Your Defense Mechanisms Can Get In the Way: Know Them!

May 11th, 2017

Has anyone said to you, “Why are you so defensive?” Have you ever thought to yourself, “Why am I feeling so defensive?” Defenses exist and there is a reason for them. They protect. Without going into the various reasons for their existence, a matter for another time, I will present some of the more significant ones.

Dr. John Grohol has written an excellent article about defense mechanisms. He states that “they are one way of looking at how people distance themselves from a full awareness of unpleasant thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. He breaks his list of fifteen into three categories – primitive, less primitive, and mature.

PRIMITIVES:

DENIAL:  The refusal of accept reality, acting as if a painful situation, thought, or feeling did not exist. This is a big one!

REGRESSION: Reversion to an earlier stage of development in the face of unacceptable thoughts, feelings, or impulses.

ACTING OUT: Performing an extreme behavior in order to express thoughts or feelings that the person feels incapable of otherwise expressing.

DISSOCIATION: A person loses track of time or themselves and finds another representation of his/her self in order to continue in the moment.

COMPARTMENTALIZATION: A lesser form of Dissociation, wherein parts of oneself are separated from awareness of other parts and behaving as if one had separate sets of values.

PROJECTION: The misattribution of a person’s undesired thoughts, feelings, or impulses onto another person who does not have these.

REACTION FORMATION: Converting of unwanted or dangerous thoughts, feelings, or inpulses into their opposites.

LESS PRIMITIVE:

REPRESSION: Unconscious blocking of unacceptable thoughts, feelings, and impulses.

DISPLACEMENT: Redirecting of thoughts, feelings, and impulses directed at one person or object, but taken out upon another person or object.

INTELLECTUALIZATION: Overemphasis on thinking when confronted with an unacceptable impulse, situation, or behavior without employing any emotions whatsoever.

RATIONALIZATION: Putting something into a different light or offering a different explanation of one’s perceptions or behaviors in the face of changing reality.

UNDOING: Attempt to take back an unconscious behavior or thought that is unacceptable or hurtful.

MATURE DEFENSE MECHANISMS:

SUBLIMATION: Channeling of unacceptable impulses, thoughts and emotions into more acceptable ones.

COMPENSATION: Process of psychologically counterbalancing perceived weakness by emphasizing strengths in other areas.

ASSERTIVENESS: Emphasis of a person’s needs or thoughts in a manner that is respectful, direct and firm.

Respected Reader, did you find some of yours? Which ones? Other peoples? If you need further understanding or examples of the above (space limited me from using examples), use Google.

Once you have identified one or some of your defenses, or have them pointed out to you by another, start the work of determining when and how these defenses came into play. Such an exercise may be painful, but will be rewarding in the end. I have a “homework” that facilitates this process. Defenses can block some painful stuff, but it also blocks some real good stuff as well. Explore what is behind that defensive wall and see!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”   Socrates

Divorced Men And Women Reveal Why They Got Divorced: Opportunity To Learn?

May 5th, 2017

Divorce happens. Too often. It is painful. It should be avoided in most cases. Hindsight often offers clues and insights as to why a marriage did not work. The following is offered in hopes that by reading what divorced people say as to what caused the demise of their marriage, you, Respected Reader, may glean wisdom pertinent to your marriage to be, present relationship, or how to avoid another divorce.

Huffington Post divorce editor, Brittany Wong, asked readers to submit the real reasons why their marriage ended in divorce. The following answers resulted. I add my commentary.

  1. WE DIDN’T SPEAK THE SAME LOVE LANGUAGE: “We are both so different that we didn’t speak each other’s love languages.”(Laura) “Opposites attract”. Yes, to a point, but there needs to be sufficient connecting points that bring a couple together so that their “love language” unites, not separates. What is important to one person may not be very important to the other.
  2. MY EX DIDN’T PRIORITIZE OUR MARRIAGE: “He never made our relationship the most important thing in his life.” (Bren) If I have learned anything over the years doing marriage counseling is that both persons need to make the other number one. This is your life partner. Kids, other people, jobs, etc… are transitory and move on.
  3. A LACK OF TRUST LED TO LACK OF INTIMACY: “We had an ‘open marriage’ and lost that incredibly special foundation of trust and intimacy with each other. We became more like roommates than intimate partners.”(Amy) Trust and respect are the bedrocks for a sold marriage.
  4. WE DIDN’T DISCUSS BIG LIFE DECISIONS WITH EACH OTHER: “We didn’t have the ability to communicate well. … I made independent decisions … .” (Chris) Marriage is a partnership and both persons need to be able to communicate openly, honestly, and respectfully in order to arrive at mutually agreeable decisions.
  5. THERE WAS NO FRIENDSHIP: “We weren’t friends. Everyone and everything was always more important.” (Tamara) A basic core friendship is an enduring need in a relationship that can survive the various challenges that present themselves over the course of time.
  6. I GOT LAZY: “I could have been better. I could have found a way to keep us on track. I could have done more.” (Al). You cannot half ass a marriage. Be prepared to be your best self and give it your best shot – or don’t bother, cuz it ain’t going to work!
  7. MAY SPOUSE LET ME DO ALL THE WORK: “There was no dependability or attention. … I didn’t want to be the diligent strong woman all the time.” (Susan) Here again, marriage is a partnership where each person does his or her fair share after each agreeing as to what the responsibilities are.
  8. THERE WAS NO SENSE OF ADVENTURE: “We never really did anything. The same things got old, and since that is what our marriage consisted of, sadly our marriage started to feel old.” (Chelsie) A couple needs a sense of adventure, something to look forward, something new. This need not be expensive per se, but does have to have some creative, look forward to, energy. Stale and “old” just doesn’t get it.
  9. WE WERE TOO STUBBORN: “Our marriage became a staring contest and neither one of us was blinking. We were locked in stubbornness.”(Bill) Being flexible and able to give in are important traits for staying aligned and not in separate stubborn corners.
  10. WE MARRIED TOO YOUNG: “We were the poster children for marrying too young – the lack of maturity resulted in a tumultuous marriage. … We lacked the tolerance, patience, and understanding that is critical for all healthy adult relationships … .” (Nicole) Age at time of marriage is a very real factor for the durability of a marriage. Lust and fun together at a young age are not enough of a foundation for an enduring marriage.
  11. WE DIDN’T ENVISION THE SAME FUTURE: “One of the biggest qualities that was missing from my marriage was the desire to mutually grow. … Without a shared vision, the journey failed.” (Bill) Here, again, maturity, compatability,  good communication, and awareness of needs/wants are basic qualities needed to determine a shared vision for the future.

Well, Respected Reader, what impact do these voices of the divorced have on you? These are not the only reasons but in my experience they are “right on” to explain the divorce of so many.   “If the shoe fits”!

Teenagers In Need Of Counsel

April 21st, 2017

The teen years are challenging. Insight of the week! Challenging for both the teenager and his or her parents. The teen is going through so much – physically, emotionally and intellectually. All of these moving parts, and the brain is not fully developed to handle all this.  The left brain rational decision making portion is particularly underdeveloped. Thus, many teenagers have a variety of issues. Parents and teachers, and perhaps other involved persons, struggle as to how best assist the teen through this turmoil. Perhaps a qualified and experienced therapist could be of value here.

Over the years and today I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to work with teenagers – and accomplish good things. At one level I am surprised how well teens open up to me and most often move forward productively to reach the appropriate next stage of their evolution. Connection and readiness stage are the keys to such success. May I elaborate.

When I counsel teens I first meet with the parent(s). Their perspective, and my perception of them as parents, is important. I thus have a head start of understanding before I meet with the teen. This also gives me the opportunity to find the necessary conduits to establish a relationship with the teen.

Given this background information I am ready to meet, connect, and begin the therapeutic advance with the teenager brought to me. If the teen does not feel comfortable with the therapist s/he will not open up. If s/he does not open up there will be no improvement and further attempts at counseling would be a waste of time and money.

The second critical factor is readiness state. Even if the teen connects well to the therapist, if s/he is not ready to move on psychologically and behaviorally, it would be a waste of time and money to continue. On that note I remember a teen who was very reluctantly dragged into counseling with me. He swore to his parents that he would not even speak to any counselor. In this case I overcame his silence oath and we had a very open discussion on what his perception and needs were. At the end he said, “I like you, you make sense, but I am not ready right now to deal with this stuff. I will be back at a later time.” He and many others have come back “later” realizing that this is a guy that gets me and I can talk to.

Connection and readiness are the two most critical components for effective therapy addressing the concerns that parents bring to the therapist. The therapist needs to have this awareness and skill sets to analyze and effectuate the necessary changes for the teen to get on a rewarding track moving forward in his or her life.

I find it rewarding to work with teenagers. They trust me and can share with me their reality, which most often they cannot share with any other adult.  A necessary step for them to become the wonderful person that can emerge!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”  Socrates

Men Cuss, Women Giggle: True? Stereotypical Perspectives

March 31st, 2017

Men and women are different.  How’s that for insight?!  But how and why are men and women different in various behavioral manifestations?  Some differences are more obvious and understandable, others are more mysterious.  I present one stereotypical stylistic oddity to give food for thought.

I’ve been involved in various sports all my life.  I have enjoyed participating, coaching and being a spectator.  Typically boys/men and girls/women approach sports with significant differences in style and mannerisms. The emphasis here is how each sex responds to his or her own mistake or error while playing the sport.

I remember well watching the girls on my daughter Brittany’s softball team.  If one of the girls missed a ball or threw to the wrong base, she would immediately giggle and say “sorry!”  Not the same reality when observing my son Kris’ baseball team!  If one of them made an error he usually would growl and cuss. Often, this would be followed by some attempt to blame someone else for his error.

So, too, does this style often persist into adulthood.  I see the same behaviors in most men and women not only in sports but also in various other challenging situations. This stereotype does not hold for all men and women. Usually the male ballet dancer or alto singer is not cussing, nor does the woman college basketball player or professional boxer giggle.

Stereotypes do exist.  To what extent are gender differences genetically or culturally based? Were boys taught to cuss and blame? Were girls taught to giggle and apologize?  It is a challenge to try and understand why people behave the way they do.  To what extent do genetics and environment effect the outcome?  To what extent does choice exist?

Too many people are ignorant of the complexity of these issues and stay stuck in stereotypical prototypes learned early in life.  The reason for this article is to ask you to look at each individual as a unique person who has a certain genetic input and orientation, acculturated by the environment in which s/he lives.  May all of us see and enjoy the uniqueness of each person and not be too quick to lock someone into a stereotype, especially one that is negative.

One of the privileges of my profession has been the opportunity to see the person beneath the obvious presentation. Sometimes we may have to dig a little deeper to find the goodness and positive qualities that each person possesses.  May you be open minded and scratch below the surface to connect with people that you may not be inclined to want to know.

Such openness will allow our community to get beyond separating differences and bond with our common strengths.

 

“The unexamined life is not worth living”     Socrates

 

Reasons That People Divorce: Good To Know!

March 19th, 2017

Divorce happens. Too often. It is painful. It should be avoided in most cases. Hindsight often offers clues and insights as to why a marriage did not work. The following is offered in hopes that by reading what divorced people say as to what caused the demise of their marriage, you, Respected Reader, may glean wisdom pertinent to your marriage to be, present relationship, or how to avoid another divorce.

Huffington Post divorce editor, Brittany Wong, asked readers to submit the real reasons why their marriage ended in divorce. The following answers resulted. I add my commentary.

  1. WE DIDN’T SPEAK THE SAME LOVE LANGUAGE: “We are both so different that we didn’t speak each other’s love languages.”(Laura) “Opposites attract”. Yes, to a point, but there needs to be sufficient connecting points that bring a couple together so that their “love language” unites, not separates. What is important to one person may not be very important to the other.
  2. MY EX DIDN’T PRIORITIZE OUR MARRIAGE: “He never made our relationship the most important thing in his life.” (Bren) If I have learned anything over the years doing marriage counseling is that both persons need to make the other number one. This is your life partner. Kids, other people, jobs, etc… are transitory and move on.
  3. A LACK OF TRUST LED TO LACK OF INTIMACY: “We had an ‘open marriage’ and lost that incredibly special foundation of trust and intimacy with each other. We became more like roommates than intimate partners.”(Amy) Trust and respect are the bedrocks for a sold marriage.
  4. WE DIDN’T DISCUSS BIG LIFE DECISIONS WITH EACH OTHER: “We didn’t have the ability to communicate well. … I made independent decisions … .” (Chris) Marriage is a partnership and both persons need to be able to communicate openly, honestly, and respectfully in order to arrive at mutually agreeable decisions.
  5. THERE WAS NO FRIENDSHIP: “We weren’t friends. Everyone and everything was always more important.” (Tamara) A basic core friendship is an enduring need in a relationship that can survive the various challenges that present themselves over the course of time.
  6. I GOT LAZY: “I could have been better. I could have found a way to keep us on track. I could have done more.” (Al). You cannot half ass a marriage. Be prepared to be your best self and give it your best shot – or don’t bother, cuz it ain’t going to work!
  7. MAY SPOUSE LET ME DO ALL THE WORK: “There was no dependability or attention. … I didn’t want to be the diligent strong woman all the time.” (Susan) Here again, marriage is a partnership where each person does his or her fair share after each agreeing as to what the responsibilities are.
  8. THERE WAS NO SENSE OF ADVENTURE: “We never really did anything. The same things got old, and since that is what our marriage consisted of, sadly our marriage started to feel old.” (Chelsie) A couple needs a sense of adventure, something to look forward, something new. This need not be expensive per se, but does have to have some creative, look forward to, energy. Stale and “old” just doesn’t get it.
  9. WE WERE TOO STUBBORN: “Our marriage became a staring contest and neither one of us was blinking. We were locked in stubbornness.”(Bill) Being flexible and able to give in are important traits for staying aligned and not in separate stubborn corners.
  10. WE MARRIED TOO YOUNG: “We were the poster children for marrying too young – the lack of maturity resulted in a tumultuous marriage. … We lacked the tolerance, patience, and understanding that is critical for all healthy adult relationships … .” (Nicole) Age at time of marriage is a very real factor for the durability of a marriage. Lust and fun together at a young age are not enough of a foundation for an enduring marriage.
  11. WE DIDN’T ENVISION THE SAME FUTURE: “One of the biggest qualities that was missing from my marriage was the desire to mutually grow. … Without a shared vision, the journey failed.” (Bill) Here, again, maturity, compatability,  good communication, and awareness of needs/wants are basic qualities needed to determine a shared vision for the future.

Well, Respected Reader, what impact do these voices of the divorced have on you? These are not the only reasons but in my experience they are “right on” to explain the divorce of so many.   “If the shoe fits”!

The unexamined life is not worth living”  Socrates

Dr. Stathas can be reached at 706-473-1780. Email: stathas@plantationcable.net. Web site: drstathas.googlepages.com.  Blog: drstathas.com