We all have psychological defence mechanisms that we rely on to protect ourselves from harm. These defences help us cope with difficult situations and emotions, but sometimes they can get in the way of our relationships.
In this blog post, we will discuss what psychological defence mechanisms are, how to tell when you’re being defensive, and how to overcome defensiveness.
What are psychological defence mechanisms?
Psychological defence mechanisms were first identified by Sigmund Freud. His theory was that these defences help us to protect ourselves from painful thoughts and emotions. For example, if we have experienced a traumatic event, we may use defence mechanisms to prevent ourselves from reliving the trauma.
Psychological defence mechanisms are coping strategies that we use to protect ourselves from harm. They help us deal with difficult situations and emotions, but sometimes they can get in the way of our relationships.
The most common psychological defence mechanisms
There are many different types of defence mechanisms, but some common ones include denial, repression, displacement, and projection.
Denial is when we refuse to accept that something is true. For example, if we have lost a loved one, we may deny that they are gone in order to cope with the pain.
Repression is when we push painful thoughts and memories out of our conscious mind. This can be a helpful defence mechanism if the thoughts are too difficult to deal with. However, repression can also lead to problems if we are unable to access these memories when we need to.
Displacement is when we take our frustration or anger out on someone else. For example, if our boss yells at us, we may go home and take it out on our spouse or children.
Projection is when we attribute our own thoughts, feelings, or behaviours to someone else. For example, if we are feeling guilty about something, we may project our guilt onto someone else by accusing them of the same thing.
Less common psychological defence mechanisms
There are several other defence mechanisms of the subconscious, but they are much less commonly used than the ones I described above. These include regression, reaction formation, and intellectualisation.
Regression is when we revert back to childlike behaviours in order to cope with stress. For example, an adult may start sucking their thumb when they are feeling anxious.
Reaction formation is when we do the opposite of what we are feeling in order to cover up our true emotions. For example, if we are attracted to someone, we may act like we dislike them in order to hide our feelings.
Intellectualisation is when we try to understand our emotions by thinking about them logically. For example, if we are grieving the loss of a loved one, we may try to intellectualise our emotions by thinking about the stages of grief.
How to Tell When You’re Being Defensive
If you find yourself always needing to be right or needing to have the last word in an argument, it’s a sign that you’re being defensive. This need to be right often comes from a place of insecurity and can damage relationships as it can make the other person feel like they’re never heard or valued.
So if you are in a discussion and you suddenly realize that your partner can hardly get a word in edgewise, this should be a major red flag that you are letting your defensiveness get in the way of constructive and healthy debate. If you’re not sure whether you’re being defensive, ask yourself if you’re open to hearing the other person’s point of view, or if you’re just trying to prove that you’re right.
You should also take a clear eyed look at how you react whenever your partner criticises or contradicts you in any way. If your default reaction to criticism is to get angry or to shut down completely, this is another sign that you need to work on your defensiveness.
Another sign of defensiveness is when you find yourself making excuses for your behaviour, or trying to deflect blame onto your partner. This kind of behaviour will only serve to increase tension in the relationship, as it shows that you’re not willing to take responsibility for your actions.
If you find yourself exhibiting any of these signs, it’s important to try and take a step back and examine why you’re reacting this way. Often, it’s a sign of insecurity or a lack of trust in the relationship. If you can work on these issues, it will go a long way towards improving your relationship and communication with your partner.
What can You Do to Overcome Defensiveness?
If you want to overcome defensiveness, it’s important to first become aware of the times when you’re being defensive. Once you’re aware of it, you can start to work on changing your behaviour.
Open your mind to different possibilities
A good way to start is by trying to be more open-minded when you’re in a discussion with your partner. Instead of immediately shutting down or getting defensive when they express a different opinion, try to listen to what they’re saying and see if there’s any merit to their argument.
It’s also important to be willing to admit when you’re wrong. This can be a difficult thing to do, but it will go a long way towards improving communication and trust in the relationship.
Try to see things from your partner’s perspective
Another way to overcome defensiveness is by trying to see things from your partner’s perspective. This doesn’t mean that you have to agree with them, but it does mean trying to understand where they’re coming from.
When you can see things from their perspective, it’s easier to find common ground and to come up with compromise solutions that work for both of you.
Work on building trust
If you want to overcome defensiveness, it’s also important to work on building trust in the relationship. This means being honest with your partner, and being open about your thoughts and feelings. It also means being reliable and keeping your promises.
Focus on keeping your cool
Another helpful tip is to try and stay calm when you’re discussing something with your partner. If you can keep your emotions in check, it will be easier to listen to what they’re saying and to have a constructive discussion.
If you find yourself getting defensive, take a step back and try to take some deep breaths before continuing the discussion. This will help you to regroup and collect yourself, giving you the opportunity to continue the discussion in a more productive manner.
Practice admitting that you are not perfect
We all have flaws, and no one is perfect. When you can admit that you’re not perfect, it will be easier to listen to constructive criticism from your partner. This doesn’t mean that you should let them walk all over you, but it does mean that you should be willing to listen to what they have to say and to try and see things from their perspective.
The Takeaway about Psychological Defence Mechanisms
Defensiveness can damage relationships and hinder communication, but it is something that you can overcome with time and effort. If you’re aware of the times when you’re being defensive, and you’re willing to work on changing your behaviour, you can start to improve your relationships and communication.
Try to be more open-minded, and willing to admit when you’re wrong. It’s also helpful to try and stay calm when you’re discussing something with your partner. Always remember that communication is key to build trust and intimacy. It’s hard work, but it is worth it.