In my previous article I wrote about defense mechanisms and how we use them to avoid pain or things we can’t bear about ourselves. I believe we do that because our basic needs have not been met. Through life experiences we have learnt to behave a certain way so we get our needs met – if not fully, at least partly. But there’s a certain degree of “danger” in doing that. Why? Because to have our basic needs met we are willing to do anything which means even harming (mentally, physically) ourselves or others.
All of us develop a set of defenses to cope with our emotions. Our personalities will be shaped by our culture due to the fact that emotions are seen and dealt with differently all around the world. The expression of some is accepted while some are condemned. Regardless, people everywhere struggle with the same basic challenges in regards to human experiences:
- Needing or desiring contact with other people and depending upon them for what we need – this means bearing frustration, disappointment or helplessness in those relationships.
- Coping with difficult, often painful emotions such as fear, anxiety, anger, hatred, envy and jealousy.
- Feeling good about ourselves and confident about our personal worth in relation to others.
We are different as individuals even though we may struggle with the same issues. Different people find different issues to be more difficult than others. Two people may struggle with the same emotional challenge and defend against it in entirely opposite ways. For all of us, the defense mechanisms we use will shape our personalities and profoundly affect our interpersonal relationships.
I’m assuming you are curious to find out which defense mechanisms you use and what’s the reason behind it. I still haven’t talked about specific defense mechanisms but I will do so in the following articles. For now, I encourage you to take a piece of paper and have a look at the 3 basic human challenges (please see above). Take some time to reflect and think about which ones you struggle with.
Do you find it difficult to depend upon others in terms of what you need? Have you developed a self-sufficient personality where you think you can handle everything and you don’t need help from others?
How do you cope with painful emotions (fear, anxiety, anger, hatred, envy, jealousy)? Were you encouraged to express such feelings or talk about them? How did your parents deal with these emotions for themselves?
How do you feel about yourself overall? Do you tend to compare yourself to others? If so, when did it start and how does it affect your life at the moment?
These are just a few questions you could ask yourself. Other questions may arise from these. Be open to explore. Take time. Be patient. Don’t rush the process. Eventually, you’ll be able to notice why you do what you do and what the purpose behind it actually is. As soon as you do that you become self-aware and that’s the first step you need to take when you want to change something. I’ll tell you more about the next steps in the following articles.