Step into action: An interesting defense mechanism – Health and Well-being

What is the use of the step to act? How do we do it? What motivates you?

Although we like to think that we are totally rational and conscious beings, that when we act we do it out of the true will to do so, the truth is that this is not the case. Many times our actions express the mental content that we cannot or do not want to see and manage. And, although this may be natural, it is interesting to know these defense mechanisms to shed light on what happens to us. Today we talk about one of them: the move to act.

First of all, let’s understand that a defense mechanism is an unconscious psychological strategy that is put in place to protect or defend the ego. That is, to manage an internal conflict that is causing anguish, and in the face of which one chooses to deny or cover up reality. Although they may be effective in the short term (in the sense of reducing that anxiety), they are the wrong ways to resolve conflict and can cause problems.

The role of defense mechanisms

According to Freudian psychoanalytic theory, the ego would have to mediate between the impulses of the id and the demands of the superego. To do so, it uses certain procedures to maintain psychological balance: defense mechanisms.

These arise because there are certain unconscious contents (thoughts, memories, desires, impulses…) that we cannot simply make conscious because they are disturbing, embarrassing or intolerable. Thus, we express them in an attenuated or distorted way, so that they do not affect us too much.

In this way, we find a way out that allows us to protect our self-esteem and our mental stability. But that, deep down, is not the most appropriate or correct solution.

What is the step to the act?

In the case that concerns us, the move to act also arises before a desire, an impulse or a need that is considered prohibited or threatening. These generate an anxiety that we want to get rid of, which we would only achieve by making that desire. But, since this is not possible (due to its intolerable nature), we chose to do it in another context.

We cannot bring that emotion or need to consciousness, we cannot recognize the real aspect of that desire. Therefore, we chose to express it in a symbolic and distorted way. Something that certainly allows us to reduce that nagging internal tension and feel relieved, at least for a moment.

How does the move to act manifest itself?

Since it is a somewhat ambiguous concept, let us give some examples that illustrate the expression of this step to act in everyday situations.

A person has many problems in their relationship, they feel damaged and dissatisfied. Unconsciously, she wants to end the relationship, but her beliefs (religious ideals, a strong sense of loyalty or morality) prevent her from doing so.

Because you find it unacceptable to fulfill your true desire (or even consciously consider it), you choose to end another, less meaningful relationship. For example, he stops coming to therapy sessions, ends a long-standing friendship, or leaves his job.

Another situation may be that in which someone insults their partner, scolds them, or reproaches them for their selfish attitude when, in reality, they would like to make such accusations towards their mother. Again, because this idea may seem unbearable to him, he expresses that impulse in a different and more tolerable context for her.

Or, for example, when we overreact to a relatively unimportant event, but in reality we are expressing a feeling related to another situation. Let’s say that we feel extremely irritated and enraged for having lost our glasses, but in reality those emotions correspond to the dissatisfaction we feel because someone did not give us our place.

In some cases, the passage to the act arises not because the idea of ​​real desire is a moral transgression, but because it constitutes a real risk. Imagine a teenager living in a home with an abusive and abusive parent. Actually, his impulse or her need may be to attack that parent; but, since this constitutes a high external risk, he transfers the expression of that impulse to attacking his schoolmates.

Make the unconscious conscious

As you can see in the previous examples, the move to the act achieves a momentary reduction of the internal tension, but it does not constitute a useful solution as long as the real desire is still there and will continue to be there. For this reason, the path goes through becoming aware of those impulses, emotions or needs. However, this is not easy.

Defense mechanisms exist for a reason, and that is to cover up those embarrassing and unbearable emotions and desires for us. Therefore, it will not be easy for us to identify these strategies alone. Having the help of a therapist greatly facilitates this process, however, we can get used to wondering if the reason for our actions or decisions is really what we think or there could be something else.

The Mind is Wonderful.-

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