“Like other ladies, I don’t enjoy shopping. I don’t like to interfere in others affairs. I take care of my children but children do not pay any heed to me. I find very difficult to work if anyone keeps pointing at my mistakes.” What do you feel, when you hear the above statement? Is the person mentioning the factual problem or is expressing his / her defense? For example, when one says, I don’t enjoy shopping; we feel that’s the problem. But the underlying fact is that I am never ready to accept that I hardly have that much funds with me. But then I attempt to divert my thoughts when I have to hide the circumstances that I feel shy of, or the fact that I have to accept but do not wish to accept. Let us try to understand this using an example. If a pencil is held on the route of a series of ants that move in a straight line on the wall, what do we see? The first ant in the series halts for a moment and continues her linear path after detouring herself. When a tortoise is touched by a stranger, it pulls its 4 legs and head under its shell and remains motionless. Similarly, a chameleon camouflages with the environment so that no one can trace him. In all the above examples, nature has made a defense system to defend oneself. The defense system in human being is very funny and entertaining. Sometimes we are successful in protecting ourselves but many times we cheat ourselves and cause loss to ourselves. Suppose I see a snake in front of me, I am afraid and move far away from it and save myself. But let us look at this incident from a different aspect. If I fail in something and run away from failure, do I save myself? Certainly not. I feel I am successful or I have saved myself for that instance of time. But if I think about it in long terms, I realize that I defend myself in an improper manner and thus stunt my own growth.
Sigmund Freud the father of psychology studied the safety mechanism of human mind and named it as defense mechanism. In the above example, shopping can be my need as well as my interest. I do shopping. But when I realize that I do not have the sufficient funds or money necessary for shopping, my mind starts refusing this fact and hence as a defense mechanism, I convince myself, diverting to the path that suggests I do not like shopping. Let us see how this mechanism works using a different example. Suppose a small kid shows tantrums and cries saying “I want Cadbury right now”, then his / her parents in a loud tone tell him, “You will not get Cadbury now. That will cause a tooth-decay. It is a bad habit.” After listening to the parents, the kid insists for it further more. At this instance the grandpa comes in the scenario, he gestures the parents to control and be silent. He goes towards the kid, placates and soothes the kid and diverts his/ her attention elsewhere. In this example, the kid, the parents and the grandpa are matured, are the three factors already in our minds, according to Freud. The kid Id is matured, the grandpa is ego and the parents are called as superego. In our minds, this ego tries to maintain the balance between the Id and the superego. When Id, that is the child within us and the parents that is the superego have strong arguments reaching a peak, we feel vulnerable, and makes us worry, resulting in the loss of patience. To get rid of these worries, we start refusing the facts. In the above example, when the kid insists for a Cadbury, it is very difficult for the parents to handle the kid. Hence they provide different excuses for not giving Cadbury to the kid and temporarily save themselves. The role of grandpa (ego) helps to accept the facts. But unfortunately, we keep our ego aside, causing struggle in our mind and hence we provide with the defenses that we really do not agree to, and get rid of ourselves temporarily. But such protection cannot last for a longer period.
Hence it is necessary to study how this defense mechanism is applied and implemented in our minds.
If I succeed in a specific task, I take the entire credit towards myself. I feel immense pleasure about it. I feel I should share my success. But if I fail in a task, I blame the circumstances or others. (Others include in-laws, parents, Boss, colleagues, spouse etc). Under such circumstances I do not feel that if I take the entire credit of my success, I will also shoulder the responsibility of my failure. The reason behind this feeling is the defense mechanism in our minds, which we learnt in the earlier articles. I refuse to accept the fact of my failure. When I refuse to accept the facts, I try to get rid of it. I do not understand that it is subterfuge. However, this does not change the facts. My failure is not converted in to success and then I feel bewildered. Hence I am unable to accept the fact that I may fail. Consequently, it affects my progress and I start blaming my circumstances and others.
People with positive thinking, do not accept that ‘a hurdle may occur’. People with negative thinking do not accept that ‘success is possible”. An alcoholic never accepts that they are problem. Depressed people refuse to accept that they are depressed. Children never accept that they are careless in their studies and a teacher never accepts that ‘at all the places, he / she never gives up with the role of a teacher.’ Parents do not accept that ‘children are grown –up’ and in all the above examples the thoughts, emotions and actions are refused and it is not accepted that I am bothered with this and one tries to get rid of this by subterfuge.
The other type of self defense is ‘Displacement’. This can be well said in the proverb, ‘Get fired and be fire.’ For example if in the office, the Boss fires me and expresses his anger, I express the anger to my wife. After sometime, when the child is home from the school, the wife passes on this anger to the child. The child is in turn not in his senses, gets angry, goes out and expresses his anger by giving a thermal shock and hurting the stray dog. In this example if I am unable to express my true and honest expression due to fear or by any rigidity towards my near and dear ones (whom I take granted), or towards a weak person, I displace my feelings with the near and dear ones and then the feeling of guilt pricks me. This behavior of mine is called as displacement.
The third type of Defense mechanism is called as ‘Projection’, searching for the reflection of my own thoughts and emotions in the minds of others. For example, Maya is jealous of me, says Meera, but factually Meera herself is jealous of Maya. However Meera conveys to all her friends that Maya is jealous of her. Let us consider another example. Mandar says that Priya often pays attention to him. But actually Mandar is often watching her for an approval and keeps on boasting to others about how ‘she’ shows interest in him and describes the efforts he takes to avoid her. However, Mandar himself is interested in Priya. One more example – forty-two years old Sunil, keeps on saying how the entire world keeps bothering him and pressurizing him. But the truth is he himself is bothered about himself and is under pressure.
One more type is Reaction formation. This can be summarized in the proverb, ‘a bad workman quarrels with his tools.’ It means if nothing works out the way I want, I just get rid of it doing nothing. For example, in a couple if the husband does not attentively listen to his wife, the wife avoids informing him about everything and prefers keeping mum. For instance, Madhura is unable to adapt with her friends in the college so she directly took admission to some other college. Similarly Rohan declared that he would not participate in any sports just because he could not make a century in the cricket match. Ramesh failed in his business and hence decided that he would not think of doing any business.
To be precise, when we have indigestion, we take Soda and maintain the level of digestive hormones, similarly defense mechanism maintains ourselves. It would thus, not be unfair to say that if we are aware of this alert system, we can save ourselves from the headache that will follow later and be ready to accept the facts quickly.