Noam LightstonePsychology 7 Comments

Learned and born from painful memories of the past throughout our lives, defences are meant to keep us safe from further traumas. Sometimes they succeed, undoubtedly. But they also accomplish a wide range of side items most do not recognize. They prevent intimacy, keep us isolated, and can lead to a cycle of continual negative feelings. They build self-imposed walls.

Defences are much easier to go to and use, because they are usually things we put up, i.e., things that we control. Instead of dealing with negative emotions towards someone by expressing them, we bottle them up inside and grit our teeth. Instead of standing up for ourselves, we take a battering of insults. The list can go on until you’re a slave to your emotions and to other people.

Dealing with negative emotions and difficult situations is tough, and you have created defences to guard against them.


A List of Common Defences

1. Isolation

Instead of dealing with an issue or talking to someone that you should, you run the other way. You are afraid that they might hurt you, they’ll shame you, or that they’ll leave you. You may ruminate on the emotions for days instead (see #5, Internalization).

Typical forms of acting out this defence include: screening calls, procrastination (of talking to the person or dealing with the situation in question), refusal to do anything social, and not leaving the house.


2. Lying

The truth can hurt and be hard to say. Solution? Make up something that isn’t as hurtful. Lying prevents you from having to deal with something difficult and allows you to either get the person off your back, or make them feel better compared to actual truth. Or, you are scared of revealing a part of yourself for fear of judgement.

The unfortunate side is that you’ll always feel the guilt, the person will eventually find out, and you’ll feel like absolute shit for lying to someone who cares about you. In the case of judgement, you’ll feel terrible for never being able to be 100% of who you are.


3. Manipulation

Blackmail. Threats. Really bad stuff here. Instead of dealing with issues at hand you try and force the other party to give in to your demands by any means necessary.

For instance in dating, this can range from anything such as comparison: “X did this for Y, why haven’t you done it for me?” to using sex as a bargaining tool: “We aren’t doing it tonight unless you buy me this”.

It goes without question that if anything of this sort happens you should bring it up with the person involved and tell them to stop. If they refuse, get out.


4. Blame and Turn-Around

Accepting your faults is tough, so why not push them on someone else?

“I was supposed to get up early but my friends MADE me stay out late. It’s their fault that I HAD to sleep in.”

“The project at work is too boring, that’s why I haven’t finished it. It’s not my issue.”

“My mother loves to push her problems on people, and her doing it to me can’t be stopped. God it’s so annoying!”


A one-off from this is the turn-around, where you can’t accept ANYTHING negative being said about you, so you turn-around the comment and try and expose the other person’s flaws. This goes hand in hand with learning how to deal with criticism in a healthy way.

“You are so insensitive. Why did you say something like that?”

“Me?! You’re the one always being so fucking annoying! I can’t stand it!”


“Why have you not worked more on the project?”

“You haven’t given me instructions! What am I supposed to do? Read your mind?”


5. Internalization

Everything that people do is because you are unworthy. There must be something wrong with you. Why bother speaking up? Why fight? Just sit with the feelings of annoyance, regret, sadness, depression, and low self-worth. They aren’t worth questioning. The other person HAS to be right. I am worthless, I am (insert terribly hurtful adjective here).

Internalization can also be combined with a terrible runaway mind to make guesses as to why someone did something.

– Date didn’t call you back? You must be a loser. (Or maybe they got into an accident and it’s not on their mind.)

– Friend ignored your text? There must be something wrong with you. (Or maybe they are busy and haven’t gotten a chance to text you back. Maybe they forgot.)


6. Misdirection

Moving away from the subject at hand using various “techniques”:

– Saying “I don’t know” instead of delving into or admitting emotions when asked about how you feel

– Smiling and laughter: Nervous laughter is used to cover up feelings of hurt, dismay, or sadness. When someone makes fun of you, you laugh it off like it’s not a big deal. But inside, you really wish you could tell them to stop. Instead of talking about a difficult subject, you make a joke out of it, and change to a different topic


7. Compulsive Behaviours

This is different for everyone, but whatever the behaviour or activity, you go to it instead of dealing with your issues and emotions. Some behaviours may not be as detrimental as others: punching a bag when angry, listening to music when sad, and anything in between may be items you go to continually when feeling a certain way. However, there are unhealthier activities: the compulsive use of pornography and compulsive masturbation, violence, hateful words, endless computer/video game/internet use. You could also use any of the defences listed in this article as well.


8. Refusing to Cry

This is an interesting defence, in that it’s harder to pin down. But, the refusal to cry is moving away from extreme sadness and refusing to admit how you feel even when your mind and body are telling you to do so to release your emotions.


How to Break Through Your Defences

You will need help. You can do a lot of the work yourself, but your defences come up in the context of other people and you’ll need other people to help you flesh them out.


First, you need to identify what your defences are. You may have enough self-awareness to do this yourself. Or, you could ask a good friend or your partner (if you have one) to help you. They need to be someone who you trust, is non-judgemental, and honest.

Then, as you learn what your defences are and have them pointed out to you (either right when they occur or in general), the hardest thing is that you will need to instil new habits. As you engage in your defences, you realize what is happening, and fight against them. Maybe not 100% effectively to start, but you make small changes and things get better and better. It will not be better off the bat fighting against things you may have done for years on end, but change is never straight forward and simple.

Personally isolation is something that greatly affects me. To combat this, I’ve started talking to safe people regularly about issues I face and aim to bring up difficult topics with people I deal with, especially those close to me.

If you lie, you must later admit it. You move away from engaging in your compulsive behaviours. You stop blaming others for things you’ve done…


Eventually you learn to break out of your defences. It will hurt and it’s not going to be easy, but you’ll be living a much more truthful life in line with how you actually feel and doing what you want. You will not hide.



You stop running.

Comments 7

  1. Awesome article man!!!!

    One thing that needs to addressed which you didnt mention is the problem of people whom were physically abused and punished as children for performing certain behaviors – like showing emotions, crying or even just being themselves (eg. parents think your being too loud and so slap you for it)

    Based on my own experience emotional trauma from childhood can be dealt with pretty much on ones own through self awareness and working on them, but physical trauma is alot harder to deal with and needs an extra push which tan be found through things like EFT or Morters BEST sessions.

    All in all a great article that touches on many aspects of our lives that we need to pay more attention to!!!

    1. Post

      Thanks for the feedback/reading Brian!

      That’s a good point. I was more focusing on what types of defenses could result from our traumas, but certainly something like that could cause a lot of things to come up. For fear of showing emotions, I could imagine an adult who grew up in that situation lying about their emotions, using turn-around, and internalizing/not expressing!

      It’s scary knowing how much what happened in your childhood can affect your adult life and what you can carry with you, yet this is the case. I have immense respect for people who can express their emotions in a healthy, direct way… no matter what they are, and how hard it may be.

      I’ll have to disagree with the emotional trauma being able to be worked on by yourself. While I may be biased on the situation (again coming from a place of keeping things inside/internalizing and knowing that’s bad), you need to talk your feelings out with someone. You can use work books and write about what happened, but without support, I just don’t see you being able to get over a very hurtful past. FOR SURE physical trauma is an added layer that can really fuck someone up, and while I think saying how you can get over some things alone may be true, I feel that getting over them with help outside of yourself makes the process easier, quicker, and less painful (though DEFINITELY not painless). If you go into your emotions and start feeling “Why do I feel this way? I’m wrong. I’m strange. This shouldn’t happen.” you can start feeling pretty shitty, versus someone empathizing and giving you an outside perspective (vise ve psychotherapy).

      Again, I am a HUGE proponent of safe people and needing them to talk about our issues because I’ve seen how much that’s helped me compared to trying to fix things on my own or keeping them inside, but I’m sure for some, it may be easier than others.

  2. After studying personal development (especially in the Dating genre), I thought I had annihilated most of these. But after reading your article on this, I realized that certain subtle forms of each of these still exist for me.

    And as I feel, Noam, that a few right-brained stories, stats, infographics, personal examples, etc. can help with some of these examples, I really appreciate being consciously aware of the dark side of my friends and I.

    1. Post

      Hey Aaron.

      I thought I had too. I feel people who are into self-improvement and consume a lot of it start to feel like they are invincible, and want to. They don’t feel anything bad, they can control any negative situation, they can change anything. Yes, it’s good to know you can change your life and be in control, but negative feelings are a part of showing you how you need to change and shouldn’t be controlled.

      No matter how much work you do some part of you will want to keep you safe. I think with more work through different avenues, however, you feel WHEN they happen and then can consciously fight against them, but they’ll still always be running in the background. I am A LOT better at not internalizing, but I did it for years to protect myself because of my past, and it just won’t go away that quickly.

      I don’t think it’s fair to expect our defenses to disappear after reading and working a bit. They won’t until WE ARE CONVINCED we are always safe. Because that won’t happen (things always come up in life), they will always exist in some form. But, they will run our life less and less, and we will be able to cut them off at the pass more and more.

      With regards to your second comment, I tried to include some examples I was thinking of while writing (see #4-6) but noting the defenses so that we’re consciously aware of them was the most important. Can you tell me more about what you were thinking of/wanting to see? That way I’ll make sure to try and include that sort of stuff in the future.

      1. I STILL haven’t commented back on this!? Shame on me ;.;

        Wow, I wonder if you’ve revised your blog at all. It appears “more full.” And while I might be hallucinating this, I feel like this article’s blossomed more since I’ve first seen it.

        For what I pointed out, too, here’s what I was talking about:

        Present a fact or generalization about lying for the left-brain: “Lying will hurt you in the end. It’s something that XX% people report doing.”

        Deliver an Illustration of “Lying” for the right brain: “When the black of lying crawls through your veins, you’ll never forgive yourself for not being 100% of who you are. It’ll crush your insides like a cold-hearted cancer, ebbing away at your psyche ”

        If you’re familiar with Brian Tracy’s book, Speaking To Win!, he calls the left-brain to right-brain method of presenting the “Windshield Wiper Method.”

        Let me know if this comment helps! (It’s been drafted twice and revised four times)

        1. Post

          Hey Aaron I thought people got automatically notified of comment updates but guess not! WordPress learning! I installed a plugin to make sure people can check if they want to be. Let me know if it’s there under the post comment button.

          Un sure what you mean by “more full”. Right now, all I’m focused on is writing new content and engaging in discussion with people on the blog in general. I could say it’s my voodoo magic but nope, this article’s the same :p

          OK I see what you are saying, that’s actually really cool. I definitely do that now as part of my writing style, but not with such elegance. In due time as I practice I hope because I can see how powerful it is!

          Before I started my blog I read through most of a book that combines meditation and writing (Writing Down the Bones) and it was all about getting the detail out, which I sometimes struggle with. Again, writing style and something to strive for in the future.

          I’m going to make a conscious effort to do that more, thanks Aaron!

  3. Pingback: Why Do Fear And Anxiety Control My Life? – Daily Medical News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.