There are some pretty amazing defense mechanisms in nature. Sea slugs squirt out their own intestines to make a veiled escape. Birds like peacocks and turkeys ruffle their feathers. Small animals like bugs and frogs carry poisons and colors on their backs to scare away predators—or punish stubborn ones. But when it comes to people, there may be a few defense mechanisms you’re using yourself that you barely recognize.
Sometimes an event or circumstance is so cataclysmicly devastating, we just tune it out, and don’t even know we’re doing it. You can become aware of your denial when other people around you call something to your attention.
This is sort of like denial, but it involves burying a thought of feeling deep inside, where it tends to come out in other ways. For example, you could be furious at your boss, and unable to release your anger at work, become vitriolic and argumentative at home.
It’s often easier to ignore our own faults, and pretend like other people have them instead. Projection involves seeing something bad in other people, which may or may not be there (like a negative character trait) when really, you are exhibiting that same trait.
This one involves taking a wrongdoing (by you on others, or from others onto you) and reasoning it out to be okay. You’ll have to create a complex new system of logic in order to work this one into the universe in an acceptable way, but all sorts of crime from embezzlement to genocide have been rationalized as acceptable.
Regression basically involves taking a step back developmentally, to a space where it’s physically or emotionally safe. Children often regress as they move through life, going through periods where they revert to acting like a younger child. Adults may also undergo this process. For example, after getting fired from a job, you may revert to the safety net of looking for a comparably paying job, instead of searching for something better.
Sometimes the primal instincts take over, and we get ready to fight. In situations that don’t have a lot of time around them, you can quickly jump into a reactionary mood before reflecting and calming down…for example, if someone cuts you off in traffic, you could step into a mode of road rage; or, if someone argues with you at work, you could quickly defend yourself by escalating the situation into a shouting match.