Understanding Your Defense Mechanisms

psychotherapy Tuckahoe NY

Understanding Your Defense Mechanisms

Defense mechanisms allow us to navigate the world while protecting ourselves when life throws unfavorable or unfortunate challenges at us. Some of these defense mechanisms can be instrumental towards maintaining physical and mental health, as they allow for a sturdy relationship with reality. We call these “mature” defense mechanisms. Others fall somewhere in between the two extremes. We call them “intermediate” defenses. And then finally, there are a handful that, in excess, can become undeniably damaging to ourselves and others. These we call “immature” defenses. With psychotherapy Tuckahoe NY services, one can learn to understand the nature of all of these mechanisms. With better understanding, we can leverage them to our advantage. 

Mature Mechanisms

  • Sublimation: This is the habit of responding to something that makes you anxious or angry by redirecting your attention to something constructive. For instance, if your partner or spouse said or did something with which you disagreed, instead of lashing out at him or her without thinking, you choose instead to cook, wash dishes, or focus on a hobby that makes you happy. During this time you allow yourself to calm down until you’re in a mental state in which you can communicate in a healthier manner.
  • Suppression: This is a habit in which one is conscious of his or her surroundings and factors this into whether or not it’s appropriate to address an issue at a particular time. For example, if a peer or significant other said or did something you didn’t like, but you are in the presence of others, you come to the conscious conclusion that addressing what happened in front of others will not lead to a healthy solution. So you opt to wait until a more appropriate time to bring it up.

Intermediate Defenses

  • Displacement: This is the shifting of attention to someone who is not necessarily part of the conflict at hand. It is often the result of the person who committed the original offense being in a position of power, leading the person who was offended to instead release his or her frustration on someone more vulnerable. Whereas with sublimation, one redirects his or her attention to something productive, with displacement, one redirects attention to another person. While this prevents the issue between the first two parties to be exacerbated, it is still at the expense of another human being, making it a defense that is preferable to avoid when possible.
  • Repression: If you find at times that you can’t recall occurrences or experiences that inflicted harm or discomfort on you, that could be a sign that you’re repressing them subconsciously. This is not uncommon, as we all have things that we’d rather not think about. But like anything, all is best in moderation. If you find that you are repressing memories that are having a profound impact on how you conduct your life, you stand to benefit from addressing and better understanding them.

Immature Defenses

  • Passive Aggression: When someone hurts or irritates you, instead of addressing the topic at hand, you retaliate with something unrelated later on. For example, if your spouse said something in public that embarrassed you, you choose to intentionally ruin an article of their clothing because you know it would hurt him or her.
  • Acting Out: This is when someone falls victim to his or her impulses as the result of an anxiety inducing event. For example, if your supervisor reprimands you and you feel bad about yourself, you respond by binge drinking or gambling.

Most people have a combination of all three categories of defense mechanisms. By understanding the implications of each and how they relate to your life, you can strive toward healthier habits in the future. To learn more about our psychotherapy Tuckahoe NY services, give The Counseling Center a call at (914) 793-3388.