We all have struggles between what we know we should do and what we really want to do, how we should think and how we want to think, what we should feel and how we want to feel. Our mind is truly a battlefield of conflicting desires, opposing emotions, and betraying thoughts. So much so, that even the Apostle Paul said in Romans 7:15, “For what I am doing, I DO NOT UNDERSTAND. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.” Paul was not describing a period in his life before starting a relationship with Christ. He had met Jesus, was indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and yet his knowledge of his own human behavior was still confusing to him. That should fill us with hope, knowing that we don’t have to have all the answers nor do we need to be perfect in order to be saved from ourselves. Romans 8:1 says “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. PERIOD! (the NU-text omits the rest of this verse)
With this foundation in mind, God has given us revelationary truth that can and should coincide with the Biblical truth we know and understand. Human behavioral, emotional and thought patterns can be studied. Just because someone who was not a Christian discovered them does not mean they should be discredited altogether.
This brings me to the subject of Defense Mechanisms. Ways in which our brain/mind tries to protect itself from seemingly overwhelming conflicts between right and wrong. I will mention just one but there are many that have been studied.
Projection occurs when individuals push their unacceptable thoughts, feelings, or impulses outward, onto another person. For example, someone denies their own anger but then perceives anger in everyone else. “I’m not mad. You’re the one that keeps losing it!” Another example would be a person who does not like someone, but has the belief that she must like everyone. So she projects onto the person she dislikes the feeling that “he does not like me.” This allows her to avoid him and also to handle her own feelings of dislike.
Examples like this happen all the time. We don’t have to think about them consciously. They just happen. The struggle comes when we try to change these thoughts and discover a new, healthier way of approaching our problems. In the struggle, don’t get discouraged. God is patient with us. As therapists and as people in general, we need to be patient with ourselves.
Question: What real life examples can you come up with that illustrate some of the defense mechanisms we have been studying? Be creative. If you’ve seen a movie clip, read a book, heard a song, or even have a real life example, I’d love to read about it and discuss it.
photo courtesy of www.dennisholmesdesigns.com