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Why When We Feel Upset, We’re Actually Arming up Instead of Breaking Down

Why When We Feel Upset, We’re Actually Arming up Instead of Breaking Down

People handle difficult situations in many different ways. Have you had news that upset you, but instead you carried on with your day as if it didn’t happen? Or perhaps you have heard stories of people who went through traumatic episodes yet have no memory of them?

Defense mechanisms are the different ways that people deal with challenging experiences.

It is important to pay close attention to them and understand how they can be better controlled. If they go unnoticed, these reactions could end up causing more harm in the long term. Not addressing your emotions in a healthy way could lead to issues such as anxiety, stress or depression. It could also have an adverse effect on your relationships with those around you, especially if you react in a way that may end up being hurtful to the other person.

There are 10 common defense mechanisms:[1]

1. Repression

Your mind purposely buries a painful memory in your subconscious that prevents you from being fully aware. It blocks out specific emotions or memories as a way to protect you.

An example of this could be not remembering a particularly difficult childhood occurrence.

2. Denial

This is the inability to address something that is difficult. It is regarded as one of the most primitive defence mechanisms and it is a common coping strategy for many people.

An example of this could be not believing that you have a substance abuse problem, despite getting into debt to fund the habit.

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3. Regression

You revert to an almost childish way of dealing with problems. The reaction is stemmed in a seemingly immature behaviour since you feel unable to deal with it rationally.

An example of this could be sulking or having a tantrum when you get into an argument.

4. Projection

You attribute your own insecurities or thoughts on someone else. Generally it is adopted when certain actions or thoughts are unacceptable and despite potentially knowing this, you are not able to express it as such.

An example of this could be accusing your partner of flirting when you are having an affair.

5. Displacement

This is where you channel your emotions onto something or someone else. You may be in a situation where you are unable to express it directly, such as with your boss.

An example of this could be throwing something in a fit of rage.

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6. Rationalization

Justifying behavior with positive attributes, whether it is right or not. It is seeing something from a different point of view that benefits your side of the story.

An example of this could be lying to your partner about something you know would really upset them, because you love them and treat them well.

7. Reaction formation

This is acting the opposite of how you really feel. This transforms your current emotions or thoughts into being in a position where you do not have to address them.

An example of this could be saying that you are not angry when you are.

8. Sublimation

You focus your emotions onto something that has no attachment to the problem. By doing so, you channel the energy elsewhere instead of the root, which could prove to cause further problems.

An example of this could be feeling upset because of something at work, but addressing that anger while driving in the form of road rage.

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9. Undoing

This is the act of reversing how you feel by an action. As the name suggests, it is trying to “undo” how you feel or think about something specific.

An example of this could be going out of your way to help someone whom you dislike.

10. Humour

You deal with your own pain by making a joke of it. You try to make light of a situation by attempting to behave as though there is a funny side to it.

An example of this could be finding out you have a terminal illness but joking that it means you will get time off work.

While we can’t take away our defense mechanisms, we can have them in better control.

Look for red flags

Behaviors can become habit-forming. Pay close attention to how you act when you are faced with emotional dilemmas.

Is it likely that you may throw something on the floor or are you quick to lash out in anger? Could a coping strategy be that you walk away or that you simply breathe deeply and count to ten?

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Have you formed a habit that is proving to be negative to your well-being such as drinking too much or overeating? Could changing your environment or social circles promote a more positive lifestyle?

Don’t transfer the blame

It’s easy to not want to take responsibility for feelings or actions. But passing that on to someone else could also jeopardize your relationship with that person as well as make them feel bad.

Perhaps instead you could be honest and tell them what’s really happening. There is no shame in going through a bad patch. Sometimes getting another point of view can make the world of difference and also make you feel less alone.

Don’t deny your negative emotions.[2]

Embracing your emotions can be quite liberating. No one is perfect, and no one should aspire to be. Bad things happen and trust that it is ok to feel bad when they do.

Don’t deny your body the ability to cry if it needs. Tears are your body’s way of giving you that hug that you need.

Adopt a healthier lifestyle

Even though it may not change your circumstances, nourishing your body, mind, and spirit with more positive things, will have an impact on your feelings and defense mechanisms.

Try changing your diet and finding outlets such as exercise, meditation or incorporating a hobby that makes you feel more uplifted.

Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

Reference

More by this author

J.S. von Dacre

Writer at Lifehack

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Last Updated on May 7, 2019

How to Detect a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

How to Detect a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Work in any competitive field long enough, and you’re bound to run into a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It’s a powerful image. A shepherd watches over his flock to protect them from harm. He’d chase away any predator that tried to make its way into the flock. A clever wolf wearing the skin of a sheep as a disguise can sneak by the vigilant shepherd and get into the herd undetected.

The story isn’t just a colorful description–it’s a warning to all of us to beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing. They may seem innocent, but they have ulterior motives. They’ll use different tactics to camouflage their intentions.

The person who is kind to you, but undercuts you when you aren’t around is a wolf in disguise. A wolf in sheep’s clothing might pick your brain for ideas and then pass them off as their own to get a promotion. They’re always looking out for themselves at the expense of everyone around them.

Wearing a Disguise Has Its Advantages

People don’t go out of their way to manipulate others unless they’re getting something out of it. Hiding their intentions gives wolves the chance to manipulate other people to advance their own agenda. They know that what they’re trying to do wouldn’t be popular, or it might cause struggle if they presented themselves honestly.

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    They’ll be able to do what they want with less interference if they put on an act. By the time people figure out their true motives, the wolf has what it wants.

    Signs That Someone Is a Wolf in Disguise

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        1. They live to take power instead of empowering others. A wolf uses people as stepping stones to get the things that they want. They don’t care what happens to anyone else.[1] A wolf at work might make you look bad during a presentation to make themselves look amazing in front of the boss.
        2. Wolves seem sweet on the outside, but they’ll show you their teeth. If wolves revealed their true identity, people wouldn’t associate with them. They develop a friendly or kind persona, but they can’t keep up the act 24/7. Eventually, they’ll reveal their aggressive tendencies. A wealthy person who likes to break the law may make sizable charitable donations to convince people that they are kind and thoughtful. These donations largely keep them out of trouble, but if someone calls them out, they destroy that person’s reputation to stifle the criticism.
        3. They manipulate through emotions to get what they want. Wolves know that they can get ahead by appealing to your emotions. They find out what you want and need, and they give you just enough to keep you quiet and compliant. Imagine that your boss is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and you want to ask for a vacation. She might try to play on your guilt and feelings of insecurity to get you to skip vacation or take fewer days off.
        4. A wolf will charm you first. Wolves are experts at manipulating the people around them. They appear interested in whatever you’re doing, and you’ll get the impression that they care. After they get you where they want you, they do just enough to keep you on the hook. This is the coworker who may start out being your friend, but they end up dumping responsibility onto you. When they see that you are growing frustrated, they’ll surprise you with something to charm you some more. Then, they’ll continue to do whatever they want.
        5. Their stories are full of holes.  Calling a wolf out is the surest way to make them squirm. When this person tries to come up with a story, it won’t make much sense because they are improvising.[2] The classic example of this is the significant other that you suspect has cheated on you. When you ask them why they came home so late, they’ll either become upset with you, or they’ll make up a weak explanation.

        How to Spot a Wolf

          Know What’s Real So You Can Spot the Phony

          Do some homework so that you have as much of the story as possible before you work with them. Research how they respond in certain situations, or give them hypothetical problems to see how they respond.

          A job applicant might tell you that she’s always positive and thinks of herself as a team-player. That’s what every employer wants to hear. During the interview you ask applicants to work in groups to solve a problem to see how they handle the situation. The applicant “positive team-player” is bossy and negative. You’ve spotted the wolf.

          A wolf will tell you something that ultimately benefits them. Gather evidence that proves or disproves their position, and see what happens. Chances are, when you choose the side that supports their agenda, they’ll act like your best friend. If you disagree, they’ll become aggressive.

          Spotting a potential wolf–especially if you are one of the sheep–can present you with some challenges. If your gut tells you that a wolf is lurking among all the other sheep, pay attention, and make sure you take the next step.

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          Ask Questions, the More the Better

          There’s nothing wrong with asking questions to uncover the truth. The safety of everyone in your group is at risk. Since wolves often make up stories, you may be able to call them out when their tales lack details.

          When they state an opinion, ask “Why do you think that?” or “How do you know it’s like that?” They’ll have trouble coming up with enough information to pull off the lie.

          Since wolves are always pretending to be something they aren’t, they don’t usually have a clearly thought-out reason for what they say. In a debate, they won’t understand the root of an issue.

          They may also tell you what they think you want to hear, but when pressed for more information, they won’t have anything to add. Their knowledge is superficial. No matter how much you try to encourage discussion, they will not be able to carry on a conversation about the subject.

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          Wolves Are Everywhere

          As much as we want to believe that everyone has the best intentions, it isn’t always the case. Some people only do things to benefit themselves, and they don’t care who they hurt in the process.

          Wolves in sheep’s clothing can be found in almost every setting. You can’t get rid of them, but if you can spot them, you can avoid falling into their traps.

          Reference

          [1] Association of Biblical Counselors: Three Ways to Spot a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
          [2] Power of Positivity: Beware of a wolf in sheep’s clothing

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