Often our defense mechanisms keep us from fully understanding ourselves and from dealing with difficult situations in ways that are healthy and truly healing. And as Muñoz points out, the disconnect between what we’re acknowledging and what we’re actually experiencing can create feelings of tension, both emotionally and physically, that may cause even more discomfort than if we actually faces those feelings head on.
Instead, Muñoz recommends taking the time to understand your defense mechanisms and how they are or aren’t serving you. “It can be helpful to work with a professional who can help us increase our awareness of our defenses,” Muñoz suggests. “The more aware you become of your defenses, the more you have a choice to do something else rather than unconsciously using them.”
She offers some examples: “If you’re a woman who cries instead of connecting with her anger, for example, you can begin to practice experiencing your anger directly and learning to be more assertive. If you’re a man who realizes that you tend to blanket your grief and other emotions with anger, you can learn to make room for a range of feelings and be vulnerable to this experience. In both of these examples, reducing your reflexive use of a defense can help you understand yourself better and forge safer, more trusting, intimate relationships.”
There are many ways to develop better self-awareness. Then, from that place of awareness, you can move into learning new, healthier ways of dealing with stress rather than relying on unproductive defense mechanisms.