Sunday, October 26, 2014

Day Twenty-Six: Defense Mechanisms

One of the things I butt up against every time we move is my own use of defense mechanisms. When I'm facing something challenging and potentially painful, I automatically do what I can to protect myself. Unfortunately, as is often the case, while a defense mechanism may protect me from pain, it also keeps me from experiencing true joy.

Here are some examples:

  • I dread the goodbye, so I pull back from friends before we leave, thinking that will lessen the sting. It doesn't. I just miss out on making good memories before we leave.
  • I don't want to think about moving, so I put off the packing until the last moment. This back fires because then I'm stressed out towards the end trying to get everything taken care of instead of able to enjoy the last few days before we leave.
  • Instead of allowing myself to focus on all the things I'm going to miss, I obsessively research our new home. It's amazing how many book stores and coffee shops I can discover when I'm still hundreds of miles away.
I'm learning, though, that I use defense mechanisms to protect myself in other times of change too. 
  • Last week was Little's first week of pre-K. I didn't take a first day of school picture. Part of it was that I genuinely forgot. But another part of it was that, if I failed at teaching him, I didn't want photographic evidence that I ever tried.
  • I feel overwhelmed or stressed out by all that life's throwing at me and instead of facing those feelings and that reality, I distract myself with mindless internet surfing, whatever novel I picked up last, or a square (or slab) of dark chocolate.
  • I've been frustrated by my lack of exercise these last few weeks due to frequent up and down nights with the twins, and I've found myself making frequent, pointed jokes about it to the Man (who keeps telling me to quit). Instead of cutting myself slack in this season of teething and schedule change, I'm making a pre-emptive strike: running myself down before anyone else can comment on my lack of an exercise routine.
When I started this post, I was going to be short and to the point and say, "Defense mechanisms are dumb! Stop with the defense mechanisms!" But more eloquently, of course. In retrospect, however, I'm not sure I agree with 8 hours ago Marian (yes, this post has been written off and on over the course of the last 8 hours--judge not, lest ye be judged).

Yes, sometimes our use of defense mechanisms robs us from experiencing true life. If we're using them to block the oncoming pain, we're also, inevitably, going to block the joy we could've experienced. 

However, sometimes we can use defense mechanisms as a way to catch our breath when life is getting overwhelming. And that's where we may have a bit more wiggle room. We need that bit of grace in our lives, so long as that's what it really is "a bit of grace" and not a way to numb or avoid.

We'll leave it at that, for tonight. And we can pray together that we may be wise when we see ourselves putting on armor or dropping down into a defensive pose or even just burrowing in to wait out the storm, that we would know when those defense mechanisms need to be employed and when they need to be left by the side of the road. We can pray together that we would be able to know ourselves and understand the why behind our actions. We can pray that instead of choosing safety and painlessness, we would choose true life and abundant joy.

Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

1 comment:

  1. Chocolate is a great mechanism for defense and offense.