Coping Strategies and Defense Mechanisms: Questions to Ask Oneself

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The process of looking at how you may or may not use defense mechanisms can be helped along by asking yourself questions to get yourself thinking about whether you use any of the defense mechanisms. Your answers to the questions can help you to see when and where you might, in fact, use them.

  • Are you able to know when you are upset, or do you tend to hide it from yourself?
  • How do you cope with being upset? Do you try to get to the bottom of the problem, or are you more someone who tries to minimize things or leave them to deal with for later. Are you generally clear on your feelings or do you just know that you're upset sometimes.
  • Do you play any role in creating your own problems, or are your problems caused by other people?
  • Do you avoid dealing with problems when they arise? If so - do you avoid in a healthy way, or do you just try to numb yourself and put off dealing indefinitely instead?
  • Are you able to appreciate the "shades of gray" in life (e.g., that people can be both good and bad at the same time, that it is okay to be imperfect) or are you a more "black and white" sort of person (e.g., a perfectionist, a victim, etc.)

Primitive, immature defense mechanisms help maintain problems, rather than solve them.


You will need to become free of, or at least aware of your use of primitive defense mechanisms if you are ever going to be able to sustain your attention on a self-help program that will help you overcome your problems. Your decision to pursue a path of mental health self-help means that you are assigning yourself responsibility for recognizing when you use or act out these defense mechanisms, and for choosing to stop their use in favor of more direct and healthy ways of dealing with your issues. It is frankly quite difficult to recognize when you are using defense mechanisms without the aide of an objective therapist or confidant who can provide you with feedback. However, your decisions to pay attention to when you evade and avoid your issues, to face those issues more honestly and directly, and to commit yourself to getting back on track with your self-help efforts whenever you catch yourself making excuses, makes it more likely that you will ultimately succeed.

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