How Defense Mechanisms help us survive

By Kathy Radina, M. Ed. | June 24, 2009

radinaHe was a large man, tall and muscular from the physical labor he did every day as a framing contractor. At first he tried to suppress the tears, but they got the better of him, and ended up streaming down his face.

Just minutes earlier he was so filled with rage he was punching his fist on his thigh with such force I was worried he would hurt himself.

The reason for all this emotion? He was convinced his wife of eight years, the dark haired, petite mother of three who sat across from him in my office, was having an affair.

She was pleading with him, and me. When would she have time for an affair? She worked full time and was raising three children. He knew where she was every minute. Frankly, she was getting a little tired of having to report to him, and being accused of infidelity each time she went to buy groceries.

Here's the interesting thing. I knew that she was faithful, and that HE was the one who was attracted to another woman, a waitress he met in a cafe he frequently visited. He was using a classic Defense Mechanism as described by Sigmund Freud called Projection. He was taking his uncomfortable thoughts and feelings and attributing them to his wife.

Freud? That old timer? Yep.

Today, Freud’s basic constructs have been expanded, improved upon and updated to more accurately reflect current thinking. He was the father of it all, a genius, whose theories have become a part of our common vocabulary.

According to Freud, a Defense Mechanism is a distortion of reality. Something we do unconsciously to protect ourselves. He described 10, but not all of them make sense today.

I’m going to share my favorites with you, and you can see which ones you use to keep yourself safe. Don't even start to think that you don't use Defense Mechanisms, because we all do at one time or another.

My personal favorite is Rationalization. It means explaining away actions in a seemingly logical way to avoid uncomfortable feelings, especially shame and guilt. Examples might be, "Everyone cheats on their taxes" and "Just one more cigarette won't hurt."

The ability to keep dangerous or threatening thoughts from even entering our conscious mind is called Repression. How can an eight year old manage to go to third grade after watching her drunken father beat her mother ... again? Simple, she represses the memory, goes to school and learns long division.

Another great lifesaver is Denial. With Denial, we protect ourselves from unpleasant realities by simply not being aware of them. What we don’t know can’t hurt us. For example, the parent whose teenager suddenly looks red-eyed and is sleeping more than usual, and might find the idea of substance use hard to face, so he simply fails to notice the signs.

Bringing Defense Mechanisms into consciousness is the first step toward resolution. The awareness that he was Projecting allowed the framing contractor to examine HIS issues regarding the waitress. You may be happy to know he also realized he wasn’t about to give up an eight-year marriage, for a restaurant attraction.

In summary, it is only fitting to end with a quote by Freud himself,
“Man should not strive to eliminate his complexes but to get in accord with them.”

Kathy Radina, M.Ed. is a counselor in Carefree.
She can be reached at 480-488-6096 or visit

Treating Insect Bites: Part 1

Lifestyle Remedies

Once summer has begun, we rarely stop to think about insect bites until we've received one. The best treatments are immediate. Whether it's mosquitoes, fleas, ticks, bees, wasps, or other notorious pests, we can alleviate the symptoms if we act fast.

Having a little knowledge and a few remedies on hand can aid us in quickly affecting a cure. Be sure to have an epi-pen on hand at all time if you or someone you know is allergic and can go in anaphylactic shock. None of the remedies below will be effective against serious allergies.

First Aid: It's important to remember that any itching, swelling, or pain at the site of the insect bite will generally go away on its own in a week or so. To alleviate symptoms faster follow these steps:

1. Remove the stinger by scraping the site with the back of a straight edged object such as a butter knife. Do not use tweezers or pull in any way as this releases more venom.
2. Wash the site thoroughly with soap and cool water. Watch for infection.
3. Place a cold compress, ice pack, or wet compress on the site to reduce swelling.
4. Take an antihistamine and apply an anti-itch cream. You can make one of your own by using a mixture of baking soda and water or Bentonite Clay, a little salt, and water.
Medications: If you find you have severe allergic reactions or develop a serious infection, it's best to seek medical attention. The doctor will likely prescribe antibiotics and antihistamines.

Nutritional Care & Supplements: Increasing these nutrients the body can provide a marked improvement both before and after receiving an insect bite. Before taking any new supplements, make sure they will not interact with current medications or supplements. Research suggests than these remedies may reduce the body's reaction to insect bites while increasing the immune system's ability to deal with it, although, they have made no medical claims.

Quercetin; found in the Greens 8000 product, may help support the immune system and reduce inflammation.

Vitamin-C up to 1,000 mg, two or more times per day for about a week, and then at least 1,000 mg daily. Use plant derived formulas with bioflavonoids.

Zinc at 30 mg. Make sure you are not allergic first. Zinc may help alleviate symptoms associated with allergic reactions and anaphylactic shock. (Muscle cramps, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.)

Omega-3 Fatty acids (particularly fish oil or hemp oil) reduce inflammation due to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Homeopathic Remedies: The following are suggestions and do not substitute for professional care provided by a licensed homeopathic doctor. A homeopathic doctor can assess the needs of the entire patient before making a recommen-dation. However, the following remedies have shown positive results in a wide range of people and are worth a try.

The Honey Bee, used for stinging pain and rapid swelling, also affective for swelling and is appropriate for those in which a cold compress has a positive effect; recommended for those who develop hives.

St. Johns Wort, used for insect bite on the digits and extremities where pain is most acute.
Labrador Tea, most commonly used for bites from mosquitoes, bees, wasps, spiders, and other bites which are cold to the touch but improve with cold applications or cold water.

Delphinium or larkspur, works well with children who have large itchy mosquito bites and large welting bites.

Dwarf nettle use for bites where itching and stinging does not subside and also may be used for hives.

Essential Oils: An essential oil tincture can be made with one part essential oil to 10 parts vodka, rubbing alcohol, or distilled water. Pure 100% proof vodka is the base of choice. Try to limit the tincture to one or two essential oils and no more than five or six. Less is more. Try different combinations and see which one works best for you and the situation: Lemon Balm, Stinging Nettle, TeaTree Oil, Calendula, Plantain, NeemOil or cream, Basil, and Holy Basil.

Many of these can also be used as insect repellents or placed within an insect repellent ointment. If you do not have essential oils on hand, use fresh leaves. Simply crush and apply to the area. Some people find chewing the leaf assists the remedy. To make your own tincture, you can take fresh or dried leaves, crush them, and soak them for a few days in distilled vodka.