Posted tagged ‘psychology’

Ego-Defense Mechanisms

March 6, 2016

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


Egodefense 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.


Theory #9

January 24, 2013

One of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves is to be totally open to our feelings. To have the courage to experience any emotion without rejecting it. No matter how negative or traumatic it is. Especially when it’s about ourselves.

Theory #8

January 15, 2013

There is no truth other than what is felt.  This is why myths contain more truth than facts and science.

Theory #6

November 14, 2012

We are fundamentally irrational beings.  All of our logic has its roots in emotions, and never vice versa.  Everything exists in feeling.  Logic is a tool that can be used for guidance, for self-defense, attack, and as an escape.

As a great man once said: “you can be subjectively objective, but not objectively subjective.”

Theory #5

October 26, 2012

To be non-judgmental is impossible.  Our goal should always be to judge better.  To see everything for its true value.

Theory #4

October 23, 2012

Nothing is neutral.  Everything we experience, everything we do,  every thought that we think, is either positive or negative to some degree.  With awareness we can detect this in each moment, and thereby guide and direct ourselves.

Transforming Lead to Gold

September 10, 2009

There was an interesting interview on the NPR show TELL ME MORE on Sunday night.  The author Stephanie Covington Armstrong spoke about her battle with bulimia nervosa.  She traces the root of her condition back to when she was 12 years old and was sexually assaulted by her uncle.

During the incident she pretended she was asleep, telling herself it wasn’t happening, until she felt emotionally separated from herself.  Later she started stuffing herself as a relief from the feelings of pain and isolation.  But, not wanting  others to discover her pain by seeing her gain weight, she became bulimic.

She was using the eating and purging as a way to run from her feelings, and it worked… until the feelings came back.  Eventually, she couldn’t stay ahead of her feelings.  She’d throw up and the feelings would come right back, all the low self-esteem and shame from being sexually abused.  Her coping mechanism was requiring more and more to provide less and less relief.  In fact, it was killing her and she knew it.

After bottoming out she started going to support groups and gradually learned to accept herself and to find more effective coping mechanisms like turning to people for support, journaling, and helping others.  It was a gradual process, and she didn’t stop overnight.  As she puts it, she was learning how to be good to herself, how to love herself.

Now she’s gotten to the point where if she finds herself reaching for something to eat, and she’s not hungry, she immediately starts an internal dialogue:  I’m not hungry, so what’s going on?  Maybe she discovers it’s a deadline she feels overwhelmed by due to a fear of failure, or of being found incompetent.  Whatever the cause, once it’s identified the urge to eat just goes away.  My theory here is that once we see what’s real, the unreal can’t survive.

So she learned how to take this tremendously self-destructive condition and turn it into a positive.  Instead of living with that overwhelmed feeling, missing a deadline, and confirming her fears, she gets an advance warning.  No longer being controlled and manipulated by her condition, she now uses it to serve her.  She uses the unhealthy urges to eat as a warning signal that something is wrong in her life and needs to be dealt with.

If only we all had such a direct link to our deeper self… But we do.  We all have feelings; we just either ignore and suppress them, or don’t know what to do about them when we do feel them.  The question is how bad do things have to get before we start tuning in?

I can’t prove it, but I have faith, that all negatives can be turned to positives.  It’s quite simple and elegant actually.  And it extends to everything which is negative.  We don’t have to wait for a condition to bring us to our knees (though that seems to be often what it takes to wake us up).

Anytime we feel even a slightly negative sensation, that’s our warning light.  Something is wrong.  Something.  And part of the process of learning how to be good to ourselves is the process of first listening to these warnings, then figuring out why we don’t feel good, and what we can do about it.  The solution may be a long and hard road, but if we don’t heed the warning signals, we’ll never be able to transform our pain into something good.