Three years ago, I began regular therapy again. It was with a new therapist, a referral from a friend. For 3 years she encouraged me to schedule the appointment. I balked. It was too expensive; and other excuses. Bottom line, I wasn’t in enough discomfort to ask for help. Finally, I made the call. I’ve been changed ever since.
I needed someone strong enough to break through my defense mechanisms. In one of our first appointments, I was sharing, “Blah, blah, blah...” My therapist said, “The defense mechanism you used there is aaa.” I responded, “Blah, blah…” He replied, “The defense mechanism you used that time is bbb.” I explained, “Blah, blah, blah…” To which he replied, “The defense mechanism you used there is ccc.” Defeated, I said, “I’m going to stop talking because I’m not even trying to defend myself.”
I didn’t realize until that moment the width, breadth and depth of my defense mechanisms. I didn’t know my mind created barriers of protection that prevented me from going deeper. I wasn’t intentionally trying to hide my feelings. My defense mechanisms were/are so natural that I kept myself (and others) from entering the most vulnerable places inside of me without even realizing it. No wonder I have difficulty finding the deeper connection I crave. I'm pushing people away with defensive language. Wow. He got my attention.
THIS is why we need a Good Christian Therapist. We need someone skilled enough to cut through our defenses, walls, and the barricades that keep us from healing, growth and freedom.
In his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, Pete Scazzero says, “The transition into adulthood, however, requires that we mature through our defense mechanisms of denial in favor of honestly looking at what is true – at reality. Jesus himself said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32.
Unconsciously, however; we carry many defensive mechanisms into adulthood to protect ourselves from pain. And in adulthood, they block us from growing up spiritually and emotionally.
The following are a few common defenses:
· Denial (or selected forgetting). We refuse to acknowledge some painful aspect of reality externally or internally.
· Minimizing. We admit something is wrong, but in such a way that it appears less serious than it actually is.
· Blaming others. We deny responsibility for our behavior and project it “out there” upon another.
· Blaming yourself. We inwardly take on the fault.
· Rationalizing. We offer excuses, justifications, alibis to provide an inaccurate explanation of what is going on.
· Intellectualizing. We give analysis, theories, and generalities to avoid personal awareness and difficult feelings.
· Distracting. We change the subject or engage in humor to avoid threatening topics.
· Becoming hostile. We get angry or irritable when references are made to certain subjects.”
Yep, I’ve done them all. I DO them all. I’m still learning to welcome my feelings instead of repressing them. It’s also hard to share my feelings. Yet, it’s healing every time I take the risk. It helps create the connection I crave.
I share because I know I’m not alone. I’m a fellow traveler on the healing path. Learning and sharing as I go. I share as a friend, not an expert. I’m in progress and I think if we showed ourselves in process more often, we could learn a lot from each other. It’s refreshing, don’t you think?
Put it into practice. Find a safe person and go one layer deeper in your sharing. Tag them in this post so they are familiar with these defense mechanisms. Ask them to be accountability partners. Give each other permission to lovingly share when you notice a defense mechanism used in your communication. When a defense mechanism pops up, gently name it.
~ It sounds like you might be minimizing, blaming, (pick 1 defense mechanism at a time) are you willing to go deeper?
~ What feelings are you experiencing about this?
~ Is there more?
~ What do you need in this situation?
~ What are you realizing about yourself?
Helpful questions will guide the conversation deeper. Our job as a friend is to listen and hold space. We don’t fix people. Don’t try. It’s unhealthy for the helper and the person being ‘helped’.
I’m learning there is typically a wounded child in all of us. The wounded girl in me needs to be seen. To be honored. To have her feelings and experiences acknowledged. She doesn’t need a bunch of words. She needs to be listened to with honor. She needs a hug. She needs to know she isn’t alone. I think that is what the little child in all of us needs. Let’s do that for each other. Be with each other in vulnerable moments.
Which defense mechanism is most prominent in your life? Comment below and tag a safe person who helps you become a healthier version of yourself.
If you practice naming your defense mechanisms, I would love to hear from you and cheer you on! #bloomingfaithministries #kirstencasillas #mendingthesoulmini #emotionallyhealthyspirituality @bloomingfaithministries @kirsten_casillas