Learn to lessen your primary defense mechanism | Type 1
After our most recent 9-part blog series on the topic of how our defense mechanisms serve as guardians of our type-based ego structures, many people asked for ideas about how to work with and lessen our defense mechanisms. This new 9-part series responds to that request. Please note that we all use many defense mechanisms, each type has a particular defense that arises when we are the most throttled, anxious, sad or angry. In addition, defense mechanisms serve a protective function, so it is neither realistic nor even desirable to try to remove them completely, lessening them and relaxing them, however, can be beneficial in reducing our ego-structure’s hold on our development and transformation, both psychologically and spiritually.
The One’s primary defense mechanism | reaction formation
Reaction formation is a defense mechanism by which Ones try to reduce or eliminate anxiety caused by their own thoughts, feelings, or behaviors that they consider unacceptable; they do this by responding in a manner that is the exact opposite of their real responses. Because the One’s active inner judge dictates what is acceptable based on social mores, contextual expectation s, and moral principles, reaction formation becomes a defensive strategy when Ones have what they deem as “unacceptable” reactions. While their most typically unacceptable reaction is anger, reaction formation can also occur when One’s experience extreme sadness or fear.
Reaction formation is unconscious and automatic. Although sometimes Ones may know that this behavior is the opposite of the real truth, this realization happens after the fact rather than when reaction formation is occurring. In addition, if Ones do acknowledge that they’ve behaved in a way diametrically opposed to their true feelings, thoughts, and desires, reaction formation also functions to keep them from feeling embarrassed or engaging in negative self-judgments about having done so.
How to lessen reaction formation
Although all defense mechanisms tend to be automatic and unconscious, reaction formation is one of the most difficult ones to be conscious of and intercept in real time. In the case of reaction formation, someone else can be helpful to point this out such as a friend, a coach or a family member. However, this person would need to be gentle and clear so as to not cause Ones to feel criticized or confused.
For Ones themselves to become more aware of reaction formation when it is occurring rather than after the fact, experiment with breathing in a different way. Ones normally breathe in a more constricted breathing pattern, controlling the breath so as to breathe correctly. But this way isn’t relaxed breathing; more relaxed and less forced breathing helps Ones become more attuned to their feelings. Because reaction formation is a way of avoiding feelings, being more in touch with feelings makes reaction formation more difficult. In addition, Ones often bypass their Heart Center when they breathe, and many emotions have access points in the heart, the Emotional Center. Notice how you may breathe bypassing the heart and going directly to the gut. Focus on your heart as you breathe, and allow your breath to flow through this area as it moves toward the rest of your body.
Ginger Lapid-Bogda PhD, the author of seven Enneagram-business books, is a speaker, consultant, trainer, and coach. She provides certification programs and training tools for business professionals around the world who want to bring the Enneagram into organizations with high-impact business applications, and is past-president of the International Enneagram Association. Visit: TheEnneagramInBusiness.com | firstname.lastname@example.org