Dial a Counselor with Sybil Shaibu: How are you coping? Part 2


Some weeks ago I did a piece on defense mechanisms, and the feedback was very encouraging. In that regard I have decided to delve deeper by zeroing in on some popular defense mechanisms.

Over the last couple of years, a number of defense mechanisms have become household topics of discussion. A few have become quite popular whereas others still remain unknown. So let’s kick start this with by far the most known one, can you guess which one that might be?

Let’s do a quick recap of what defense mechanisms are the behaviors people use to separate themselves from the traumatic situations they go through. In other words, defense mechanisms help people manage their emotions, feelings as well as behaviors when they’re faced with adversities. So basically, defense mechanisms are a way for the mind to cope with stress or difficult feelings. There’s been a lot of research that’s been done on defense mechanisms due to the complexity of its nature.

It worth noting that not all defense mechanisms are healthy, this is highly debatable though. I say this because a school of thought’s stance on this is that, how the mind chooses to handle traumatic emotions entirely is out of one’s control. That means they are unconscious mechanisms, which means that a person uses them without realizing it. As such no prejudices should be made by tagging some as healthy and others unhealthy. However, defense mechanisms can be positive ways to deal with stress. On the other hand, they can also be unhelpful ways to avoid handling challenging situations, emotions or feelings.

The unique thing about defense mechanism is that it’s under the person’s control. Simply put, don’t fret about the way you respond to things. You’re not in control. Once you come to understand that you’re not in charge of how your defense mechanism kicks in, it’s easier to work your way around it. That notwithstanding identifying defense mechanisms can help a person understand their own behavior better.

Denial is by far the most popular of all the defense mechanisms, as to why this is so remains unknown. But I personally attribute its popularity to its definition. As I’m sure by now we all know our lives aren’t always perfect, so much so that sometimes it’s tough coming to terms with some of the challenges we go through.

That’s because sometimes we aren’t prepared for some of the outcomes of situations we find ourselves in. And during the time when we think we’re well prepared, things don’t always go as planned and the results can be devastating to say the least. That’s where the denial defense mechanism kicks into action.

I find it quite intriguing how people are just quick to assume that denial is a negative defense mechanism. And that makes the denial defense mechanism stand out as one of the types that has no positive effect on the person. But that’s not the case, as each defense mechanism comes with both helpful and unhelpful attributes depending on each individual situation. That’s because each one of us has a unique way of dealing, managing or handling difficult situations.

Denial is how some people choose to deal with the uncomfortable situation, emotions or stress. They choose not to accept the situation as it is. In other words this involves a person not recognizing the reality of a stressful situation in order to protect themselves from overwhelming fear, anxiety and distress. This can serve as a form of protection from the impact of the traumatic experience they’re facing. Which makes denial in this instance, seem helpful to the person in distress.

Denial can help the person better manage their situation momentarily, that’s because denial lessens the effect of the challenge momentarily. It helps the person stay optimistic during challenging tines which can be very useful. Denial lessens the impact of present problems, so don’t be surprised to see the problem still exists later on. As denial makes a person refuse to admit that there’s a problem. And this can lead the person to avoid taking responsibility for their actions.

And while defense mechanisms may be helpful by way of preventing discomfort in the short term, they are not a long term solution to challenges.

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