Our emotions have to be managed in appropriate ways. Emotions are fuel. They are maps to direct us to whatever goes on to what goes on inside. We feel them and often instinctively and tend to act on them like losing our temper with someone, hit or break something without thinking carefully about their real roots which are embedded in our subconscious. Some of us push our emotions inside, try to ignore, block, hide or even medicate them. We do everything but listen to them carefully and decide on appropriate responses.

Hiding our feelings often means using defences. They are masks we use to conceal our real feelings and maybe prevent ourselves from being hurt. Sometimes we use defences to protect others like expressing anger or dislike towards them. We might be afraid of rejection or conflict.

There are many ways in which we mask our real feelings. Sometimes we lie about them; for example and say we are fine when we are obviously, stressed, irritated or worried. At times we may express the opposite of what we feel and say we want to go somewhere to please someone while we do not want to.

Defences are not always bad. Sometimes we need to use them because it is not necessary to share our feelings with everyone. Not everybody is understanding. Some people do not have adequate empathy and they would not be the right people to share our feelings with. Walking with our hearts on our sleeves could sometimes be inappropriate like in a boardroom.

Maurice Maeterlinck goes so far to say “We are all alone, absolutely alone on this chance planet: and, amid all forms of life that surrounds us, not one, excepting the dog has made an alliance with us.” I personally don’t think we need to be as cynical as this!

It is however not good to use defences or masks all the time and when this happens it is like building walls around us and can jeopardise potentially fulfilling relationships. We then experience loneliness and nobody can penetrate our minds. It is important to find time when we can identify and understand these defences, share them with significant others and really get to know ourselves. It also gives us the opportunity to obtain help from professionals when assistance in this respect is required. Common defences are:

  • Blaming others when thing do not go our way
  • Trying to please others under all circumstances and trying to make them like us at all costs
  • Being super nice and “good”
  • Always acting happy and friendly
  • Staying out of the way of others, withdrawing, spending too much time alone and refusing to engage with others
  • Taking alcohol and drugs
  • Telling lies
  • Never offering an opinion
  • Jumping the gun
  • Being rude
  • Always knowing better
  • Hide our real feelings and pretend we are ok
  • “Forget” and suppress things that upset us
  • Denying that we have a problem such as substance abuse
  • In your journal, reflect upon the above defence mechanisms and identify those that you may use.