This post is a summary of an article by Richard Von Gremmler: Ego-Defense Mechanisms
You can also listen to my daughter and I discuss the first few paragraphs of the article in this YouTube video: Ego-Defense Mechanisms Article Pt. 1
Ego–defense mechanisms are emotional barriers that prevent us from consciously understanding most of our emotions, locking them in our unconscious. These ego-defenses “protect” us from experiencing stress beyond what we can handle.
However, each stressor that we are protected from will only get worse if not understood and resolved. This is further compounded by the guilt that results from each of these denials. Furthermore, our overall degree of stress will increase as we accumulate more and more unresolved stressors.
These accumulated stressors create tension, leading to emotional instability which can become overwhelming. And the greater the buildup of unresolved stressors, the stronger the ego-defenses must become, and the greater our emotional blindness. Navigating this situation becomes a puzzle of a “brilliantly clear blue sky”, where all the stressors are not only scrambled and distorted, but are like pieces of precisely the same color. Thus, we are unable to determine which specific stressors are responsible for which anxieties.
Furthermore, the greater our ego-defenses are, the greater our emotional needs will become. Because ego-defenses obscure our genuine emotions, it leaves us unable to experience, express and fulfill them. This creates a void, a neediness, from deep within that our disconnected conscious mind attempts to fulfill through arbitrary coping mechanisms (an example of an A influence). It makes us vulnerable to being controlled and manipulated by others in desperation to address our needs, and leads us to think and behave in ways which are in total contrast to our genuine emotions.
So, the moment we encounter a stressor (whether for the first time, or as a re-encounter) is the most critical juncture to be decisive. This is because we will either resolve it, or inhibit it through ego-defenses. And for each stressor we resolve, we will experience positive reinforcement. This provides motivational security as we move forward into accepting and working with greater stressors.
It’s a very normal fact of life in society that we experience a constant bombardment of emotional challenges and stress. But to be stabilized, these stressors must be thoroughly explored and resolved. This will then strengthen our conscious emotional environment, reduce the need for ego-defenses, and increase self-confidence for accepting and exploring future stressors.