11 April 2021

We said that we constantly relate to the external environment to satisfy our needs, right?

How do we relate to the environment?
Are we able to see things as they are and evaluate the most functional way to interact?

Each of us perceives reality according to our character, according to our defence mechanisms.

Defences are those attitudes that are often clear to those who know us, but are difficult to see and accept by ourselves.
They are ways of avoiding reality because we are afraid it will be too painful or difficult.

If we really want to live authentically, the first thing we need to do is to recognise which defence mechanisms we use most to interact with the external environment.

I recognise that I use that mechanism, I admit it, I become aware of it, I accept it. Now I have the possibility to choose whether to use that mechanism or to choose a more functional one.

The same behaviour, if acted in reaction and unconsciously, limits us.
If, on the other hand, we choose it, it can help us to overcome a painful or difficult situation. It is always awareness that makes the difference.

Defences distort and deform reality. When acted upon unconsciously they represent obstacles to our authenticity.

Can you understand now why it is important to identify which mechanisms we act?

In times of stress they increase, and in this year I am sure you have also seen very clearly the defences of the people you relate to.
Have you seen yours too?

In the last episode of the podcast I told you a story that I hope helped you to recognise some of the defence mechanisms.
Now I’m going to tell you in a more technical and schematic way.

Let’s look at how we contact the environment.
Look at the image above:
– inside the pale blue circle is you
– outside the circle is the outside environment, in this case the Joshua Tree desert
– the yellow part is your character, your way of interacting with the outside world.

Here are some ways we use to defend ourselves:

[Desensitisation] I NO LONGER FEEL ANYTHING, I completely lose sensitivity. I don’t feel anything, no sensations, no needs, no emotions.
Yes, it’s those people we usually call impassive and insensitive.

[Deflection] I CHANGE THE SUBJECT, I MAKE A JOKE in order to play it down, to reduce the tension because I can’t stand that tension.

[Introjection] I REACT EXACTLY LIKE MOM or DAD, without even realising it. I didn’t develop my own way of reacting to stress, but I took theirs for granted. I swallowed without chewing someone else’s way.

[Projection] I’M TAKING IT OUT ON YOU, I’m actually the one who’s nervous and tired, but I’m telling you that because you’re too nervous you don’t understand me.
I criticize you and I don’t realize that that stuff is mine.

[Retroflection] I’M NOT VENTING, I’m very angry with you, I’d like to punch you, but I hold back. The energy I move in getting pissed off I then turn it towards myself.

[Egotism] I SHUT DOWN, I take what I need but I don’t enjoy the exchange with the outside, I keep everything inside for myself. Imagine the yellow part as a security door.

[Confluence] I AM ALWAYS OPEN, I do not distinguish the border between myself and the other, between myself and the environment. Imagine the yellow part all pitted like a pasta drain.

[Proflection] I DO TO YOU WHAT I WOULD LIKE YOU TO DO TO ME, I am cold and I tell you to put on your sweatshirt.

[Denial] I DENY REALITY, I tell myself a story that makes me feel better about what’s going on.

Each of these defence mechanisms has its positive side. If we act them unconsciously the experience is impoverished, but if we choose them according to the situation they can be useful, can’t they?

We learnt that defence mechanism when we were children, back then it was the only possible way to overcome obstacles. We learned to do that to protect ourselves, to not suffer, to feel less anxiety.

These behaviours have allowed you to get this far, so they have been useful so far, but if you really want to be fully yourself, it’s time to recognise them!

Now that we are adults we can learn new ways of interacting with the external environment, and when we experience authentic and safe relationships we can try to do without them!

What do you do when you have problems at work, at home or with friends?
What do you do when you receive criticism?
What is your reaction?

Do you turn a blind eye and have a beer?
Do you blame them?
Do you blame yourself?

The next time you feel attacked, try to stop before you react.
Do it for yourself, not for the other person.

Ask yourself: what can I take from this criticism that is useful?
Can it help me to grow?

Just listen carefully, take what you need and let go of the rest.
It can be painful right away, but if you get used to listening to criticism by staying open instead of reacting, you will soon find a more mature, more responsible way of interacting.

Instead of blaming others, start taking responsibility for yourself.
That anxiety, that annoyance you feel, turn it into enthusiasm, into energy to discover something more about yourself!

When we are open to change we give ourselves the opportunity to grow, to mature, to feel better about ourselves and our relationships.

I look forward to seeing you next week, with a little more authenticity!