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The Common Ego Defense Mechanisms and Their Impact on Self-Growth

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We all go through and react differently to conflict and stress at some point in our lives. But, are you the kind that will repress the situation, deny that it is happening, or direct your frustrations to the nearest person that is less threatening to you? If your mind is constantly telling you that you are a hopeless, good for nothing person, that is your ego defense mechanism at work. Mental traps our minds use unconsciously to avoid feelings of guilt or shame.

Understanding Ego Defense Mechanisms

See, ego defense mechanisms refers to the psychological strategies that we use to detach ourselves from any unpleasant thoughts, actions, or events. That way, our sanity stays intact, and we can cope with the uncomfortable phases in our lives.

The Psychoanalytic Theory

Ego defenses stem from a Psychoanalytic Theory proposed by Sigmund Freud, an Austrian Neurologist and the founder of Psychoanalysis.  The theory describes the sum of our personality based on the unconscious mind; an interaction between our id (instincts), ego (reality), and super-ego (morality).

This unconscious mind is shaped by the events from our childhood. It also dictates how we behave when in conflict or stress. If we have deeply repressed conflicts in our unconscious mind, it will show up later on in our adult lives, affecting our self-growth. Hence, Freud aimed at making this unconscious mind conscious and addressing these dysfunctional thoughts.

How It Happens

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Ego defenses are inevitable in our psychological development. For, they help us deal with unpleasant encounters. However, the unconscious mind may be clinging to an outdated reality to try and protect us from the current unpleasant situation.

And, since these cognitive errors are so ingrained in our minds, we hardly realize how much it is affecting our decision making and growth. Hence, you end up with a perception tainted with negativity that results in unrealistic beliefs.

Common Ego Defense Mechanisms

Below are the 6 most common ego defense mechanisms and how they affect our lives and self-growth process: –

#1: Extremism

Definition: Having extreme beliefs about life. Here, the person views life in black or white, with no room to accommodate in-between beliefs. They express their view in the absolute.

Examples: Using such phrases as, “I am ugly”, “Other people are always out to get me”, and “They hate me”.

Implications: False extremist beliefs leave us with low self-worth, hurting our social interactions and growth.

#2: Repression

Definition: Hiding ideas or feelings in the unconscious mind since we see them as too painful or socially unacceptable. Here, the person puts on a cheerful front unconsciously denying any unpleasant impulses in their lives.

Examples: Repressed memories of sexual abuse in a child may hinder them from forming meaningful relationships in their adult life. A phobia for pets due to a dog bite that happened to the child years ago.

Implications: Repressed memories can only be recalled using hypnosis or other therapeutic tools.

#3: Suppression

Negative emotions that block your chakras image

Definition: The conscious blocking of any unpleasant feelings that we find too difficult to face. It is similar to repression, only done by the conscious mind. People who opt to suppress their feelings want to avoid getting anxious.

Examples: A patient choosing not to talk about their recent diagnosis of cancer so that they won’t have to think of the implications of the illness. A student who is sitting for an exam without adequately preparing for it may opt to remain positive about their outcomes, to prevent panic attacks.

Implications:  Suppressed emotions lead to physical stress seen as erratic blood pressure, insomnia, and memory loss.

#4: Regression

Definition: Slowing or having a negative growth due to underlying stress. Here, the person seems to act immature, childish, or in an age-inappropriate manner, as they regress to their behavior at an earlier developmental stage. This mechanism offers a temporary feeling of safety. The person relates to a safer, carefree stage in their life when all their needs were met.

Examples: A teenage bedwetting when they had stopped it a few years earlier. Adults throwing tantrums at the thought of divorce.

Implications: Regression is an ineffective way of dealing with life stressors. In turn, the persistent avoidance of hardships makes the victim over-dependent on others to make most of their life decisions.

#5: Denial

Definition: Refusing to acknowledge a difficult event in our lives. Here, the person may distort their reality by denying its existence.

Examples:  A drug, smoke, or alcohol addicts refusing to acknowledge their addiction.  A terminally ill person failing to seek medical help, hoping that the illness will cease to exist.

Implications: Temporary denial of a serious diagnosis or a traumatic event is acceptable because it gives the victim time to prepare to face the harsh reality. However, if this denial is prolonged, it may result in regressive behaviors, with the victim throwing tantrums, crying, or demanding special treatment.

#6: Sublimation

Definition: A mature ego defense mechanism where an individual channels their disruptive impulses into socially acceptable behaviors.

Examples: A person taking up a dangerous hobby to channel their childhood anger impulses into the sport. A cheating spouse taking their partners out for dinner to try and ‘compensate’ for their infidelity.

Implications: Unlike other ego defense mechanisms, sublimation is a positive way of channeling our negative impulses to a substitute object in a socially acceptable way.

What Next? Overcoming Negative Ego Defense Mechanisms

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Ego defense mechanisms can promote or be a great hindrance in self-growth. If negative, it soothes the ego into thinking that all is well, when in fact; the person has negative psychological growth. But, we can all free ourselves from these negative ego defenses using these tips:

  • Talk about your feelings
  • Control your emotions by performing appeasing activities like sublimation
  • Aim to solve any problem that arises by having a plan for action and a follow-up
  • Reorganize the way you view things by seeking psychological help in hypnosis, meditation, and breathing exercises
  • Try to find meaning in every situation so as you can learn from the unpleasant experience
  • Join a support group where you can learn from the experiences of others

Conclusion

Anytime we encounter an unpleasant situation, our egos will come up with tactics to protect us from the subsequent trauma, hence keeping us sane. However, most of these tactics derail our self-growth. You need to understand how to cope with hardships. And, seek help in addressing any dysfunctional thoughts that are now affecting your adult life.

Personal Development

8 Signs You Are a Free Spirit Who Can Never Be Tamed

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If you are a free spirit, chances are you struggle to fit in your family or friend’s circles. That is normal. See, as a true spirit, you value your freedom over complacency. You would rather dictate the terms of your life than conform to societal norms.

Well, this nonconformist attitude to life is never free of cost. You may have to get out of your comfort zone, let go of your societal security, look different, and even suffer harm. But, how do you know if you are a free spirit and not just a rebellious person?

This article will discuss the 8 common signs to guide you.

But first:

Understanding the Free Spirit

A free spirit starts from the mind. You live free of domination from any oppressive thoughts, ideas, or notions imposed on you by others. Unlike rebellion, true freedom is about respectfully liberating your mind and body, to coexist with others at peace.

Likewise, a free spirit will not replace one oppressive thought with another. Instead, this person seeks the truth and lives by it. For example, many celebrities that claim to be free spirits are doing so superficially. They may still ascribe to certain notions that are oppressive to their audience. Like the idea of going organic but allowing the use of plastics from a certain brand.

The Signs

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If you are a true free spirit, then you can relate to most of the signs below: –

#1: Strong Desire for Freedom

Did you ever quit a well-paying job to pursue a digital nomad lifestyle that pays less than half of your salary? Your strong desire to be free and set your lifestyle standards indicates a truly free-spirited person. See, free-spirited people make lifestyle decisions that prioritize their freedoms.

#2: Abhor Restrictions

In line with a desire for freedom, free spirits despise any restrictions imposed by others in their lives. If you are one, you could be struggling with committing to a deadline, target, or relationship.

And for the career persons, free spirits hop from one organization to another, dreading to be confined at one company for too long. Here, the free spirit struggles to commit to another person or purpose but looks forward to waking up to new challenges or surprises.  

#3: Welcome Challenges

A free spirit encounters problems like any other person. However, they see the problems as new challenges, not threats. Consequently, a free spirit gets excited, not worried when facing challenges.

#4: Spontaneous

A free spirit comes up with rushed decisions that change the course of their lifestyles forever. For example, they may wake up and decide to shift to a new neighborhood, enroll in the gym, or make a swift financial investment. Or, they may change their minds about getting married, having kids, or setting up their businesses. 

These persons hold no attachment to anyone or anything, hence appearing as unserious. As a result, others find it hard to understand why this person can’t stay consistent. 

#5: Unconventionality

Free spirits do things their way. They question any societal expectations and are the last persons to adopt them. Likewise, they are never intimidated by those around them. Instead, they stick to their decisions regardless of how foreign they sound to the masses. 

#6: Insatiable

A free spirit is insatiable. Your goals are different, settling for a better or unique lifestyle from the one your peers are content with. For example, your dream when clearing college was never a well-paying job, the latest car, and a home with kids. Instead, you think of opportunities that will allow you to try new things.

For example, you could be a die-hard globetrotter even though you may not have the means to travel at the moment. You are the kind of person who is content with living from a suitcase for years as you travel around the world.

#7: Great Achievers, Innovators, Dreamers

Now, a free spirit may appear spontaneous and unserious with life, but they have a clear perspective of what they want to achieve. This person comes up with fresh ideas that promise to solve world challenges. And it is the excitement of this new challenge that fuels their desire to achieve the set goals.

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#8: Relentless

Free spirits always seek ways of how to make the impossibilities in their lives possible. For example, they will question why it takes three days and not a day for an online shopping order to arrive at their doorstep. And, they will use the latest facts to question current theories.

In turn, these persons never quit. They appear stubborn, holding on to their ideas until they get the solution they were hoping for.

Living a Fulfilling Life as a Free Spirit

Note that, a free spirit is the best candidate for achieving spiritual awakening. This person is intent on soul searching and questions their existence. Still, the life of a free-spirited person can be a lonely one. If you suspect that you are a free spirit, here are a few tips to live a fulfilling lifestyle:

  • Spend more time outdoors. For example, taking part in dance competitions in the open gives you a chance to free your mind and release any stress buildup.
  • Reconnect with your inner child by working with children. They have great imaginations and love exploring and testing their boundaries. Plus, they enjoy doing role plays.
  • Explore a creative career path like preparing exotic dishes and painting on a canvas.
  • Most free-spirited persons are empathetic, considerate, kind, and loving. In turn, they can be victims of emotional abuse. Protect your emotional wellbeing by setting boundaries on who you interact with or what you explore beyond your comfort zone.

Conclusion

Anyone with a free spirit has the untamable spirit of a wolf. You always want to run free beyond the confines of family or society. You also have a tendency to oppose the normal social rule, being overly independent, and never subscribing to others’ rules. That’s why most free spirits are seen as rebellious.

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Personal Development

Shadow Work: Get To Know & Integrate Your Dark Side

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We need to be whole to live a fulfilling life. Yet, our shadow work represents the disconnected parts of our psyche, hindering our spiritual journey. And, at the spark of the moment, our unflattering past may emerge to tarnish this picture-perfect view of ourselves because, our shadows can go on autopilot mode, operating behind the scenes and impacting our relationships.

The Shadow: Home for Our Suppressed Traits

Did you grow up knowing that men are not supposed to cry? Or, do you view outspoken people as nosy? Well, as a human being, when you are overcome by grief or sadness, one quick release is to cry. It relieves the tension in you. Plus, those around you appreciate that you feel their grief too.

Likewise, an outspoken person can be a great leader if they use this trait to command authority for social justice or development. But, if you are born an outspoken person, and you relegate this positive trait, you lose out on living a fulfilled life.

The two examples above demonstrate what happens when we relegate any trait, whether positive or negative, that we disassociate from our ego. These traits never go away. They lie dormant in our shadows and may crop up in your life when you least expect them. More so, others can pinpoint those traits in you even without you doing anything to provoke it. For example, you may portray yourself as a composed person, only to throw tantrums at the slightest provocation. That shows there is unresolved anger lying dormant in your dark side.

Origin of the Term Shadow

The term “shadow” originates from the Jungian psychological model. According to Carl Jung’s theory, we all have an ego, which is the center of our personalities. Anything that you disassociate from your ego ends up in the shadow or your dark side. Similarly, if there is a trait that you dislike about yourself, chances are, it is suppressed in your shadow.

So How Do You Embrace Your Shadow?

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At a point when the shadow is working against us, it may destroy us. Hence, there is a need to embrace our dark side and use it to nourish our lives. But how do we achieve that?

Past vs. Present Approach to Embracing the Shadow

Now, history has records of ancient Greeks worshipping the shadow as an autonomous goddess or god. The Greeks used this approach to integrate the dark side into their egos. Not so with the 21st-century modern person. Today’s pressures from social media, family, and friends make us neglect our past wounds or negative impulses.

Many of us are too concerned about protecting our self-image. In the process, we deny that the shadow exists in the first place. Yet, cyberbullies and close friends are quick to pinpoint these shadows in others but never acknowledge their own. An issue of seeing a splinter in another person’s eye and not seeing the log in your own eyes, right?

Other Quick Tips to Embrace Your Shadow

  1. Have a calm mind. Life stress interferes with our attitudes towards the shadow. Yet, a collected person will find reason even in the most brutal aspects of their lives. Yoga, meditation, and crystal healing can help in achieving the right mindset for shadow work.
  2. Practice self-love. It will prepare you mentally to deal with the demons.
  3. Seek the truth, not validation. The dark side may have aspects of your life that are too painful.  Seek to understand the truth instead of wanting to feel special.
  4. Journalize the process.

Benefits of Shadow Work – Eliminating the Projection Defense Mechanism

When we repress our shadows, we project those feelings unto others. For example, if you view an overweight person as lazy, or find an outspoken person irritating, chances are you are struggling with weight management or a level of rudeness in your life.  Otherwise, if you were okay with your current or past weight, someone else’s oversize will not bother you.  See, this projection happens unconsciously, as a way to defend your ego.

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Shadow work unmasks our dark side and integrates it into our current life. It is about working with your disowned parts to bring out the creative, authentic, and energetic side in you. And, the benefits are tremendous.

Here are three key benefits: –

#1: Better Relationships

Integrating your dark side will ground and make you feel whole. Once you embrace your shadow, it is easier to embrace that of your spouse, child, friend, or workmate. In turn, you are less triggered by other person’s unpleasant behaviors. Even so, the grounding effect opens up channels of communication, hence improving how you relate with others.

#2: Clarity of Perception

Our perception of self determines how we view the world. If skewed, you will use the same lens of perception to sieve ideas, thoughts, and feelings from others. In contrast, integrating our shadows gives us a whole, true picture of ourselves. This realistic assessment of self results in self-awareness crucial for spiritual growth.

#3: Raised Energy and Better Health

For as long as you ignore your shadow, it becomes a burden that you carry each day. You know, you are cautious with the way you look, what you say, or how you conduct yourself, not to reveal those suppressed traits.

Integrating the dark side frees us from this daily struggle.

We discover a reservoir of energy that we never thought existed. In turn, we can focus on self-care routines that lead to better physical health.

Conclusion

We all have a dark side that we often want to ignore. The dark side could be the skeletons in your closet that you never want to admit. Or, positive traits like empathy, gentleness, humility that you feel make you look weak. Worse still, it could be demons from your past traumas, lingering in your present life like a shadow. We avoid these demons so as not to feel ashamed, guilty, or fearful. Yet, accepting and integrating this dark side into your current life could unlock a life of fulfillment and self-enlightenment. It is never easy to confront our shadows. But, it is worth your effort.

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Awareness

Soul Searching: Can You Really Find a Lost Soul?

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Have you ever experienced a muscle pull while in deep waters swimming that you felt death was so close? How did you feel when you finally made it above the waters and took a deep breath? More like the breath of life, right? That is how we operate when we keep on holding to our past scars. They enslave us and suffocate our own existence. Luckily, soul searching can help you get back on track and start living your life just the way our creator intended.

So how do you find yourself? How do you finally let go of the past and live a free spirit? And most importantly, how do you stay focused to ensure you never find yourself in this situation ever again? Well, you’re on the right page because this article will answer these and many more questions revolving around soul searching.

Sounds interesting? Read on.

So What Is Soul Searching?

A student once asked his tutor:

“What did you gain from years of meditation?”

The teacher gently replied, “Nothing, my son. But let me share with you what I lost. I lost anxiety, depression, anger, and the fear of death, relationship insecurities, and the fear of growing older. Now I’m living a free spirit.”

Does this sound like one of your dreams? Soul searching helps you to achieve all that and more.  In simple terms, soul searching is an intuitive path to self-evaluation with an aim to find a deeper meaning and contentment in life. It’s that simple.

However, that doesn’t happen in a day, of course, but consistency yields long-term results.

Why Do You Need To Find Your Inner Self?

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At some point in life, most people are conditioned to live in certain ways, to believe in certain truths, to practice certain careers, religions, etc. Sadly, most of these people actually die without ever figuring out what the other side of these truths feels like.

The significance of tapping into your inner self is that you immediately start to experience inner peace and balance in your daily life.

You see, once you tap into your inner self, you get to understand your life goals, your purpose, motivations, as well as beliefs and practices that add value to your life. As a result, you no longer waste your time and energy meandering in lost paths but instead, you fully focus your energy on paths that you’re destined to excel in. And isn’t that what we all want?  

4 Practical Ways You Can Find Your Soul

#1: Take A Self-Realization Quiz

Start asking questions like:

  • Is this the actual truth or the truth I want to hear?
  • Is this a healthy relationship or the relationship the world needs to see?

And I’m almost certain you’re here because you’ve already started questioning yourself. So this step will be easy. However, the hardest part is accepting you for who you have become now and working towards changing this narrative moving forward.

I always believe we shouldn’t work so hard at hiding the past but rather take the lessons and use them to create a better future.

#2: Experience The Other Side Of Life For Just A Day

In other words, dare your ego. What have you denied yourself for the longest time in your life all in the pretext of being the “perfect human”? Is it the career you never fulfilled, or the trip you’ve always postponed? It’s time to dare what you consider impossible.

However, let me warn you that your ego will fight you harder. Remember that inner voice that tells you “you can’t ware that Suzie, your belly is too visible” or “you can’t get that mortgage Jack, you’ll be bankrupt before you even retire”.

We’ve all had those moments, haven’t we? Sadly we just nod to our ego and say “I think you’re right, let me find an alternative.”

And by the way, did you know you can overcome some fears just by approaching life in a different angle? For example, a bungee jump, or sky diving can help you overcome your fear of the unknown.

#3: Time to Connect With Your Higher Self

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Did you know that your higher self might be trying to communicate with you but you might be blocking its voice? It’s true. That’s why you are suddenly craving a more meaningful life. Suddenly you are starting to see all the missed opportunities. For this reason, you need to pause and listen.

The easiest way to reconnect with a lost soul is through meditation. However, the modern world is too distracting. Instead of fighting the distractions, how about embracing the things you admire in life. Take a walk in the forest, or go deep-sea diving, or even explore your hobbies and find that spot where your mind is mostly at peace. That is when you reach out to your higher self.

#4: Professionals Could Help Too

Some things are above self-help. This is where you need to engage professional help. Be it your Yoga instructor, a therapist, or any professional practitioner within your line of trouble.

Other times, you just need to open up to someone you trust. Someone you can share your past traumas openly without the fear of being judged. Consequently, healing starts.

Moving Forward

Once you find your true self, it’s time to change the narrative. In the self-realization quiz, cross off any character traits you possess that are pulling you backwards. If it’s the shyness, the extreme anger, or the low self-esteem, cross it off and purpose to work on improving these areas henceforth.

One thing I must mention though, change takes time. But as long as you don’t lose your zeal, it can be achieved. Find new goals and new motivation. Let these propel you towards living your new life.

Always remember, not all storms come to disrupt your dreams; some are there to clear your path.

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