incredible-marketing Arrow
Why Do We Develop Defense Mechanisms?

Our addictions and mental health issues bring along with them all kinds of coping mechanisms and defense mechanisms, many of which we engage in compulsively and by default but without realizing we’re doing them. We might not be aware of them until someone brings them to our attention. We might continue them for years, even for most of our lives, without being aware of them. Some of us will instinctively use denial, avoidance, secrecy, dishonesty, control or manipulation, either within ourselves or with the people in our lives. We might do things we regret but feel powerless to stop. It can be extremely difficult to feel as though we lack understanding around our defense mechanisms, and part of the work we’ll have to do to recover will entail becoming more mindful of our defense mechanisms and working to understand why we’ve developed them in the first place in order to figure out how to shed them. Why do we develop defense mechanisms?

The majority of our behaviors are governed by the subconscious mind. This means that what we think and feel subconsciously has a great deal of power over our behavioral patterns, including our defense mechanisms. For many of us, we’re subconsciously trying to protect ourselves, from being hurt, from being judged, from being rejected, from feeling unloved and being abandoned. We’re trying to protect ourselves from losing people, from feeling the grief and pain of loss. We’re trying to protect ourselves from the consequences we think we’ll suffer if we lose control, autonomy, and authority, within the situations in our lives and our relationships, and within ourselves. We’re afraid of feeling our pain and having to address our deeply rooted issues without anything to numb them or distract us from them. We’re afraid of living life without our drugs of choice.

Our defense mechanisms become our default, go-to methods of coping with pain and trying to protect ourselves. They often develop after intense traumatic experiences that are destabilizing and that create a foundation of fear within us, a foundation from which we build our fear-based responses, act on our fears, and live out our fears. If we were emotionally neglected as children, for example, we might start to use manipulation and dishonesty in our relationships in order to prevent ourselves from ever feeling neglected again. We might subconsciously believe that if we shield ourselves from vulnerability by being manipulative and dishonest, we’ll never again have to experience the deep, traumatic pain of neglect.

Our defense mechanisms don’t help us heal, they don’t keep us safe, and they don’t protect us from harm. Because they are rooted in our pain, they usually work against us and compound our many issues, creating more suffering for us to have to contend with. Our recovery from addiction and mental illness involves working to understand and then dismantle the defense mechanisms that have been holding us back and preventing our healing.

The caring, compassionate staff of The Guest House is here to support you as you start your journey to recovery and healing. Call 855-483-7800 today for more information.