People who are anxious and depressed are often very afraid of facing their real feelings. As adults you may be terrified to let down your guard and feel what is really going on inside yourself.
Sometimes before you can even begin the real healing of anxiety and depression, you have to work through some of the psychological defenses that you are using as a smoke screen to hide the truth.
You probably developed these strong defenses early in life to shut off your true feelings. Those defenses were generally supported by adults in your life who told them that you shouldn’t feel what you feel.
What Are Your Psychological Defenses?
So, let’s take a look at some of the defenses you may be utilizing to avoid your real feelings.
1. Repression is a defense where you can actually forget the painful experiences of your life. You may have repressed feelings in your early life because the emotional pain was just too much for you. If you repressed the feelings from early abandonment or abuse, for example, you simply conveniently forgot the experience, although you may still suffer some of the symptoms of anxiety or depression that relate to it.
2. Denial is a very common defense where you can simply refuse to see how your negative choices or behavior affect another person, although the affect may be obvious to everyone else. For example, if you are workaholic, you can simply refuse to see how your family may be affected by you never being home, rather than facing the truth of what your physical and emotional absence does to them.
3. Minimizing your experience is a defense you may use when you play down the extent or the seriousness of what happened to you, to deny its importance or its impact on your life. For example, you may say, “It wasn’t really that bad; he didn’t rape me, it was just molestation. Lots of girls have gone through much worse experiences than mine.”
4. Projection happens when you attribute your feelings to someone else. For example, rather than owning responsibility for your own upset feelings, you can sometimes interpret someone else’s behavior to mean that they are angry or upset with you. Or if you are afraid of doing something positive in your life, you can project your scared feelings onto someone else and be absolutely certain that s/he is judging you.
5. Intellectualization is a way to protect yourself unconsciously by simply reasoning away your problems. In this way, even though you may obviously suffer from depression or anxiety, you can easily rationalize that what happened in your childhood really wasn’t that bad and certainly didn’t affect you negatively in adult years.
6. Humor is generally a wonderful gift, but it can also act as a defense when you don’t want to deal with your emotional pain directly. Often in a dysfunctional family, there is one child who uses humor to try to distract everyone else from the pain of alcoholism or abuse. If you are always the jokester in your life, it’s good to ask yourself whether there are uncomfortable feelings that you don’t want to face.
Be Patient with Yourself!
Healing emotional issues takes time and patience. You won’t get it all done in a day or a week. Just staying conscious and aware of your primary defenses helps you to begin the process of facing and dealing with your feelings.
I always tell my clients “Any progress is progress!” In other words, any small step in the direction of healing is still a step forward.
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Have you experienced anything like this in your life?
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