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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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Published on October 30, 2020

11 Essential Philosophy Books That Will Open Your Mind

11 Essential Philosophy Books That Will Open Your Mind

There are numerous ways to build your mindset, but none are as profound as reading philosophy books. Through these books, some of the greatest minds around ask questions and delve deep into thought.

While there isn’t always a clear and distinct answer to the many questions of philosophy, the entire field is a gateway to a higher sense of self. It gets you to think about all manner of things.

Below, we cover some of the essential philosophy books that are best for those who are just starting or looking to expand their mind.

How To Choose a Good Philosophy Book

Before getting to this list, we’ve researched ideal philosophy books to help you expand your mind.

We’ve found that the best philosophy books excel in the following criteria:

  • Complexity – Philosophy isn’t a subject that you can’t dive into immediately and understand everything. The books that we selected are great for people making the first leap.
  • Viewpoint – With philosophy, in particular, the author’s views are more important than in your standard book. We want to ensure the viewpoints and thoughts being discussed still hold up to this day.
  • Open-mindedness – Philosophy is all about asking perplexing questions and unraveling the answer. You might not reach a conclusion in the end, but these books are designed to get you to think.
  • Culture – The last criterion is culture. A lot of these books come from early philosophers from centuries ago or possibly from recent years. These philosophy books should paint a picture of the culture.

1. Meditations

    One that you’ll find on many of these types of lists is Meditations and for good reason. It’s the only document of its kind to ever be made. The book focuses on the private thoughts of the world’s most powerful man who advises himself revolving around making good on his responsibilities and the obligations of his position.

    We know enough about Marcus Aurelius to know that he was trained in stoic philosophy and practiced every night on a series of spirituality exercises. These exercises were designed to make him humble, patient, empathetic, generous, and strong in the face of whatever problem he had to face off. And he faced plenty of problems since he was basically the emperor of roughly a third of the planet.

    All of that is poured into this book, and you are bound to remember a line or more that will be applicable in your life. It’s a philosophy book staple.

    Buy Meditations here.

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    2. Letters From a Stoic

      Similar to Marcus Aurelius, Seneca was another powerful man in Rome. He was a brilliant writer at the time and was the kind of guy to give great advice to his most trusted friends. Fortunately, much of his advice comes in letters, and those letters happen to be in this book. The letters themselves provided advice on dealing with grief, wealth, poverty, success, failure, education, and more.

      While Seneca was a stoic, he has a more practical approach and has borrowed from other schools of thought for his advice. As he said when he was alive, “I don’t care about the author if the line is good.” Similar to Meditations, there are several brilliant lines and advice that are still relevant to this day.

      Buy “Letters From a Stoic” here.

      3. Nicomachean Ethics

        Aristotle was a famous Greek philosopher at the time with profound knowledge. He’s named after a form of logic as well called Aristotelian logic. Through this book, Aristotle writes about the root of all Aristotelian ethics. In other words, this book contains the moral ideas that form a base for pretty much all of western civilization.

        Buy “Nicomachean Ethics” here.

        4. Beyond Good & Evil

          Friedrich Nietzsche played a big role in the philosophical world. He was one of the leading philosophers of the existential movement, and it all came through this particular book. He is a brilliant mind. However, the issue with a lot of his work is that it’s all written in German.

          Fortunately, this book is one of the slightly more accessible ones since it’s translated. Within the book, he breaks down the paradoxes of conventional understandings of morality. By doing this, he sets the stage for a lot of the 20th-century thought process that followed.

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          Buy “Beyond Good & Evil” here.

          5. Meditations on First Philosophy

            In Meditations on First Philosophy, René Descartes breaks his book down into six meditations. The book takes a journalistic style that is structured much like a six-day course of meditation. On day one, he gives instructions on discarding all belief in things that are not guaranteed. After that, he tries to establish what can be known for sure. Similar to Meditations, this is a staple and influential philosophical text that you can pick up.

            Buy “Meditations on First Philosophy” here.

            6. Ethics

              Written by Benedict de Spinoza, this came at a time during the Age of Enlightenment. Enlightenment was a movement that dominated the world of ideas in Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries and with that, many schools of thought emerged and were presented through books.

              Out of the many influential philosophy books published back then, Ethics dominated during this period as it discussed the basis of rationalism. Even though we’ve developed further beyond that, Ethics can introduce new ways of thinking from this particular school of thought.

              Buy “Ethics” here.

              7. Critique of Pure Reason

                Immanuel Kant is another great philosopher who brought together two of history’s biggest opposing schools of thought into a single book. Those schools being rational thought and empirical experiential knowledge—knowledge gained through experience.

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                In Critique of Pure Reason, Kant explores human reason and then works to establish its illusions and get down to core constituents. Overall, you can learn more about human behavior and thought processes and thus, open your mind more to how you think and process everything around you.

                Buy “Critique of Pure Reason” here.

                8. On the Genealogy of Morals

                  Another piece of work from Nietzsche that is accessible to us is On the Genealogy of Morals. According to Nietzsche, the purpose of this book is to call attention to his previous writings. That said, it does more than that so you don’t need to worry so much about reading his other books.

                  In this book, he expands on the cryptic aphorisms that he brings up in Beyond Good and Evil and offers a discussion or morality in a work that is more accessible than a lot of his previous work.

                  Buy “On the Genealogy of Morals” here.

                  9. Everything Is F*cked

                    The only book on this list that’s been written in the past few years, this book by Mark Manson aims to explain why we all need hope while also accepting that hope can often lead us to ruin too.

                    While many of the books on this list are all practical, this one is the most realistic one since not even the greatest of philosophical minds could predict things like technology, Twitter, and how our political world has shaped.

                    Manson delivers a profound book that taps into the minds of our ancestral philosophers, such as Plato, Nietzsche, and Tom Waits, and digs deep into various topics and how all of it is connected—religion and politics, our relationship with money, entertainment, and the internet.

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                    Overall, this book serves as a challenge to all of us—a challenge to be more honest with ourselves and connect with the world in a way we’ve never tried before.

                    Buy “Everything Is F*cked” here.

                    10. Reasons and Persons

                      One of the most challenging philosophy books to read on this list, Reasons and Persons will send you on quite the trip. Through a lot of painstaking logic, Derek Parfit shows us some unique perspectives on self-interest, personhood, and whether our actions are good or evil.

                      Considered by many to be an important psychological text around the 20th century, the arguments made about those topics will open your mind to a brand new way of thinking.

                      Buy “Reasons and Persons” here.

                      11. The Republic of Plato

                        Written by Plato himself, this book is the origin of political science and offers a brilliant critique of government. As you would expect, the critique is still important today. If you’re looking to understand the inner thoughts of Plato, this is one of the best books around.

                        Buy “The Republic of Plato” here.

                        Final Thoughts

                        Philosophy books take a while to digest as they provide profound knowledge and leave you with many questions. With many of these philosophy books, you need to take your time with them, and you might have to read through them a few times as well. And with every read, your mind will only expand.

                        More Books to Open Your Mind

                        Featured photo credit: Laura Chouette via unsplash.com

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