Ego Defense Mechanism
Our ego minds are programmed and then neurologically wired to select and interpret evidence supporting the relationship to our self as “I'm OK” and there is nothing wrong with me that I need to change. A variety of mechanisms: conscious, unconscious, and social will direct our attention to ignore the negative behaviors we cause in our life and to instead highlight what we think is positive or acceptable in order to increase our optimism and reduce our anxiety.
Through the course of growing up from childhood into adulthood, we develop coping skills and will come to label people, places or objects in the environment that are acceptable or not acceptable in our belief systems. Ego defenses are similar to mental racketeering programs that are commonly used as coping mechanisms for reducing day to day anxiety, fears, and obsessions that are related to thought addiction or the need to control the environment. When we are addicted to our thoughts, we have lost balance with our feelings and sensory abilities that allow us to be fully present in the moment and be in a receptive mode to better discern the environment and their energies.
We work hard to retain the belief that “I'm OK” and there is nothing is wrong with me, even when faced with repeated negative patterns and feeling unhappy in life. Self-justification based upon social and mental programs of acceptance of negative and harmful behaviors, is deeply ingrained in each of us in order to feel better. To cope in this world our mental patterns make it easier for us to surface skim the information in the environment that easily supports what we already think we know or believe. To remain comfortable with our world view through confirmation bias, even if its not working well for us, is the way we resist change, or resist the need for emotional and spiritual growth. 
Unfortunately, we often are confused by what we perceive incorrectly through our own need to be okay through self-justification. We formulate these distortions as Ego Defense Mechanisms because we have not learned how to free the mind through the use of Negative Ego tools for self-exploration and deeper self-inquiry. As we learn to free our mind and love ourselves unconditionally, we know that we are okay without needing to self-justify. When we are free of our own need for self-justification, (by increasing our inner self-approval and self-love, no matter where we find ourselves) then we do not need to justify others or justify ourselves. We are then freed to be capable of unconditionally loving others no matter what they may be choosing to do in that moment. It is what it is in this moment. One has no control over others nor what others may think about them. The quality of our thinking shapes our belief systems and attitudes and is the result of accumulated life memories and the personality filter which form perception, judgment, bias and skills or proficiencies. Our brain commonly distorts an accurate assessment of the reality in order to increase our Self Esteem or coping mechanism through discomfort by self-justification. When we are using a coping mechanism to self-justify, we present a one-sided argument to ourselves. Spirit of Humility reduces our need for self-justification and allows us to admit to and learn from our mistakes or negative ego behaviors. Humility is the key to help us overcome many of these thought distortions which evolve into a host of ego defense mechanisms. During times of stress, overload, or threat, we often resort to a simplistic form of thinking, called primal thinking.
Primal Survival Thinking
Primal thinking when it is repetitive and left unchecked, accumulates factors in us that we may start to believe these base untruths about ourselves. When we are overstressed or overwhelmed we may go back to the “root” fears or primitive layers. It is only when we have arrived at a level of trust that we are secure and safe in this world, safe in our relationship to God spirit, that we can fully clear survival root fears and eliminate primal thinking. Whenever we feel unsafe we go back to the root of our survival fears, which trigger ego defenses into base thoughts. This is why building one’s relationship to the self and building one’s spiritual practice to deeply connect with one’s higher power is the most important practice one can do. This is the way ego discipline is formed and strength in the foundation of one’s core is built. For an accurate assessment of reality and circumstances, it is important to reexamine the situation using purposeful, valid, thoughtful, and accurate analysis that properly allows for the complexities we face. We can blend a synthesis of analysis with Higher Sensory Perception in order to have better assessment ability and to understand, what is.
Let’s discuss more about the most common ego defense mechanisms that block our Higher Sensory Perception and the ability to return back into neutral states of centering. The Ego Defense Mechanisms: These mental thought patterns are distortions that we call ego defense mechanisms. Ego defense mechanisms help us avoid accepting evidence that challenges our self-image as a good and worthy person or that challenge our strongly held stereotypes or belief systems. We have a series of life experiences which accumulate and collect memories that lead us to form belief systems about the nature of reality and the way that our world works or doesn’t work. Through the course of growing up from childhood into adulthood, we develop coping skills and will come to label people, places or objects in the environment that are acceptable or not acceptable in our belief systems. Ego defenses are similar to mental racketeering programs that are commonly used as coping mechanisms for reducing day to day anxiety, fears, and obsessions that are related to thought addiction or the need to control the environment. When we are addicted to our thoughts, we have lost balance with our feelings and sensory abilities that allow us to be fully present in the moment and be in a receptive mode to better discern the environment and their energies. Our goal in self-mastery is to find the balance between our thought process and our feeling process so that we recognize distortions in our thinking which block Higher Sensory Perception.
When we identify these types of mental triggers that take us into distorted thought patterns, through noticing our tension, anxiety or frustration levels, we can switch the balance in ourselves to find a way to release our stress. Immediately we can shift tension through refocusing our mind into breath, or refocusing into the current moment sensory-feeling awareness. By refocusing oneself at the moment tension or stress is being experienced, it prevents impulsive reactions such as blurting out negative words or expressing angry behavior. When we express angry behavior impulsively, it is usually is not a pleasant or positive situation for ourselves or others around us. When we have allowed anger to make us impulsive it means we have embodied that angry state, which is not a healthy practice for anyone. This is very emotionally damaging in a person and in creating relationships based on trust with others. In most social situations, it is preferable to recognize anger and learn to observe that anger as it builds without allowing the angry state of being to overwhelm and take over one’s body, mind and emotions. It is possible to witness and feel anger instantaneously and to refocus that anger immediately, in so to refuse anger to become your identity as a person.
Impulse Control by Refocusing
As one learns how to refocus one’s thoughts, one prevents overwhelming states of emotion from triggering impulsive behaviors and angry reactions. As one develops strong impulse control they are learning a form of ego discipline through applied patience. If we check in and find that we do not like what we may be feeling, we can learn better the reasons for that by further shifting into the observer mode. In our community, we call that process of observing as shifting from identifying with a thought or feeling by moving ourselves into the compassionate witness. As a Compassionate Witness we have no judgment of thoughts or feelings, we hold no judgment of what we are observing in the external, we only observe those thoughts and feelings in our self and others. When we can fully observe through our own Compassionate Witness, we then become neutral and centered. Then, we can immediately find relief from our inner anxiety, fears and a host of other thought distortions. This process is key to shifting ego defense mechanisms, thought addiction tendency and releasing the anxiety or fear of feeling emotional depth or pain. By continually using an ego defense mechanism to avoid facing the source causation of the anxiety or deeply rooted fear, (which is unresolved pain or trauma) we are only perpetuating the mental looping which uses denial of the truth in order to avoid feeling pain or discomfort. Denial of the truth is the seed of all Ego Defense Mechanisms.
- Confirmation bias: is the strong human tendency to dismiss or distort evidence or facts that are contrary to our acceptable beliefs and readily seek out any kind of evidence that supports our views.
- Denial: putting up a thought barrier and arguing against an anxiety-provoking stimuli by stating it doesn't exist. Refusing to perceive the more unpleasant aspects of the external reality.
- Displacement: taking out any impulsive behavior on a less threatening target. The mind redirects difficult or painful emotions from a ‘dangerous’ object to a ‘safe’ object. When we are impulsive to others in this way we treat them as a whipping post for our painful emotions.
- Intellectualization: avoiding unacceptable emotions or depth of intimacy by focusing on their intellectual aspects. Concentrating on the intellectual components of the situation to distance yourself from the anxiety-provoking emotions associated with these situations.
- Projection: moving unacceptable impulses in yourself onto someone else. Attributing to others your own unacceptable or unwanted thoughts or emotions. Sometimes if another makes us feel uncomfortable we will blame them for our own discomfort.
- Rationalization: supplying a logical or rational reason to make excuses that are opposed to the real authentic reason. Constructing a logical justification for a decision that was originally arrived at through a different mental process or fuzzy logic.
- Reaction formation: taking the opposite belief because the true belief causes anxiety or discomfort.
- Regression: returning to a previous stage of development. Reverting to an earlier stage of development in the face of unacceptable impulses or emotional pain.
- Repression: pushing thoughts into the unconscious through setting up walls and preventing painful or dangerous thoughts from entering the conscious mind. Sublimation: acting out unacceptable impulses and destructive behaviors (such as addictions) in a socially acceptable way.
- Sarcastic Humor: refocusing attention or inquiry on the comical side of the situation to relieve negative tension; similar to comic relief. Sometimes sarcasm is used to appear as humor when it is meant to belittle a person or being used as a put down to refuse to deal with the facts at hand.
- Splitting: Splitting is a very common ego defense mechanism. It can be defined as the division or polarization of beliefs, actions, objects, or persons into good and bad by focusing selectively through ones own confirmation bias, on their positive or negative attributes.
Being OK and knowing that things are OK around you is the beginning of returning to the neutral state of the Observer Point. When we return to everything is okay, I am OK, it corresponds to a person who is relaxed and not feeling fear or anxiety. Learning how to free the mind of primal thinking by learning how to refocus back into neutral and compassionate witnessing, is the direct key to the continual expansion of consciousness and achieving mental and emotional freedom. Practicing the Relationship Mastery Guidelines skill set in our every day life is very helpful as a replacement guide to dismantle ego defense mechanisms.
Splitting is a very common Ego Defense Mechanism. It can be defined as the division or polarization of beliefs, actions, objects, or persons into good and bad by focusing selectively on their positive or negative attributes. Splitting diffuses the anxiety that arises from our inability to grasp the nuances and complexities of a given situation or state of affairs by simplifying and schematizing the situation and thereby making it easier to think about. It also reinforces our sense of self as good and virtuous by effectively demonizing all those who do not share in our same opinions and values.
On the other hand, such a compartmentalization of opposites leaves us with a distinctly distorted picture of reality and a restricted range of thoughts and emotions; it also affects our ability to attract and maintain relationships, not only because it is tedious and unbecoming, but also because it can easily flip, with friends and lovers being thought of as personified virtue at one time and then as personified vice at another (and back and forth).
Splitting also arises in groups, when members of the in-group are seen to have mostly positive attributes, whereas members of out-groups are seen to have mostly negative attributes - a phenomenon that contributes to group think and, indeed, inflexible attitudes of xenophobia.
Building Self Esteem
Self Esteem formally is "the disposition to experience oneself as competent to cope with the basic challenges of life and as worthy of happiness", and while others (parents, teachers, friends) can nurture and support self-esteem in an individual, self-esteem relies upon various internally generated practices. To be responsible to take care of oneself is one way of building self esteem. In Nathan Branden's framework, there are six "pillars" of generating and building self-esteem:
- Living consciously: the practice of being aware of what one is doing while one is doing it, i.e., the practice of mindfulness.* Self-acceptance: the practice of owning truths regarding one's thoughts, emotions, and behaviors; of being kind toward oneself with respect to them; and of being "for" oneself in a basic sense.
- Self-responsibility: the practice of owning one's authorship of one's actions and of owning one's capacity to be the cause of the effects one desires.
- Self-assertiveness: the practice of treating one's needs and interests with respect and of expressing them in appropriate ways.
- Living purposefully: the practice of formulating goals and of formulating and implementing action plans to achieve them.
- Personal integrity: the practice of maintaining alignment between one’s behaviors and convictions.Branden distinguishes his approach to self-esteem from that of many others by his inclusion of both confidence and worth in his definition of self-esteem, and by his emphasis on the importance of internally generated practices for the improvement and maintenance of self-esteem in every day life.