Advertising
Advertising

Defense Mechanism: How Does Your Body React To Things That Do Not Happen As You Wish

Defense Mechanism: How Does Your Body React To Things That Do Not Happen As You Wish

According to Sigmund Freud in the psychoanalytic theory, a defense mechanism is a tactic developed by the ego against anxiety.[1] Security mechanisms are thought to guard the mind against feelings and thoughts that are too difficult for the conscious mind to cope with.

Also, Wikipedia defines a defense mechanism as an unconscious emotional mechanism that reduces stress as a result of unacceptable or potentially damaging stimuli.[2] Sigmund Freud was one of the first proponents of this construct. However, defense mechanisms may bring about healthy or unhealthy consequences with regards to the circumstances and frequency in which the device is used.

While all these mechanisms can be harmful, they can also be very useful and allows us to function normally. The greatest problems occur when defense mechanisms are overused to avoid dealing with problems.

Advertising

You might have perhaps heard people speak about immunity processors with which we protect ourselves from things that people no longer want to think about or deal with. The term got its start in psychoanalytic therapy, but it has slowly proved helpful in day-to-day language. Think of the last time you referenced to someone as being “in denial” or alleged someone of “rationalizing”. Both of these illustrations label a type of defense mechanism.

I want to analyze below each type of defense mechanism as well as other immunity processes defined by psychologists.

Displacement: express the anger towards other people that are less threatening

Displacement defense mechanism involves getting feelings, frustrations, and impulses on people or objects that are less threatening. Displaced aggression is a common sort of this defense mechanism. Rather than express our angriness in manners that could lead to negative effects (like arguing with the boss), we instead express our anger towards a person or object that position’s no threat (such as our spouse, children, or pets).

Advertising

For example, this frequently occurs with family members, where we often see the father getting angry at the mother. The mother then takes her anger to her kid, the son in change yells at his little sister, the little sis kicks the dog, and your dog bites the kitten.

Sublimation: transform unhelpful emotions into healthy actions

This is a mechanism that makes us act away unacceptable impulses by changing our characters to generally accepted ones. For example, a person experiencing extreme anger might take up kickboxing as a means of venting disappointment. It is also assumed that in no doubt sublimation is seen as a sign of maturity that enables individuals to function normally in the society.

Repression: keep the unwanted information out of one’s awareness

This is another well-known defense mechanism. It acts to keep information out of our conscious awareness. It even consists all the others, and it is possibly the oddest of them all. Though, these memories don’t just disappear; they continue to influence our behavior. Often, we do this intentionally by forcing the unwanted information out of our awareness, which is known as suppression.

Advertising

Rationalization: make excuses to rationalize irrational behavior

This is another mechanism which describes the unpleasant characters or feeling in a logical manner. This mechanism does not only inhibit anxiety, but it may also protect self-esteem and self-concept. It is something that each human being does, probably on a regular basis. An example is a person who is turned down for a date and might rationalize the situation by saying they were not attracted to this person anyway. Another example of this may be a mate stealing money from a wealthy friend of his, telling himself “Well this individual is rich, he can afford to lose it.”

Projection: attribute one’s own thoughts and emotions to another

Discharge is defined as “Attributing one’s thoughts, emotions, or motives to another”. Projection is well known as the mechanism that takes unacceptable characteristics and changes them to others. This kind of feature is common, and we have probably all experienced it. An angry man might accuse others of being hostile. For example, if you have an intense hatred for someone, you might instead believe he or she does not like you.

Intellectualization: focus only on the intellectual aspect and remain isolated from the reality

Intellectualization works to minimize anxiety by thinking about events in a cold, clinical way. This defense mechanism enables us to avoid considering the stressful, mental aspect of the situation and instead focus only on the intellectual aspect. For example, a person who has just been clinically diagnosed with a terminal disease might give attention to learning everything about the disease to avoid distress and remain isolated from the reality of the specific situation.

Advertising

Reaction Formation: behave completely contrary to how one feels

Result creation reduces anxiety by taking up the opposite sense, impulse or behavior. It is also one of the defense mechanisms, as it entails behaving completely contrary to how one feels. It is defined as acting in a way that is exactly the opposite of your true feelings. An example of this could be treating an individual you hate in an excessively friendly manner to hide your true feelings.

These analyses show how we react to different emotions or characters. Though there are some things, we see wrong but seem good. While defense mechanism is usually thought of as negative reactions, many of these defense mechanisms can be helpful. For example, utilizing joy to overcome an annoying, anxiety-provoking situation can be an adaptive protection mechanism. In other circumstances, they allow people to temporarily ease stress during critical times, letting them give attention to what is necessary at the moment.

Reference

More by this author

Hardt Article

Freelance Writer

Signs of Excessive Jealousy in a Relationship and How to Deal with It Defense Mechanism: How Does Your Body React To Things That Do Not Happen As You Wish Advantages Of Electric Toothbrushes 5 Benefits Of Hiring An SEO Expert All you need to know about climate-controlled storage units

Trending in Psychology

1Striving Towards Secure Attachment: How to Restructure Your Thoughts 2Being in Narcissism Relationships Is Like Playing With Fire. It Is Risky. 313 Crippling Social Anxiety Symptoms Explained & How to Deal with Them 48 Powerful Reasons to Love Your Enemies 5Meditation for Beginners: How to Meditate Deeply and Quickly

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising

Published on July 13, 2018

Striving Towards Secure Attachment: How to Restructure Your Thoughts

Striving Towards Secure Attachment: How to Restructure Your Thoughts

What if you could discover some tools and methods that could improve your relationships? What if by gaining a little knowledge you could understand your relationship dynamics better and give them a boost up?

By learning what secure attachment is and how to restructure your thoughts, you can become more self-aware of your relationship dynamics. After becoming more aware, you can then take a few steps to make them better than ever. That’s something that many of us could benefit from.

When we hear the term secure attachment, our mind typically goes to a relationship. And that’s exactly what it’s about.

In this article I’ll discuss the concept of secure attachments in more detail and how restructuring your thoughts can help you strive towards achieving better relationships.

Relationships are a hugely important part of our lives and whatever we can do to improve them is a good thing for everyone involved.

What is attachment theory?

Let’s do a quick overview of what attachment theory is. This will provide a good foundation for the rest of this article.

The esteemed psychologist John Bowlby first coined the term attachment theory in the late 60’s. Bowlby studied early childhood conditioning extensively and what he found was very interesting.

His research showed that when a very young child has a strong attachment to a caregiver, it provides the child with a sense of security and foundation. On the other hand when there isn’t a secure attachment, the child will expend a lot more developmental energy looking for security and stability.

The child without the secure attachment tends to become more fearful, timid and slow to explore new situations or their environment.

Advertising

When a strong attachment is developed in a child, he or she will be inclined to be more adventurous and seek out new experiences because they feel more secure. They know that whoever is watching out for them will be there if needed.

Bowlby’s colleague, Mary Ainsworth, took the theory further. She did extensive studies around infant-parent separations and provided a more formal framework for the differing attachment styles.

How attachment develops

Simply put, attachment is an emotional bond with another person. Attachment doesn’t have to go both ways, it can be one person feeling attached to another without it being reciprocated. Most of the time, it works between two people to one degree or another.

Attachment begins at a very young age. Over the history of time, when children were able to maintain a closer proximity to a caregiver that provided for them, a strong attachment was formed.

The initial thought was that the ability to provide food or nourishment to a child was the primary driver of a strong attachment.

It was then discovered that the primary drivers of attachment proved to be the parent/caregivers responsiveness to the child as well as the ability to nurture that child in a variety of ways. Things such as support, care, sustenance, and protection are all components of nurturing a child.

In essence a child forms a strong attachment when they feel that their caregiver is accessible and attentive and there if they need them; that the parent/caregiver will be there for them. If the child does not feel that the caregiver is there to help them when needed, they experience anxiety.

Different types of attachments

In children, 4 types of attachment styles have been identified. They are as follows:

  • Secure attachment – This is primarily marked by discomfort or distress when separated from caregivers and joy and security when the caregiver is back around the child. Even though the child initially feels agitated when the caregiver is no longer around, they feel confident they will return. The return of the parent or caregiver is met with positive emotions, the child prefers parents to strangers.
  • Ambivalent attachment – These children become very distressed when the parent or caregiver leaves. They feel they can’t rely on their caregiver for support when the need arises. Even though a child with ambivalent attachment may be agitated or confused when reunited with a parent or caregiver, they will cling to them.
  • Avoidant attachment – These kids typically avoid parents or caregivers. When they have a choice of being with the parent or not, they don’t seem to care one way or the other. Research has shown that this may be the result of neglectful caregivers.
  • Disorganized attachment – These children display a mix of disoriented behavior towards their caregiver. They may want them sometimes and other times they don’t. This is sometimes thought to be linked to inconsistent behavior from the parent or caregiver.

What attachments mean to adults

So the big question is how does this affect us in adulthood? Intuitively it makes sense that as a child, if we have someone who will be there when we need them, we feel secure. And on the other end of the spectrum, if we aren’t sure someone’s going to provide what we need when we need it, we may become more anxious and fearful.

Advertising

As an adult, we tend to wind up in one of three primary attachment types based on our childhood experiences. These are secure, avoidant, and anxious. Technically, there is a fourth one, anxious-avoidant, but it is quite a bit less common. They are described as follows:

  • Secure – When you have a secure attachment, you are comfortable displaying interest and affection towards another person but you’re also fine being alone and independent. Secure types are less apt to obsess over a relationship gone sour and handle being rejected easier. Secure types also tend to be better than other types with not starting relationships with people that might not be the best partners. They cut off the relationship quicker when they see things in a potential partner they don’t like. Secure attachment people make up the majority of the attachment types.
  • Anxious – Folks who have an anxious attachment style typically need a lot of reassurance from their partners. They have a much harder time being on their own and single than the other styles and fall into bad relationships more often. The anxious style represent about 20% of the population. It’s been shown that if anxious attachment styles learn how to communicate their needs better and learn to date secure partners, they can move towards the secure attachment style.
  • Avoidant – Avoidant attachment style represents approximately 25% of the population as adults. Avoidants many times have the hardest time in a relationship because they have a difficult time finding satisfaction. In general, they are uncomfortable with close relationships and intimacy and are quite independent. They are the lone wolf type person.
  • Anxious-avoidant – The anxious-avoidant style is relatively rare. It is composed of conflicting styles – they want to be close but at the same time push people away. They do things that push the people they are closest to away. Many times there can be a higher risk of depression or other mental health issues.

Here’s where it gets really interesting:

Move towards secure attachment

The good news is that it is possible to move from one style to another. Specifically, it is possible to move towards a more secure attachment style.

Now as you might imagine, this is not an easy or a quick process. Like any type of big change where you are attempting to alter such a deeply ingrained mindset, it takes a strong will to accomplish.

The first step is developing an awareness of your attachment style. The next step is to have the desire and drive to move your attachment style towards the more secure style.

If someone with an anxious or avoidant style has a long term relationship with a secure type, the anxious or avoidant person can slowly get brought up more towards a secure style.

The opposite is also true, they could bring the secure person more towards their attachment style. Therefore, you have to be conscious of your type and if you want to move more towards secure, it takes persistence.

Therapy is an option as well. Anxious types many times need to work on their self-esteem, avoidants on their connection specifically and compassion.

How to restructure your thoughts

Ready for the way to do it? Here we go:

Advertising

For the Avoidant Style

As with any type of change on such a deep level, the first step is awareness. Realize you have an avoidant style and be aware of it as you have interactions with your partner(s).

Try to work towards a place of mutual support and giving/taking. Try to lessen your need for complete self-reliance. Allow your partner to do some things that make you a little uncomfortable that you would normally do yourself.

Don’t always focus on the imperfections of your partner. We all have them, remind yourself of that.

Make yourself a list of the qualities that your partner has that you are thankful for.

Look for a secure style partner if at all possible, they would be good for you to be with.

If you have a tendency to end relationships before they go too far, be aware of that and let it develop further.

Get into the habit of accepting and even instigating physical touch. Tell yourself that it’s good for you to have some intimacy. Intimacy can help you feel safe and secure.

And over time you can realize that it’s okay to rely on other people.

For the Anxious Style

For the anxious style, the #1 thing to work on is learning to communicate needs better. This is a huge issue for the anxious style.

Advertising

First and foremost if you communicate your needs more clearly, you will have less anxiety, that’s already a big win. This will also allow you to better assess if a potential partner is good for you.

Try to bring your feelings more to the surface and most importantly, share them with your partner. Remember that secure attachments typically communicate pretty well, this is what you are working towards.

For the Anxious-Avoidant Style

The anxious-avoidant is a very small percentage of the attachment styles. Since this type tends to be anxious in the relationship AND more or less a loner, the key here is working hard to be very self-aware of your actions.

Use the parts of striving towards secure attachment from the anxious tips and the avoidant restructuring of your thoughts to consciously work towards being more secure.

When you find yourself pushing someone away, ask why. If you feel worried that your partner is going to leave you, again, ask yourself where this is coming from. Have they shown you any reason to believe this? Many times there is no real evidence. In that case, allow yourself to calm down and try not to obsess over it.

For the Secure Style

Since the goal is to move towards a more secure attachment style, there isn’t much needed here as you might imagine.

Something to be aware of is being in a relationship just because it’s “okay”. Don’t stay if it’s not a good place for you and your partner. If your partner is of an anxious or avoidant attachment style, stay mindful to not start developing characteristics of those styles.

Strive towards Secure Attachment

As we wrap things up, you’ve probably developed a good idea of the benefits of secure attachment. If you don’t currently have a secure attachment style, here are some benefits of restructuring your thoughts more towards this style:

  • Positive self esteem and self image
  • Close and well adjusted relationships
  • Sense of security in self and the world
  • Ability to be independent as well as in relationships
  • Optimistic outlook on life and yourself
  • Strong coping skills and strategies for relationships and life
  • Trust in self and others
  • Close, intimate relationships
  • Strong determination and problem solving skills

If you are an anxious or avoidant style or the combination of anxious-avoidant, it is possible to move towards a secure attachment style.

It takes self-awareness, patience and a strong desire to get close to being secure but it can be done. You will find that putting the effort into it will provide you with more open, honest and satisfying relationships.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Read Next