Defense Mechanisms
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Defense Mechanisms

Sometimes we don't see or don't want to see the problems we are creating in our own lives. If we admit that we are making bad choices, then we would have to do something about them.

Following are some of the ways that we avoid taking responsibility:

1. Denial - This is when we don't even know that we are lying to ourselves. We refuse to accept reality and often act as though a painful experience didn't or doesn't exist. This defense mechanism often begins in childhood and can carry on into old age.
2. Projecting - When you accuse others of having unacceptable impulses that you are experiencing you project the thoughts onto what may be innocent people. Those who project often state what "should" be happening in the lives of others while minimizing their own involvement in the same thinking or behaviours. Anxiety is reduced as you focus on what other people are doing instead of on your own issues.
3. Rationalizing - This is when you have been irresponsible in some area but, instead of accepting and correcting this, you use excuses to justify so that you aren't viewed negatively.
4. Intellectualizing - As in rationalizing, you come up with an excuse for something that you did but instead of being emotional about it, you just distance yourself from the problem and carry on.
5. Regressing - In times of stress, you may revert to a younger state and act in a childish way.
6. Repressing - When events or situations are difficult to handle, you might block all memory of them. If you don't remember them, you don't have to deal with them!
7. Acting out - This is a way of using extreme behaviours to reduce your anxiety. Temper tantrums in children can continue into adulthood as forms of abuse.

It isn't easy to be mature adults, especially when we have been using defense mechanisms for most of our lives.

Taking responsibility for our thoughts and actions can be facilitated by a number of things:
1. Awareness - This can occur when things are pointed out to us by someone who we respect. A friend, partner or colleague who cares might say the very thing that helps us to realize what we have been doing. Don't be upset with them. Thank them for helping!
2. Knowledge - Right now, all we know is all we know. Taking a course, joining a group or attending a class can provide us with information that will help us to understand things differently.
3. Skills - Learning strategies to deal with stress and problems differently will lead to different results.
4. Practice - Trying new techniques will lead to expertise and positive change over time.
5. Forgiveness - One of the most difficult things to do is to forgive ourselves when we realize how we have failed in an area. Think about how you would treat a friend who had done the same thing and apply that grace to yourself.

Change, for some people, is a scary thing. But for those who are struggling, it can be a welcomed relief. If you really want to live a healthy life and build mutually-beneficial relationships, the first step is to consider if and how defense mechanisms are interfering with the process.

And now I would like to invite you to claim your Free Instant Access to a complimentary list of 10 Steps to Making Your Life an Adventure when you visit

From Dr. Linda Hancock, Registered Psychologist and Registered Social Worker

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