When people sense a threat to their well-being, in particular stress and anxiety, they normally turn to defense mechanisms. When we say defense mechanisms, we are talking about the mental actions made consciously or unconsciously, to protect themselves from these negative feellings.
This is a normal reaction for humans. We all have that “fight or flight” reaction to stress. However, a person may “overheat” with all these defense mechanisms whenever threats come in simultaneously. This could cause the person to not being able to see reality.
What are the defense mechanisms people commonly use?
Here are some human behavior defense mechanisms. See if you are using them:
1. Rationalization–This is when a person uses justifications regarding his negative behaviors. One example is politicians stealing from public coffers because “everybody does it, anyway”.
2. Overcompensation-This is when someone covers up a weakness by emphasizing too much on his other strengths or making up for frustration by over gratifying in another area. One common example is when a person is a frustrated singer, then puts in all his or her energies to an offspring for them to carry on the unfulfilled dreams of the parent.
3. Denial–Almost every person goes through this in their lives. A person refuses to acknowledge an event that is not favorable to him. An example is a person saying he is invulnerable to any form of the disease because he is taking supplements.
4. Repression – This is common among people who have experienced traumatic events during childhood. The completely push at the back of their minds any painful thoughts.
5. Fantasy – daydreaming. It could be other forms of imaginative activity to escape reality. One example is when a procrastinating employee cannot finish the tasks and blames the boss instead of taking accountability.
6. Psychological Projection–This involves projecting undesirable feelings or emotions on someone else, instead of admitting to it or dealing with it. An example is of a man who is unfaithful to his wife but accuses his wife of being the one who is unfaithful.
7. Conversion–A person has emotional conflicts and manifests them in bodily symptoms of pain. One example is when a student turns in his project, and the teacher gives him a failing mark. The student develops a headache and asks to be excused for the rest of the day and go home.
8. Regression–An individual reacts in such a way wherein he returns to old habits that he has outgrown. An example is when a person cannot get a promotion goes back to doing entry-level jobs.
9. Negativism–A person reacts negatively to ideas without consciously realizing he is doing so. An example is when a supervisor negates any suggestions that his crew makes.
10. Identification–This is when a person tries to identify himself as someone who is like another person, usually someone he idolizes, to raise his self-esteem. This person may accept the values and beliefs of his idol. It is important to note that some life coaches use this as a therapy to boost their clients’ self-esteem.
11. Ritualistic Behavior–Someone performs an act which he thinks will make everything all right. Athletes are usually seen doing this.
12. Emotional Insulation–Apathy, resignation, and boredom are common characteristics of this defense mechanism. Here, the person breaks away from any emotional involvement with the environment. One example is when someone who thinks he is not getting the proper recognition at work, stops caring whether they praise him.
13. Reaction Formation–This is a suppression of an individual’s real thoughts and emotions and vigorously supports the opposite behaviors. An example is a person who is not chosen for promotion, then acts like he is actively supporting his boss.
14. Displacement–This is when a person cannot direct his frustrations at a particular person, so he looks for another person as a substitute target for all these frustrations. An example is when an employee gets mad at his colleagues but is in no position to tell them how furious he is. He releases his anger on his family.
Have you identified which defense mechanisms you have used in your life before? Were you negatively affected by these behaviors?