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A defense mechanism is an unconscious psychological response that prevents us from feeling any anxiety or upset that can arise from a difficult or harmful stimuli. Research shows us that these defenses happen when our amygdala is firing. Remember our amygdala, it’s that bean shaped part of our inner brain that acts as our fire alarm and aids us in fight, flight, and freeze. So when we feel in danger, our defense mechanisms come to our aid! Even if the threat is something we are imagining.
In a way, our defense mechanisms keep us safe and happy because they prevent us from having to deal with anything that has the potential to be upsetting. But as I am sure you can see, life cannot be completely free from anxiety or upset. Life comes with its ups and downs, and we can’t just avoid everything and think it’s going to be okay. That’s why these defense mechanisms quickly become unhealthy coping skills, that after keeping us safe that one time, now just hold us back, hurt our relationships, and isolate us from our loved ones.
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