The Six Protectors- Defense Mechanisms
There is an honest dignity in looking inward and understanding yourself. I'm discussing some parts of you that aren't always pretty. Make no mistake though, you have many positive qualitites and characteristics. They are as much a part of your healing journey as these guys, and well, everything else we discuss. So, please don't discount those part of you today. It's just not what I'm discussing.
So, your six bodyguards. Some hover around you and protect you in childhood and some in adulthood. We don't always have all of them around, and you might have one that you prefer over the others. That's normal. You won't be able to see them and dismantle them all at once. This is a process. First, we need to be able to know there are with us and intervening in our life somehow. Awareness is our goal here. Tackling the defense mechanism without understanding the consequences is dangerous. Baby steps. Talking with a trusted therapist is very helpful in this process.
Okay, so who are our bodyguards. Suppression is the guy who likes to choose to forget things that are painful or difficult. He might be the "cool kid" of the crowd. ""Forget about it" is his mantra. It's important to know that he is the one who is aware of the issue or pain and consciously ignores it.
Repression is his distant cousin. He also forgets the painful thing, but he isn't aware of it. He is automatically and unconsciouly forgetting things. His mantra is "What pain?" He's the absent minded professor of the group. "Huh? I have no idea what you are talking about."
Dissociation. Now he's a bodyguard not everyone knows well. Dissociation is when someone is in so much pain, commonly a child, who emotionally and mentally takes themself away from a painful experience so as not to experience is fully. Their physical self is still abused, however they might be thinking or imagining somewhere else. You might have heard of sexual and physical abuse victims experiencing and describing this.
Minimization. Well, he's a popular bodyguard. Adults love minimization. You see what happened, but you think it is less serious than it really is. "So what?" he might ask. "Not a big deal." when it really is. If it happened to someone else, they might consider it more serious.
Denial. Another popular bodyguard. You can see this as hurtful to others, but not yourself. Sometimes we are callus to ourselves when we use denial a lot. "In my case,..." might be the beginning of your denial. Denial is when you believe the situation is dangerous for another, but not for yourself.
Finally, delusion. Delusion is denial and minimization's big scary brother. Someone believes something despite the facts that say otherwise. This guy will totally disregard the facts and believe the situation isn't dangerous for anyone. Delusion is invisible to you and you have know idea you are deluded. He's got some pretty big guns- delusion. He convinces you not to listen to anybody. If someone is particularly deluded they might be very isolated so that they don't have to hear what they won't believe is true.
All these guys keep us from having truthful, honest, and genuine assessments of ourselves and our past. Imagine them standing between you and those that you love. You have to shout over them to connect, and well, they don't really want you connecting. They have been helpful in the past, if you experienced pain, but now they might be keeping you from good stuff and safe people in your life. To really live an authentic, abundant life, a person sees these guys, understands how they affect them, and work to minimize their presensce to as not to miss out on the party beyond them.
These ideas and this process are from Pia Mellody and her work with co-dependence. If you are interested in learning more, look at any of her books or workbook.
Once you start looking, you might see them. That's always the first step!
note: Just because I used male pronouns does not mean I couldn't have used female. This was just a personification exercise and does not reflect any bias I might have on the issue. Oh, and I think polar bears could be very nice too. It's just a picture. okay?