Defense mechanisms. We all have them…and no, I don’t mean what you picked up in karate lessons as a kid. I mean the way we react to situations that make us anxious, stressed or troubled. From my understanding, they are unconscious reactions, as compared to “coping mechanisms”, which are typically constructive and conscious. I had two notable triggered reactions recently, so I decided to share what I have observed these two mechanisms to be. Although this post is not Dutchinese in nature, I guess it has to do with the whole “navigating life” bit. 😉 In case you want a detailed explanation of defense mechanisms and typical types, you can read more here: 15 Common Defense Mechanisms.
Computer Christine is the name I just invented to call one of my defense mechanisms. It’s definitely the strangest reaction I’ve exhibited to emotional turmoil, as it can literally turn on like a switch. The most recent example was this past Saturday night, when I had a sudden, excruciatingly painful muscle spasm that almost immobilized me. The problem was that Junwen and I had a dinner engagement that we needed to be walking out the door to, but instead I was hobbling around trying my best not to cry and to get my things. What set me off emotionally was Junwen’s exasperation at being late when I had to turn back for my phone. I couldn’t stop the water works, and I felt full of self-pity. I didn’t want to be crying, especially since we were on our way and the last thing I wanted our dinner hosts to see was a blotchy-faced Christine. Then, suddenly, about two blocks away, a switch turned off (or on?) and suddenly my emotions were gone. I instantly stopped crying, and said in a clear voice, “Oh, Computer Christine just turned on. That’s very useful.” I was then fully capable of playing the part of the good dinner guest—I just had to be careful how I turned so as not to aggravate the physical injury!
I believe Computer Christine also surfaced when I had to speak at my grandpa’s funeral. I’m like, the most sensitive person in my family, and I’m sure we were all wondering how I was going to do it. Somehow, though, as I stepped up to the podium, all tears vanished and I presented clearly. At the time, my mom and my aunt said they saw the “switch” and thought to themselves, “Ah, that’s how she’s going to do this…she’s going into presentation mode.” Is presentation mode the same thing as Computer Christine? I’m not sure, but they are at least similar in the sense that they both remove the emotional cloud that otherwise was consuming me.
The last example of Computer Christine is when I have to become extremely focused in order to achieve a goal by a deadline, for instance. A particular example was last week when I had to do a TON of research on cars and go about the whole purchasing process in order to find a good car at a good price swiftly so that Junwen could drive to his new job. This entailed so much data, so many variables, that I felt Computer Christine taking some control of the wheel…This type of focused drive Junwen has labeled, “Woman on a mission”. The only aspect of this that I don’t like is that it makes it hard for me to relate personally to people. Because my emotions are farther away, it’s harder for me to feel all the lovey-dovey feelings I would otherwise usually have for my husband. Empathy is further from reach. My brain is on 110%, but my heart takes a back seat until I can turn it off and feel soft again.
Thankfully, this hasn’t done any damage to our marriage yet…probably in part because Junwen understands what’s happening, and in part because *I* understand what’s happening, so even though I don’t “feel” like doing the lovey-dovey and saying the sweet words, I do anyways because I know that’s what I would say and do if I weren’t a Computer at the time. If Computer Christine stays on for too long, however, I tend to get exhausted and burned out. It’s like when your phone’s battery is draining faster than normal.
The other defense mechanism isn’t unlike Computer Christine, but it is separate. While Computer Christine still retains functionality of her logic and interactive capabilities (extremely well, in fact), Power Down mode makes my mind go completely blank. Power Down occurs when I find myself in conflict with another individual. This can also happen instantly, and is often accompanied by a sudden flush of heat and blood to my face. While Computer Christine has its practical uses, Power Down mode is extremely annoying, because not only does it make my mind go blank, it seems to affect my ability to communicate period.
What I’ve figured is the probable cause is that my “self” is trying to prevent me from feeding fuel to the fire of the conflict. By making my mind go blank, I have no words to reply with. Let me be clear, this doesn’t happen when I’m in a safe environment, discussing differences with a trusted friend or at least, with a respectful person. If the conflict is abrupt, or has no “niceties” about it, it will simply power me down. So annoying!
What are your Defense Mechanisms?
So, what are your defense mechanisms? Are you aware of any? Since they are subconscious, I have not learned of a way to alter mine. While I’m okay with Computer Christine (for the most part), I don’t really like Power Down mode. Do you have any suggestions on how to alter our subconscious reactions?