The Mental Health Awareness Week is here and we’re doing a theme-based series this year too! This time, each post on every day of this week will highlight one or more defense mechanisms used by a fictional character that you know about.  

Each year, for Mental Health Awareness Week, we choose a theme and talk about its different aspects through daily posts during the week. Visit these links to read our previous series:

Discovering Archetypes: 2015

Looking Within: 2014

Exercises That Help You Become Mindful: 2012

The Most Effective Mental Health Tips: 2011

The Theme for 2016: Defense Mechanisms

As humans we are all perpetually involved in the struggle of bettering ourselves. Perhaps, adding to ourselves to feel complete and whole. And yet, most spiritual, philosophical and psychological traditions talk about already being whole and complete and just not knowing it.

Most accepted psychotherapy models believe that emotional disturbances and even severe mental illness have at their core a fragmentation- a scattering of aspects of the personality or self that the individual is not able to discover, claim or accept.

“Nothing is so difficult as not deceiving oneself.” – Ludwig Wittgenstein, an Austrian-British Philosopher.

We often fragment because there are parts of ourselves that are too overwhelming to admit into our conscious mind. If we allow them in our awareness, we may feel too unsafe, too pained, too anxious or too angry.  Admitting this information into our conscious minds does one thing that we are not comfortable with – it makes us feel vulnerable.

Since we see being vulnerable as against our core survival instincts, we keep all this overwhelming information unprocessed and unacknowledged and buried into our unconscious. We use defense mechanisms to hide these vulnerability inducing situations, emotions and memories.

What are Defense Mechanisms?

Defense Mechanisms are:

Any of a variety of usually unconscious mental processes used to protect oneself from shame, anxiety, loss of self-esteem, conflict, or other unacceptable feelings or thoughts, and including behaviors such as repression, projection, denial, and rationalization – (dictionary.com)

In simple words, defense mechanisms are ways our conscious mind, also known as the ego in psychoanalytical theory, protects us from overwhelm by fragmenting us.

In the short-term, using ego defense mechanisms does help us to feel less vulnerable and move on with life, but over a period of time we always pay the price.

Hence this year, we will bring alive, to the conscious, the defense mechanisms used by some popular characters in fiction.

Since you know the story of these characters, it can be fun to take a peek into their psyches. You can see how these defense mechanisms help the person in the short term by masking the real underlying issues, but you can also see how they afflict the person and cause deep internal distress.

Our hope as the team of Inner Space is that you will use these articles to check within. We all use some defense mechanisms. However, they become less fragmenting when you can admit them into your awareness, even a bit at a time. Some introspection is due this the Mental health Week!

So have fun and do introspect.

Disclaimer: the psychologists of our team it seems (even I just realized) have a strong affinity for American TV! So don’t expect Shakespeare and don’t judge us! 🙂

Post Contributed by: Sadia Saeed Raval