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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 April 1, 2019

How to Be Happy: Why Pursuing Happiness Will Make You Unhappy

How to Be Happy: Why Pursuing Happiness Will Make You Unhappy

When we talk about happiness, we often think about staying happy all the time – every single day, every single minute with zero negativity. Many try to pursue this constant state of “happiness” as their ultimate goal, and avoid anything that may take it away from them.

But, what is the meaning of this type of “happiness”?

It’s a lot like your favorite food. The more often you have it isn’t always better. On the contrary, when you only have a chance to eat it sparingly, that’s when you really savor every bite. So is it the food itself that makes you happy, or is it how valuable it is to you when you are eating it?

Always remember that only by experiencing sadness do we understand what it is to be happy.

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Video Summary

Don’t Assume Others Are Always Happy

Most people see those who have seemingly perfect lives and assume they are happy all the time. Since childhood, we are conditioned to chase the idea of “happily-ever-after” that we see in fairytales. On social media, everyone tends to share only the best looking aspects of their lives. So, it’s very easy to have a distorted view of what “happiness” is around us.

In reality, there is always something missing, something lacking, or something unpleasant.

No one has a perfect life. Even the most glamorous celebrities or the richest billionaires have their own set of challenges and problems.

When we feel negative, we’re only focusing on a small fluctuating curve. As CEO of Lifehack, I’ve had to deal with countless problems, and some of them felt like real setbacks at the time. During those moments, it really seemed like these problems would be the life or death of my company and my life goals. But, I got through them; and, weeks, months and eventually years passed with many more ups and downs.

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You need to keep your sights on the extended curve.  Looking back now, a lot of those “really big” problems at the time now seem like only small blips in a long line of experiences. Recalling them in my mind now makes me smile!

Stop Trying to Be Happy–Just Be

It’s natural to want to be happy as often as possible.

So what can we do?

First, throw away the belief that a perfect life means happiness. Personally, I would be miserable if everything was perfect. It’s through experiencing the pains of lifelong challenges that drives us to care for others when they are experiencing similar trials. If life was perfect, you wouldn’t be able to empathize. If life was perfect, you wouldn’t grow.

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To be truly happy, stop chasing permanent happiness.

It sounds like a paradox. But, what I mean is to accept that there will be ups and downs throughout life. Gracefully understand that happiness is a fluctuation of positive and negative events.

Understand the importance of gratitude. Instead of focusing on the unpleasant moment, flash back your memory to when you didn’t have something. I like to think about my career, for example. When I didn’t have a career I was passionate about, I felt lost and demotivated. I felt like everyone was figuring out their lives but me. But, when I found my purpose and started Lifehack, I was deeply happy, even before I realized I would be successful! This memory keeps me going when I hit tough spots. It takes the darkness to make us grateful for the light.

Happiness and Sadness Exist Together

What it all comes down to is this: your life will be filled with beautiful, happy and incredible moments–happy tears and joyous shouts and funny stories. But, your life will also be filled with rain and storms that never seem like they will pass while you’re going through them.

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But, whether your face is warmed by the sunshine, or your heart is dampened by the rain, know that it’s all part of the ebb and flow of life.

Treasure the happy moments and power through the sad ones. Don’t try to avoid “sad” or “negative” experiences, and blindly chase being “happy”. In the end you will achieve a true level of contentment in your life, based on meaningful experiences and achievements. Being able to create growth and meaning out of both positive and negative events — that is the true meaning of “happiness”.

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