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Learn to lessen your primary defense mechanism | Type 4

Learn to lessen your primary defense mechanism | Type 4

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 Four’s primary defense mechanism | introjection
Introjection is a counterintuitive defense mechanism. Instead of repelling critical information and negative experiences that can cause a person anxiety or pain, individuals introject the information – that is, they fully absorb, internalize, and incorporate this data into their sense of self. Fritz Perls, the father of Gestalt Therapy, refers to this phenomenon as swallowing something whole without being able to differentiate between information that is true from information that is untrue. Fours introject negative information – and repel positive data – about themselves as a way of coping with painful information and neutralizing external threats. They prefer to deal with self-inflicted damage rather than having to respond to criticism or rejection from others.

How to lessen introjection
Create effective filters for negativity coming from the outside
Simply put, Fours tend to absorb and internalize negative information about themselves – perceived or actual information – from the outside without sorting whether it is true or useful. This creates an abundance of internal negative self-data. With positive information, Fours deflect it so it does not get internally processed. The key is to set up effective filters for both negative and positive information coming from the outside. You can get creative here: dimmer switches, uniquely decorated screens, imaginary guardians that know what to let in and what to not, just as examples. Setting up effective filters can change everything!


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 | ginger@theenneagraminbusiness.com

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Kate Garrison
Kate Garrison
1 year ago

My counselor doesn’t know much about the enneagram, but she could tell I needed to set boundaries on what I take in and what I leave out. So she had me imagine a wall of green jello! It separated what’s theirs from mine. Also I ask – is it true, is it about me? So glad for this reminder.

Rik van Riel
Rik van Riel
11 months ago

Such an odd defense mechanism, though I can definitely relate after a bit of reflection. I recently started creating a ‘bell jar’ around me to prevent myself from getting an overload of input from my surroundings (mainly people). This may also really help me prevent introjection, so thanks for the advice. I would highly recommend something like a bell jar because as an added bonus, my (at times explosive) energy can only go down when in the jar. This means I feel more grounded with the bell jar around me. Which is great, because as a type 4 I often… Read more »

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