What are Defense Mechanisms?

When we are living with mental and emotional health issues such as depression and addiction, we tend to be living with lots of fear that manifest in the forms of anxiety, worry, pessimism and self-doubt. When we are living in fear, we tend to engage in mostly negative thinking. We become suspicious of other people and their intentions. We think the world is out to get us. We believe that we need to keep ourselves safe from harm and protect ourselves, and in order to do this, we develop ways of coping that function like defense mechanisms.

Each of us has defense mechanisms that are unique to us as individuals. Some of us will build a wall around our hearts, preventing anyone from getting too close to us. As a result, we might develop a defense mechanism of never speaking about our personal lives or never confiding in anyone. We are hesitant to trust people and think we are protecting ourselves by keeping our distance. Some of us develop compulsive behaviors such as lying to people, misleading or deceiving them. We don’t always know why we have the defense mechanisms that we do. We might know consciously that lying to our loved ones doesn’t keep us safe or protect us in any way, but subconsciously we’re so afraid of getting hurt that we try to protect ourselves in any way we can. Our defense mechanisms are often illogical and irrational. They often don’t serve us. They are often misguided and self-destructive. They are part of our self-sabotage. We cause ourselves more pain by trying to cope using these strange defense mechanisms than we would if we dealt with our fears and our pain head on.

As with any habit we want to create or break, defense mechanisms take practice to change. We want to find healthier ways of making ourselves feel nurtured, protected and supported. We want to become more mindful of how we’re treating ourselves and allowing ourselves to be treated in our relationships with other people. We want to feel as though we’re living in faith and not in fear as we move through the world. We want to start becoming mindful of what our defense mechanisms are, what voids we’re trying to fill and what we’re trying to protect ourselves from. As we do our inner healing work, our defense mechanisms will be replaced by healthier coping skills.

Riverside Recovery is a drug and alcohol treatment center offering a full continuum of care for people suffering from addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders. We understand the emotional challenges of addiction recovery and are here to support you. Call us today for more information: (800) 871-5440.