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Dealing With Defense Mechanisms

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We love a great comedian.  Why?  They usually can spit and recite life experiences we can relate to.  The wittier the better.  It’s not uncommon for us to discover this same person had a difficult life they used humor to conquer. 

It’s the same way with:

  • The beautiful actress we discover was bullied for being “ugly” and “fat.”
  • The world famous athlete who some coach told was horrible and should give up on the sport.
  • The slew of youtube videos of XFactor, Idol and America’s Got Talent auditions who are stunning singers, dancers & talents that were told they were stupid.

We feel like these people were underdogs just like us who conquered the unthinkable to get “ahead” in life.  So why is it we are shocked to discover these same people deal with insidious bouts of :

  • Depression
  • “Self-Medicating” through addictions of drugs and alcohol
  • Anger issues
  • Insecurity 

I think what we fail to see is that at some point all of these people developed a “defense mechanism” to get through life and feel like they weren’t so “bad.”  Think about it:

  • The awkward kid who trips over himself…. becomes the class clown.
  • The dramatic kid with the “over the top” personality can hide by being someone else on stage.
  • The too loud kid tries to say a couple of things and gets shut down so they protect themselves behind a hobby.
  • The insecure kid can control the amount of food that goes into their body,  the number of hours they work out, and the way they look.

You and I did it at some point.  We lost our innocence and started to “hide” our true selves, the same way Adam and Eve did in the Garden after their choice to rebel.  We were wounded by someone or something that told us we were “too much” or “not enough” and we decided to figure out how to get around this.  Maybe it was “positive” and we decided to throw our whole selves into learning an activity or getting better at something.  It could have been negative.  Personally, I learned how to build protective walls around my heart.  I was a compassionate kid.  This also meant I was sensitive and I cried a lot when frustrated.  I was called names because of it.  One day in 5th grade I walked into a bathroom stall and vowed I would never cry in front of another person outside my home.  I kept that promise until the Lord took hold of my life at 20.  To this day it is really easy for me to tell you an overabundance of facts about my life,  while still hiding how I truly feel about any of them.  It is one of  the many defense mechanisms I created.

The student who “drives you crazy” by taking over the conversation (every time) or being a little too intense could just be on the cusp of learning to create their own  alternate persona.  Wouldn’t it be really awesome if we help students come out of these years a little less  “scathed?”  

The schools are trying with workshops about being “Uniquely You,” and rallies that stress the anti-bullying campaign.  However,  when someone tells you something about you is “wrong” it weasels it’s way in to your mind and heart.  It becomes the  catchy song on the radio that gets stuck in your head and you have no idea why.  You know all the lyrics and yet don’t care to.  You begin to compare yourself to others and believe they are “better.”  The lie that you should hide the “true you”  becomes all that rings in your ears.

Unfortunately there are side effects from these wounds that carry with us and effect us deeper than we realize.  The famous “conquered their past”  many times by becoming the best at pretending. 

Let’s do these 3 quick things to actively help our students fight defenses:

1. Teach Offensive Strategies  

They don’t always have to wait until someone says they’re not worthy to deal with their insecurities.  Teach students how to take God’s word to heart.  Help them know that God really does have a tremendous plan for them.  They need to learn how to look in the mirror and see God’s reflection.

2.  Learn The Difference Between Failures And Attacks:

It is true that adveristy and failures are necessary. They teach us how to readjust and push forward. I took up distance running because I was told as an asthmatic it was a bad idea. You tell me what I “can’t” do I am IN, ALL THE WAY to prove you wrong. When someone comes in to hurt you this is an attack.  This is not their fault. They need to learn the difference.

3.  Don’t Go Changing

I think there has to be a way to help our students not become another version of themselves.  God comes in to mold us and make us more into His likeness. However,  CELEBRATE who God has made them to be.  Don’t be vague when you tell them about what is wonderful about them.  BE SPECIFIC.  They can figure out the ways they are “too much.”  They know how their rough edges annoy those around them.  What is amazing about who they are? Tell them, constantly. 

I think being aware of the defensive mechanisms we have created can help as well.  Let’s remember that you don’t “have to just deal” through the teen years.  You can STAND OUT not just stand aside.  Jesus wants more for all of us.  He certainly wants more for them.

How do you actively combat your students building defenses?  

By | 2016-10-13T13:53:39+00:00 September 19th, 2014|Uncategorized|0 Comments

About the Author:

Leneita Fix is the Mission’s Coordinator for Urban Youth Impact and the co- creator and director of the “Own It” Initiative at Berean Christian School in West Palm Beach, Florida. One of her greatest joys is serving in ministry as a family with her husband, John, and four amazing children. Since all of her children are in their teen and young adult years she mocks often that she actually “lives with a youth group.” This has given her a passion to walk alongside other parents of teens, those who work with teens & teens themselves empowering everyday families to navigate the beautiful chaos of the everyday. Her career has been spent in camps, urban, suburban and rural family based ministry primarily in New Jersey, Virginia, and Florida. Her responsibilities have included Bible based program and ministry direction for children ages 5-18, curriculum writing, leadership training, recruiting, discipleship, resource creation and speaking to national audiences. She has authored several books for those who work with teens in a variety of landscapes her most recent being a book that helps parents of tweens and teens connect with their kids called, "The Beautiful Chaos of Parenting Teens: Navigating the Hardest Years You Will Ever Love”.

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