You know what they say: Women spend more time thinking about what men think than men actually spend thinking. But what happens when you have an annoying thought, or you experience a distressing event? After all, we all need to defend ourselves against anxiety and sadness. We have built in psychological strategies to help us put distance between those undesirable feelings and ourselves. They are known as defense mechanisms.

Don’t worry. We all use them without even knowing which strategy we unconsciously choose. Take denial, for example. My roommate seemed like he was in denial when I told him I spilled all his protein powder. He just kept saying “no whey, no whey.” But truthfully, we all block some events so that we don’t have to deal with their emotional effect or impact. The reality may be obvious to all those around you, but you may remain in denial to avoid the painful feelings. Listen, I don’t have haters; I have fans in denial.

Another way we humans try to avoid troubling memories is to try to forget them entirely. We hide or repress them. They continue to influence our lives; we simply do not know it. So, you had a really bad day at work. You come home and get all salty and surly with your wife, and bark at your kids. You couldn’t possibly take your frustration out on your boss, so you choose someone who appears non- threatening to displace you anger on.

Are you aware of how often you displace or transfer your emotions? Tell the boss what you really think of him, and the truth shall “set you free”…from your job, that is. I told my boss three companies were after me, and I needed a raise to stay at my present job. He asked which three were interested. I said: the gas, electric, and cable. But certainly, do not teach your children never to be angry. Teach them how to be angry.

Do you freely admit the true reasons for some of your behavior? Nah. Chances are, you try to justify your unacceptable behavior by rationalizing or explaining it away in what appears to be a logical way. “I prepared for the test. It was the teacher’s fault that I didn’t do well.” Really? You know you’re a teacher when you can remember the names of 327 former students; but you can’t remember where you left your phone. Truthfully, rationalizing is easy; self-reflection is what takes great bravery.

Sometimes we need to snuggle with our favorite childhood stuffed animal or eat all the baked ziti with extra cheese. Then again, sometimes it feels like that extra cheese is the glue that holds your life together. After all, love comes in many forms: shredded, sliced, melted… Eat pasta, run fasta. Indulge in some happiness while you’re at it.

When the stress seems overwhelming, we simply do not know how to cope. We might revert to the way we acted when we were children. We regress and may sulk, cry incessantly, escape into video games, or even act out. We may choose to avoid something altogether so as not to have to feel those unpleasant feelings. Of course, if a guy pauses a video game to text you back – marry him. My favorite as y’all know is pointing out the funny aspects of the hot mess. Humor is your best friend. It always provides a lighter perspective.

There is nothing wrong with temporarily trying to ease our strain or struggle. Defenses may protect us, but ultimately, we must face the painful reality in our life. Your protective armor may have become antiquated, and it’s time to take it off. We all must ultimately learn to experience all of our feelings: the good, the bad, and the ugly. If you lose considerable feeling for others, you lose it for yourself, as well. That numbness may damage your ability to even receive love.

Give up the illusion that you can actually control anything. Allow yourself to be vulnerable. What awaits you is the capacity to feel joy in a way you may never have before. Of course, there is pain inherent in simply living; but think how much more fully you can live when you learn to tolerate it with grace.

Seek out things that give your life meaning. Explore the thoughts and feelings that may be behind a particular defense. Make a lifestyle change. As they say: You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day…unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour. Exercise more. You know time really flies when you’re not on a treadmill. I know. You love working out. Today you did “abs….olutely” nothing.

But above all, sweet friends, trust your sense of who you are. Keep your desire for success and good fortune greater than your fear of failure. You will never speak to anyone more than you do to yourself. So, what are you saying?

more time thinking about what men think than men actually spend thinking. But what happens when you have an annoying thought, or you experience a distressing event? After all, we all need to defend ourselves against anxiety and sadness. We have built in psychological strategies to help us put distance between those undesirable feelings and ourselves. They are known as defense mechanisms.

Don’t worry. We all use them without even knowing which strategy we unconsciously choose. Take denial, for example. My roommate seemed like he was in denial when I told him I spilled all his protein powder. He just kept saying “no whey, no whey.” But truthfully, we all block some events so that we don’t have to deal with their emotional effect or impact. The reality may be obvious to all those around you, but you may remain in denial to avoid the painful feelings. Listen, I don’t have haters; I have fans in denial.

Another way we humans try to avoid troubling memories is to try to forget them entirely. We hide or repress them. They continue to influence our lives; we simply do not know it. So, you had a really bad day at work. You come home and get all salty and surly with your wife, and bark at your kids. You couldn’t possibly take your frustration out on your boss, so you choose someone who appears non- threatening to displace you anger on.

Are you aware of how often you displace or transfer your emotions? Tell the boss what you really think of him, and the truth shall “set you free”…from your job, that is. I told my boss three companies were after me, and I needed a raise to stay at my present job. He asked which three were interested. I said: the gas, electric, and cable. But certainly, do not teach your children never to be angry. Teach them how to be angry.

Do you freely admit the true reasons for some of your behavior? Nah. Chances are, you try to justify your unacceptable behavior by rationalizing or explaining it away in what appears to be a logical way. “I prepared for the test. It was the teacher’s fault that I didn’t do well.” Really? You know you’re a teacher when you can remember the names of 327 former students; but you can’t remember where you left your phone. Truthfully, rationalizing is easy; self-reflection is what takes great bravery.

Sometimes we need to snuggle with our favorite childhood stuffed animal or eat all the baked ziti with extra cheese. Then again, sometimes it feels like that extra cheese is the glue that holds your life together. After all, love comes in many forms: shredded, sliced, melted… Eat pasta, run fasta. Indulge in some happiness while you’re at it.

When the stress seems overwhelming, we simply do not know how to cope. We might revert to the way we acted when we were children. We regress and may sulk, cry incessantly, escape into video games, or even act out. We may choose to avoid something altogether so as not to have to feel those unpleasant feelings. Of course, if a guy pauses a video game to text you back – marry him. My favorite as y’all know is pointing out the funny aspects of the hot mess. Humor is your best friend. It always provides a lighter perspective.

There is nothing wrong with temporarily trying to ease our strain or struggle. Defenses may protect us, but ultimately, we must face the painful reality in our life. Your protective armor may have become antiquated, and it’s time to take it off. We all must ultimately learn to experience all of our feelings: the good, the bad, and the ugly. If you lose considerable feeling for others, you lose it for yourself, as well. That numbness may damage your ability to even receive love.

Give up the illusion that you can actually control anything. Allow yourself to be vulnerable. What awaits you is the capacity to feel joy in a way you may never have before. Of course, there is pain inherent in simply living; but think how much more fully you can live when you learn to tolerate it with grace.

Seek out things that give your life meaning. Explore the thoughts and feelings that may be behind a particular defense. Make a lifestyle change. As they say: You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day…unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour. Exercise more. You know time really flies when you’re not on a treadmill. I know. You love working out. Today you did “abs….olutely” nothing.

But above all, sweet friends, trust your sense of who you are. Keep your desire for success and good fortune greater than your fear of failure. You will never speak to anyone more than you do to yourself. So, what are you saying?


Caroline is a licensed psychotherapist, crisis counselor, and writer with an office in Queens.  She works with individuals, couples, and families.  Appointments are available throughout the week and weekends.  She can be reached at 917-717-1775 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at facebook.com/pages/Safe-Haven-Healing.

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