good to know what yours is. It enhances your ego function and most of the time, makes you feel intellectual. This is just one of the wonders of psychology in getting deeper with yourself.
Anyway, let’s see what your favorite defense mechanism is. Try to answer the following situational questions, contemplate, then check if you practice defense mechanism on analogous conflicting events. Take note that these are not all of the defense mechanisms. These are just a few for you to reflect on.
• Do you to tend to ignore conflicting events that may lead you to face a hurting reality? Or do you tend to refuse admitting or recognizing something has occurred or is currently occurring? Well, if you do, then your defense mechanism is denial. Actually, denial is the most well-known of all defense mechanism. It requires a lot of effort and energy in protecting your ego from things that you cannot cope with and sometimes keep these unacceptable feelings from consciousness.
• Do you tend to find difficulty in forming relationships due to a traumatic memory? Or tend to force yourself in doing things to keep unwanted information out of your awareness? Well, the first one is repression and the latter one is suppression.
• What about coming home from work, carrying all the frustrations you got from a bad work day and release them unconsciously on your kid, wife, or little brother? You tend to take out your frustrations, feelings, and impulses on people or objects that are less threatening. You call this displacement.
• What about this? Have you watched the movie, Catch Me if You Can? The starring person there became a master of fraud, which is unacceptable in the society. When he turned himself in, he became a part of the feds who specializes in fraudulent checks and related cases. This is what we call sublimation.
• If you feel that you hate a person and feel that they do not like you as well, you tend to attribute thoughts and impulses to another person.You call this projection. Take note that when you overuse this defense mechanism, there is a tendency to lead to paranoia.
• Or are you one of those people who insist in saying “I need to buy another dress because I don’t have anything to wear anymore.” Then one look at their closets, clothes are overflowing from them. You call this rationalization.
• Have you been fond of doing the opposite extreme? Like when you dislike a co-worker, you try to bend over backwards for you not to criticize that person and instead, give him special privileges and advances? Well, of course, this one is my favorite defense mechanism. I just put some bit of humor to make it more pleasing and discreet. This is reaction formation, also known as reverse psychology. However, I simply call this killing them with kindness.
It is normal to use defense mechanism because this safeguards our ego functioning. It becomes troublesome if we overuse it and cannot move on without us using them without any anxiety involved.