This article is part of a series on key practices that, if utilized, will empower you to express your best self in any circumstance. Even in the face of apparent mistakes and failures, when you apply these practices, you will be empowered to return to your sense of personal agency and equilibrium as quickly as possible.
Links to all the articles in this series appear at the bottom of the page.
Employing self-scrutiny means questioning any emotional or mental reactivity or resistance that arises. It requires digging deeper to uncover what is underneath and driving any automatic, limiting self-defense structures and habitual, self-defeating patterns.
Some useful questions to ask yourself are, “What is my motive?” “Where am I coming from?” “What is really going on with me?” and “What needs are driving my behavior?”
One of the main things that impedes personal growth, being happy, and having fulfilling relationships is our habitual, unconscious self-defense mechanisms. We all have them—they are a basic part of the design of being human. We developed these defensive coping mechanisms when we were very young as a way of protecting ourselves from harm.
Examples of common, everyday defense mechanisms include denial, avoidance, blaming, judging, repressing, resistance, rationalization, cynicism, distortion, neediness, projection, and passive-aggressive behavior. These unconscious behavior patterns helped us to feel separate from unpleasant, overwhelming thoughts and feelings and from scary situations.
These defenses were useful, even necessary, tools for our survival when we were young. As we became more mature, these self-protective mechanisms often became unnecessary and stopped serving us. Fortunately, you don’t need to hang onto defensive strategies that have been holding you back or keeping you stuck in reactive patterns.
The first step is to become aware of them. Name and own them so that you can stop using them as unconscious ways of reacting and acting out. You can be grateful for how they have served you, make the choice to release them, and replace them with attitudes and practices that produce more positive outcomes.
Understanding how to work with your defense mechanisms and cultivating a genuine, even if reluctant, willingness to be with any discomfort that might arise can open the door to substantive personal breakthroughs.
For the emotionally intelligent person, being uncomfortable is not the litmus test for whether life is working and can be a positive sign of growth and increased authenticity.