How Sahaja Meditation helps break down your defenses
Sahaja meditation harnesses the healing power of our inner energy to help mediate internal emotional conflicts. The following summary of common defense mechanisms may help heighten your awareness of your own defenses and show you how Sahaja meditation breaks down your defenses and helps you work through the unpleasant thoughts and feelings you may have been defending against.
Defense mechanisms occur in a continuum, organized hierarchically in levels from least complex (most primitive and immature) to most complex (most mature). Low level defenses emerge early in life, while the more complex defenses develop later. The more mature defenses can actually be adaptive. But less mature defenses distort self-image, inhibit thoughts and memories by compromising information, or disavow reality altogether. People with primitive, immature defenses are essentially regulating their emotions at the wrong level and will benefit by changing those automatic defense patterns learned so long ago.
Over the years, different models (e.g., the DSM-IV-TR and George Eman Vaillant’s model) have been proposed to categorize defense mechanisms conceptually and empirically. For our purposes, defenses are divided practically into four Defense Levels, similar to Vaillant’s model: Pathological, Immature, Neurotic, Mature/High Adaptive.
Level 1: Primitive, Pathological Defenses
Primitive, pathological defenses include some degree of delusion. They may be used in both normal and pathological (in their most extreme form) states. The pathological users of these mechanisms frequently seem (and, in fact, may be) irrational or even psychotic. When over-utilized, these defenses can permit one to effectively reframe the external world in such a way that one actually eliminates the need to cope with reality.
Denial, Projection and Distortion are sometimes referred to as Narcissistic Defenses.
Denial, perhaps the most well-known defense, is a refusal to believe or admit reality. In denial, people avoid awareness of some painful aspect of reality by negating sensory data. Denial, a disavowal mechanism, is one of the most primitive defenses because it fails to distinguish between external and internal reality; in fact, effectively abolishes external reality.
We’ve all existed in a denial state at one time or another, even if only for a short while. Drug addicts and alcoholics are classic examples, masters of denial. They work very hard to convince both themselves and others that they don’t have a problem. Another example, someone whose spouse has just been diagnosed with a terminal illness might be unwilling to admit that the illness is terminal, telling friends, “Oh, she’ll make a full recovery!” And denial is usually at work in the earliest stage of grieving loss, especially bereavement. Someone maybe unwilling or unable to accept the death of a loved one; they may appear to be unaffected by the death.
It’s fair to say that denial might protect us in the short term from whatever emotional pain reality is doling out to us. But denial is fundamentally a lie that we tell ourselves to avoid facing the truth. And keeping up the facade — living the lie — burns a lot of psychic energy that would be better invested in coping.
How Sahaja meditation Helps…
First of all, Sahaja meditation gives you a method for finding truth inside you — truths about yourself and about the mechanisms and powers you have within. This happens on Day One, as you draw your attention inside and focus on the awakening of the inner energy. Thereafter, it’s a daily exercise of trial and error, experimenting with how this energy works inside you and how you can perceive it through tangible experience, such as being able to feel the energy on your palms and fingers. Beyond the experimentation and experience of how you feel, you move on to harnessing the energy to heal, relieving negative thoughts and feelings and increasing positive thoughts and feelings, subject to the strength of your energy flow. This process isn’t the same as mentally conditioning or training yourself to “think positively” or simply assuming that you’re becoming a more positive person. Every bit of improvement will be grounded in reality. You’ll actually be able to verify that the energy is working for you through positive thoughts and feelings as they emerge.
These positive emotions will correlate with the quality and frequency of your thoughtless awareness experiences, and those, in turn, correlate directly with the intensity of the energy flow. You’re constantly connected to — and correlating your actions with — the truth. Eventually, your personality, as a whole, adjusts to align with truth. Living a truthful life means staying in touch with reality. You are always trying to get to the truth, even if it doesn’t look good or sound good.
In effect, Sahaja meditation teaches you to base your self-improvement goals and strategies on the perception of truth in absolute terms, where there’s no doubt or relativity.
There’s no room in your life for denial. There’s no need for denial, no need to defend against unpleasant truths by pretending or ignoring them.
Compartmentalization allows us to split off parts of the psyche into compartments — separated in awareness from other parts — which allows us to continue to behave in ways that are contrary to our personal values. For example, someone may see herself as “basically honest,” even though she’s stealing money from her employer. She’s able to unconsciously compartmentalize her acts of theft without suffering guilt and without being unaware of the obvious cognitive dissonance. Another example, someone who tends to view people as either innately good or innately evil, rather than evaluating others as whole, continuous beings.
How Sahaja meditation Helps…
The practice of Sahaja meditation provides a precise method for evaluating your complete inner self: detecting the strength or weakness of each your energy centers. There’s no room for mixed or partial interpretations. Enhanced self-awareness and mindfulness will prevent you from ignoring problem aspects of yourself that you need to work on. As you begin to experience thoughtless awareness through regular meditation, the typical reaction is to want to remain in this state as long as possible. You become much more forgiving and accommodating, but that tends to apply more towards your feelings for others. The ability to forgive yourself won’t undermine your improved ability to introspect and critically self-analyze. You begin to hate lying to yourself about yourself. Such inauthenticity will seem antithetical to what you are trying to accomplish through the journey of Sahaja meditation, so you will have no need to split off undesirable aspects of yourself.
Not only will you find that you’re less inclined to engage in immoral or reprehensible acts to begin with, you will come to integrate and accept all “compartments” of your psyche — including the harsher realities — into a unified self.
Distortion is a gross reshaping of external reality to meet internal needs (e.g., low self-esteem). Distortions could include grand, unrealistic, megalomanic beliefs, hallucinations and wish-fulfilling delusions. Distorters endeavor to sustain feelings of delusional superiority or entitlement. This defense is frequently used by people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
How Sahaja meditation Helps…
As you continue the practice of Sahaja meditation, you will tend to focus on detecting your egoistic self and working to reduce thoughts and emotionally reactivity that are driven by egoism. You’re likely to be much more sensitive to, and aware of, when your thoughts and actions being driven by your ego. You’re also continuously increasing abilities for tangibly detecting such behaviors (through the energy flow in the sixth energy center); thus, the odds of living in a state of delusional superiority are greatly diminished.
You will perceive external events through the prism of practical reality. More often than not, your actions will be grounded in truth. You’ll have an enhanced ability to sift out aspects that are distorted, exaggerated, artificial or just “trendy.” Your pursuit of truth prevents you from feeling the need to build facades to rescue your ego or make yourself look “better,” “bigger,” or “more.”
Sahaja meditation can help build secure self-esteem, which decreases narcissistic tendencies. You have no interest in seeking “status” or the approval of others.
Even if you occasionally fall victim to distorted thinking, your constant tendency toward introspection and self-analysis will help you steer clear of distorted thinking and quickly get back on track. You may feel that inner sense of uneasiness nudging you, telling you when you’re on the wrong track.
Level 2: Immature Defenses
Immature defense mechanisms originate in childhood, but unfortunately, some of us don’t outgrow them as adults. They’re used to decrease the anxiety provoked by perceived threats (e.g., people or situations) or uncomfortable realities. Excessive use of these defenses tends to result in socially undesirable behavior and being thought of as “difficult to deal with.” These defenses tend to emerge in major depressives and people with personality disorders, such as Borderline Personality Disorder or Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Acting out involves acting out an unconscious impulse or wish to avoid the tension that results from not expressing it. For example, instead of expressing anger in a constructive way, someone might throw something at the person with whom they’re angry. In this way, the unconscious impulse or fantasy is lived out in a more oblique manner.
How Sahaja meditation Helps…
In Sahaja meditation, there are several techniques to identify tension within and release it through meditation. There also are techniques such as foot soaking and using ice packs that can help cool you down by removing the heat inside you that eventually contributes to causing emotional overreactions. An ice pack treatment on your liver, for example, can be very effective in preventing anger from generating within. Over time, your focus moves from eliminating anger and tension to a state where you’re unlikely to even feel angry, irritated or frustrated with either yourself or others.
The state of thoughtless awareness during meditation eliminates the ripples or disturbances that may be controlling your attention and triggering impulses and past memories that cause you to overreact.
You’ll also notice that it becomes much easier to forgive, to detach from anger, and to let go of negative, vengeful feelings so that they don’t surface later in the form of acting out. Meditation can help eliminate defensiveness and lead to permanent psychological and emotional healing, if you continue to meditate and keep those urges to act out at bay.
Passive aggression is the act of expressing aggression toward others indirectly and unassertively through passivity, masochistic behaviors or by turning against the self. Passive aggressive acts usually includes an overt facade of compliance to mask covert resistance, resentment, or hostility. A person might respond passive-aggressively when someone demands performance from them or denies their wishes.
Passive aggression often manifests as deliberate failure, procrastination, or illnesses that affect others more (e.g., are a greater imposition on others) than oneself. While it is not psychologically healthy, it may be adaptive in limited situations; for example, for people in subordinate positions who have no other way to express assertiveness overtly.
How Sahaja meditation helps…
A long term goal of Sahaja meditation is to build and improve within you the qualities of diplomacy, honesty and compassion for others.
As you progress with your meditative practice and begin to benefit from it, you tend to become the person who can be quite forthcoming and direct in notifying others (and yourself) of problems, but you communicate in a way that is polite, diplomatic and compassionate rather than through suppression of negative feelings, outbursts or passive aggressive behaviors.
This ability, combined with a strong focus on developing a balance between egoistic behavior and maintaining secure self-esteem, makes you a person likely to be open and honest, but also to simply walk away when you feel someone is pressuring or dominating you unfairly. When someone demands performance or has certain expectations of you, increased positive emotions and self-confidence achieved through meditation will allow you to quickly and realistically choose between confronting the situation head-on and rising to the challenge, or deciding that meeting those expectations isn’t realistic and simply communicating that. Either way, you won’t feel resentment or the subsequent need to punish someone or express that resentment in some other passive-aggressive manner. You’re much more likely to come to terms with yourself and the situation quickly and make a clear decision to achieve a reasonable, realistic outcome, regardless of whether it’s “impressive” or not.
Projection is the act of scapegoating, the act of attributing an unconscious impulse, attitude or behavior to another person; for example, assuming someone else is frightened when you’re the one who’s frightened. We may attribute our unacceptable feelings to someone else; for example, an angry partner accuses a spouse of being angry or hostile, or you’re in a bad mood but accuse someone else of being in a bad mood. Someone may project their feelings of low self-worth onto another person and decide that the other person doesn’t like them when in fact the problem is that, deep down, they don’t like themselves very much. Projection also functions as a disavowal mechanism.
How Sahaja meditation helps…
The continual practice of Sahaja meditation and the experience of the thoughtless awareness state disabuses you of false preconceived notions. Your attention will turn inward. You will continuously analyze yourself, almost to the point of disregarding any analysis or judgment from others or about others. When these trait improvements are combined, the result is that you neither have time nor interest in analyzing others. Nor do you have much interest in concocting theories or notions of why someone would feel or behave in a certain way.
You learn to be true to yourself and deal with your problems — you’ll always have the sense that you need to focus on, and work on, yourself.
You’re not worried about what others think of you. You’re not defensive. You hold yourself accountable. You’re willing to accept responsibility for your emotions and your actions, thus you won’t project or deflect blame for your shortcomings onto others. You are able to see yourself clearly and can focus instead on fixing your own problems.
Regression is returning or reverting back to an earlier stage of childhood development when you’re faced with unpleasant circumstances or feelings. For example, in children, you might see the re-emergence of bed-wetting. Or a 43-year-old woman might feel and act like she’s 5 years old again when she’s around her family of origin because they treat her like a child.
How Sahaja meditation helps…
The general effect of practicing Sahaja meditation long-term is to erase negative thoughts and feelings and increase overall maturity, no matter what how old you are. Present-centered awareness is a central benefit provided by meditation. When we are able to live in the moment mindfully, we have no need to regress to the past. While this state of enhanced awareness requires persistent, focused, introspective efforts, the support lent by the powerful energy within greatly reduces the probability of mentally reverting to past negative events and their associated emotional reactions. Because your self-awareness is greatly enhanced, the odds of such negative feelings going unnoticed and unattended by you are low, thus they are not likely to manifest as regressive behaviors. Your newfound mature perspective allows you to deal with these emotional wounds head-on and heal them.
Level 3: Neurotic Defenses
Neurotic defenses are common in adults, particular “worriers” — people who suffer from anxiety disorders. Neurotic defenses tend to create relationship problems and emotional instability.
Repression is characterized by blocking a wish, desire or memory from consciousness. Repression comes in two forms… Primary repression, which is the curbing of ideas and feelings before they become conscious (e.g., being unaware of one’s own deep-seated anger); and secondary repression, which excludes from awareness what was once experienced at a conscious level.
Repression allows us to push thoughts and memories out of conscious awareness, sometimes permanently. Unfortunately, these memories aren’t really forgotten; they may manifest in the form of symbolic behavior. They continue to unconsciously influence our thoughts, feelings and behaviors. For example, a person who has repressed past sexual abuse and doesn’t work through those memories and feelings can have difficulty trusting others in relationships and experience difficulty in sexual relationships. Repression is slightly more sophisticated than a defense like denial because it requires a self that’s sufficiently complex to hide emotions from itself.
How Sahaja meditation helps…
Since introspection is central to the practice of Sahaja meditation, the focus is always on trying to confront your negative thoughts and feelings, if they arise, rather than repress them. The longer-term focus of a meditative practice addresses the root causes and achieves changes in negative personality traits rather than simply allowing negative thoughts and memories to linger and disrupt our emotional lives, or repressing them and acting as if they don’t exist.
Sahaja meditation increases our emotional intelligence so that we are better able to identify our emotions and pinpoint the root causes of disturbing thoughts and feelings, and in so doing, they ultimately lose their power over us.
Repressed memories, on the other hand, can continue to have power over our actions because they may prevent us from having conscious awareness of what’s causing our distress.
You will learn to use your own energy flow to trace deep emotional imbalances, mood disturbances such as depression, or excessive or ruminative thinking that may lead to anger, shame or other negative emotions. And there are techniques available in Sahaja meditation to correct the resulting energy center blockages or imbalances. Through meditation, you’re actually constantly assessing what you’re feeling and why, rather than trying to bury those feelings or pretend that they don’t exist.
Attempting to regulate or control people, events or objects in the environment to minimize anxiety and resolve inner conflicts. You may recognize these people as the “micromanagers” whose own insecurities and sense that they don’t have control of their inner self, and perhaps their lives in general, drive them to try to control everything and everyone around them.
How Sahaja Helps…
Whatever your inadequacies might be, Sahaja meditation, at the very least trains you to focus squarely on controlling yourself rather than trying to use the illusion of controlling others to make you feel as if you’re in control of yourself. You accomplish the feeling of control through the continuous focusing of the attention inward and on the present moment, rather than worrying about the future or about external situations involving others. If you have a tendency toward anxiety, you’ll be able to acknowledge that the problem lies within you and be on your way to relieving it.
The Sahaja practice also focuses heavily on freeing the self from negative emotions, habits, bindings and fixations, so you become a strong believer in allowing everyone to find this same freedom within themselves and use it to improve their own emotional lives and personality traits. You’re unlikely to be that person who’s trying to curb someone else’s freedom or control their behavior. Certainly, it’s highly unlikely that you will feel compelled to try to control others as a way of working though situations that you perceive to be frightening or uncomfortable.
Displacement is the act of transferring a feeling about, or a response to, one object onto another (usually less threatening) substitute object. For example, we’ve all experienced someone displacing their anger onto us and it’s all too easy to direct your anger from an anxiety-provoking situation at the safe person in your life. If someone comes home from work and kicks the dog or yells at the spouse for no reason, he or she may be displacing their anger from a conflict with the boss earlier that day. Children often displace anger onto a parent when they have a problem with a peer or other adult that they can’t resolve.
How Sahaja Helps…
Sahaja meditation focuses on increasing self-awareness and taking control of — modulating and balancing — your reactions. As meditation practice progresses, you grow more mature and better able to accurately pinpoint the source or root cause of your negative emotions. Some Sahaja techniques help you release negative emotions on a daily basis. For example, through the use of the natural water element, the foot soaking technique is a great way to transfer that negativity out of you, or you can balance your energy through the earth element by meditating while sitting on a lawn or in other natural environments. When you’re feeling lonely, lethargic or depressed, using the fire element (such as from a candle flame) can help you pull more positive energy within and improve your mood.
So Sahaja meditation offers structured and healthy strategies for expressing and relieving negative feelings so that you don’t displace them or take them out on others.
Symbolization involves using an object or act to represent a complex group of objects, acts and ideas that may be conflictual or unacceptable to the ego. For example, a man enlists in the military and when asked why he was willing to volunteer for that particular war, he replies, “To defend our country.” He is banishing any question as to the purpose of the war to irrelevance because he may not want to question whether the war is honorable or may have conflicting emotions about the issue.
Symbolization also often co-occurs with the displacement defense, and is a mechanism that can manifest in people with anxiety disorders like OCD and phobias. The symbol sometimes stands for a repressed desire.
How Sahaja Helps…
An important aspect of the Sahaja meditation practice is sort of a parallel to our egoistic self — the conditioned self. This refers to that part of us that develops fixed views, rules, methods and ideas based on our personal knowledge and experiences in life. While some of our conditionings are positive and necessary for leading an orderly and moral life, others can become rigid, obstructive biases and even obsessions or fixations that prevent us from thinking and perceiving clearly. Such conditionings tend to also cause us to simplify, overgeneralize, or distort “facts” to fit the arguments or paradigms we want to believe or to comply with our own established biases, conditionings or set of rules.
The practice of Sahaja meditation teaches us to focus on our own conditionings as much as our ego. Technically speaking, both are located within the area of a single energy center and they represent balloons that need to be deflated by the clearing of this energy center. Through meditation and the ongoing practice of thoughtless awareness, we can greatly minimize the negative impact of our ego and conditionings and come to understand and accept difficult emotional truths. You’ll understand exactly what your true motivations and feelings are about an issue, which will eliminate the need to defend against the associated emotional charge through symbolization.
Consciousness, memory, identity and perception are normally integrated functions. Dissociation is a drastic disintegration of those functions. A person may dissociate or detach themselves from reality or conscious awareness to avoid unpleasant memories or flashbacks to a traumatic experience, such as abuse. We all dissociate a little bit; daydreaming, for example is dissociative. But in the extreme form, dissociative episodes can result in amnesia, and/or cause someone to split into multiple personas (a dissociative identity disorder known as Multiple Personality Disorder). Dissociation is also a common symptom of PTSD.
How Sahaja Helps…
Sahaja meditation heals the inner self by taking one’s attention above the plane of thinking and decreasing harmful thoughts that bombard us. If these negative thoughts and feelings arise from past traumas, the impact may be multiplied. Thoughtless awareness detaches the self from the thoughts and feelings associated with these trauma memories. It allows us to view them in an objective, nonjudgmental way, thus neutralizing the impact they have on us. This also prevents us from dissociating awareness of our true self/true identity in order to avoid the pain.
Meditation focuses, instead, on relieving that pain rather than avoiding it.
The inner energy soothes and calms us when disturbing thoughts arise and this vital energy is continually replenished through ongoing meditation. The experience of Sahaja meditation is the ability to feel the flow of energy. This flow of energy and the feeling of vibrations cause us to stay connected to reality and stay in the moment, rather than reflecting on negative events from our past.
Meditation sharpens, clarifies and integrates the various aspects of the self, such as memory, identity and perception. Through ongoing meditation, these effects are lasting, thus dissociative identity problems are unlikely to occur.
Reaction formation is the act of expressing an impulse by doing its opposite. We may do or say things that are the opposite of how we really feel because our true feelings are unacceptable. We might even “kill with kindness.” For example, someone who is very angry at a friend may behave generously and overly kind toward the friend because she feels guilty about being so angry at the friend. Or a mother who secretly doesn’t want her child may become smothering and overprotective.
How Sahaja Helps…
Sahaja meditation teaches you to be honest and straightforward in your communications with others, devoid of any form of artificiality. No doubt, diplomacy and eloquent communication has its place, but because you are always introspecting and analyzing your feelings, you’re unlikely to speak or act inauthentically, or act in any way that is not in accordance with your true feelings. Most reaction formations tend to be driven by guilty feelings that we are trying to suppress. Through introspection and self-awareness, Sahaja helps us view our actions objectively and realistically and determine whether or not we’re actually “guilty.” If guilt is unwarranted, we learn to let go of it. If, on the other hand, we should feel remorse for our actions, we are able to accept responsibility and take whatever corrective steps are necessary to make our wrongs right. There’s an entire energy center that focuses on eliminating feelings of guilt rather than let them accumulate and this is the left side of the fifth energy center located in the region of the neck and shoulders. Sahaja meditation helps you overcome feelings of guilt and over time focus increasingly on doing the right thing rather than having to do the wrong things and feel guilty in retrospect.
Rationalization involves dealing with an emotion in a self-serving, intellectual manner to avoid emotional upset. We might use conscious reasoning to explain away something painful in order to cope with a changing reality and the anxiety it produces. Rationalization often tends to be a way of absolving ourselves of responsibility; for example, using the famous excuse “Everybody does it, so why should I feel guilty?” Another example, a sexual abuser who might claim that a 5-year-old child was “coming on” to him.
Intellectualization, closely allied with rationalization, involves excessively relying on intellectual processes to avoid feeling or expressing emotions. When someone intellectualizes, they tend to: focus on external reality to avoid the expression of inner feelings, overemphasize irrelevant details to avoid perceiving the whole, and place emphasis on the inanimate or unemotional aspects in order to avoid feeling. For example, a person who has just been diagnosed with a life-threatening or long-term, severe illness, instead of expressing sadness and grief might focus exhaustively on the minutia of all the possible (even if likely futile) medical procedures that could be done.
How Sahaja Helps…
Sahaja meditation focuses on achieving the perfect mental and emotional balance. This means that at the mental level, you train yourself to think rationally, positively and effectively without “overthinking.” But it also means identifying, analyzing and accepting the emotional context of every situation, rather than attempting to avoid your feelings or rationalize them away. A rationalization defense is generally used to skirt the emotional truth of a situation, which means we’re only acknowledging part of the equation. It may allow us to hide behind “facts” or twist facts to justify our behavior, rather than honestly and realistically facing a hard emotional truth.
Rationalization should never be used as a weapon against truth, or to deny responsibility for the true ramifications of our actions. Instead,
Sahaja meditation teaches you to cope honestly and realistically with troubling emotional truths, take corrective action when necessary, and over time, eliminate the root causes of the problem.
Undoing (Counterfactual Thinking)
Undoing is an attempt to take back or negate unconscious thoughts, feelings, or actions that are unacceptable, destructive or threatening. For example, if you unintentionally insulted someone, you might spend the next hour praising their intelligence, beauty, and talents. Another example, two close friends have a fierce argument, but the next day they act as if the disagreement had never occurred. Undoing is a way to balance the scale by making symbolic amends or counteracting the damage done.
How Sahaja Helps…
In reality, we can never “undo” what has already happened, thus Sahaja meditation teaches you to focus more attention on improving your thoughts, actions and behavior than on undoing your actions. If you happen to behave in an unacceptable manner and realize it, then Sahaja teaches you to be honest, apologize, and try to make the situation better for the affected parties if possible, rather than engaging in some covert, elaborate tactic to counterbalance your mistake.
Level 4: Mature / High Adaptive
In general, the more complex and sophisticated the defenses, the healthier the personality. The more complex defenses maintain better contact with reality, enhancing one’s chance of exercising good judgment concerning emotion over the long term. Mature, adaptive defenses tend to enhance our sense of control and give us a sense of well-being. While mature defenses may originate at an immature stage of development, we’ve adapted them through the years to optimize effectiveness. Because they don’t interfere with the conscious awareness of feelings, ideas, and the consequences of the defense itself, they may allow us to integrate conflicting thoughts and emotions while coping effectively. Some can even lead to virtuous results.
Sublimation is the act of re-channeling a socially undesirable or unacceptable impulse into a more acceptable outlet. For example, a man who’s angry and has violent tendencies may choose to take up boxing to vent his anger. A woman desiring sexual promiscuity may channel that energy into an aerobic dance class. Some psychologists feel that sublimation shows maturity in that, at least, through sublimation, people could live in society “appropriately.” Sublimation is a sophisticated defense because it requires the person to compromise his or her unacceptable desires with societally-sanctioned activities.
How Sahaja Helps…
While sublimation is not necessarily a harmful defense, you may find that it becomes unnecessary with the regular practice of Sahaja meditation.
The practice of Sahaja itself is designed to be the perfect, universal “outlet” — in multiple dimensions, for all negative thoughts and emotions.
You’ll learn how to use Sahaja techniques to neutralize negative emotions and prevent them from recurring, thus it’s rare to need another outlet for sublimating undesirable or unacceptable impulses. Specific techniques such as energy balancing, foot soaking and ice packing, for example, can be effective techniques for helping you shed any negative emotional energy that you may have been sublimating.
Suppression is intentionally, consciously or semi-consciously avoiding thinking about disturbing problems, wishes, feelings, conflicts, or experiences. We push uncomfortable thoughts or memories out of our minds to better cope with the present reality. These thoughts are not buried or repressed; they’re easily accessible for later analysis. As Scarlett O’Hara would say, “I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow.”
How Sahaja Helps…
Sahaja meditation encourages introspection to analyze and deal with disturbing problems and the associated emotions. You’ll become better at self-regulating your attention to focus on the present moment with openness and acceptance. The state of thoughtless awareness helps neutralize or discharge the negative emotion attached to disturbing thoughts and feelings so that you can cope with problems and find solutions.
During meditation, you can observe and monitor your thoughts, feelings and sensations as they are happening and to be in touch with your actual felt experience in a nonjudgmental way. You’ll be able to detach any emotional charge associated with those thoughts and feelings and view them objectively and realistically, thus there will be no need to bury or suppress those thoughts or feelings. You’ll observe those thoughts and feelings merely as events in your mind, without over-identifying with them or reacting (or overreacting) to them automatically or habitually. This calm, dispassionate state of self-observation inserts, in essence, a “space” between your perceptions and your responses. That open space allows you to respond to situations reflectively, rather than reflexively. Meditation does not directly address the content of thought; rather, it changes your relationship to your thoughts and feelings, which can prevent you from needing to defend against them; that is, to suppress them.
You may find that, with frequent and high-quality experiences of thoughtless awareness, negative thoughts and feelings simply disappear.
Compensation attempts to counterbalance our perceived weaknesses by emphasizing and focusing on our strengths. For example, someone might say: “I may not be very good at rugby, but I can sure play football!” When we feel inferior, we may instinctively try to compensate by pointing out our strengths. Compensation is adaptive in that it helps reinforce and preserve our self-esteem and self-image, and it may even push us to overcome our weaknesses to achieve new goals. But it’s maladaptive when the ego overdoes it; for example, if we use it to dominate or establish superiority over someone else. Compensation may also be used to over-correct for a handicap or limitation.
How Sahaja Helps…
Once you turn your attention inward and become more introspective, you’re always operating by your own standards and remain focused on what you need to change and strive for. You’re focused on overcoming your own inadequacies, to meet your own standards. Over time, you won’t feel the need to try and compensate for perceived or real weaknesses. You’re not offended if people are critical of your talents or skills. You are able to process how you feel about yourself objectively, rather than through preconditioned biases or beliefs. Your thoughts are not filtered through negative, immature, or egoistic filters. You know yourself best and you know that you can improve them, over time, what matters to you. Meditation improves your self-esteem, so you don’t need the admiration or respect of others for proof of your own self-worth; you only need to have respect for yourself.
Over time, you get better at reigning in egotistical impulses, so you likely won’t need to use compensation to defend yourself.
Self-assertion is a determined advancement of our views or wishes. It helps us deal with emotional conflict by expressing our thoughts, feelings and needs in a direct, firm but respectful way. Assertiveness, done properly, is not coercive or manipulative. Assertiveness is viewed as a desired communication skill and a critical tool for maintaining positive relationships, thus it is a helpful defense mechanism. On the continuum of communication styles, it should strike the perfect balance between not being too aggressive or too passive. Self-assertion is open, honest and might begin with a simple declarative statement such as: “I need to explain to you how I feel…”
How Sahaja Helps…
Sahaja meditation is all about achieving a perfect balance in our personalities and our lives in general. The practice of meditation calms you and reduces your emotional reactions to an optimal level. Over the medium and longer term, you’re less likely to over-react to pretty much any event that comes along. You find that you’re able to remain calm in any type of conflict. But you also develop confidence, diplomacy and improved relationship and communication skills, thus you’re better able to defend your point of view and express your feelings when you need to. Because your emotional intelligence improves, you’ll be instrumental in achieving better emotional balance in all your relationships. You’ll learn how to assert yourself in ways that are productive and lead to a positive outcome.
Substitution is replacing an object (such as a behavior, a context or a physical object or item) that leads to discomfort or distress with an object that doesn’t. For example, instead of making a difficult phone call that you’ve been dreading, you call a friend to chat. Substitution is a form of avoidance coping that allows us to substitute difficulty with comfort. It often takes the form of procrastination. While substitution is at least adaptive, it’s a short-term coping fix that doesn’t solve the problem.
How Sahaja Helps…
There are techniques available in Sahaja meditation to help you overcome paralysis and tune your attention to determining what action is necessary to resolve issues that you’re dreading or are uncomfortable with. Meditation also increases your self-confidence and reduces your fear and anxiety in dealing uncomfortable situations, so that you’re better equipped to manage them. These benefits are closely tied to meditating regularly and existing in a state of wanting to take right action. Many of us may go through phases where we tend to defend against our fear by replacing something that makes us anxious with something that doesn’t when a better alternative might be to recharge ourselves through Sahaja meditation to restore our energy systems to the optimal state. In the optimal state, we are likely to find that substitution is unnecessary. We can deal with problem situations head-on.
Other mature, evolved defense mechanisms that can be adaptive include:
- Altruism — selflessly serving the needs of others, even if we’re doing it to feel good about ourselves
- Humor — emphasizing the amusing or ironic aspects of a conflict or stressor allows us to focus on something disturbing in a way that makes it tolerable
- Anticipation — realistically anticipating or planning for future inner discomfort (e.g., making arrangements for the death of an ill loved one). While it may be premature and may involve worrying about the future, it is at least goal-directed and can help us prepare emotionally for potentially troubling outcomes.
The practice of Sahaja meditation tends to automatically encourage altruism and a good sense of humor. Your empathy for others increases, thus you are likely to have a greater desire to selflessly help others. Since you are spending less time, day in and day out, tuning out or avoiding unnecessary thoughts and feelings and more time developing the right ones, your mind is freed from distress, your thoughts are sharp and clear, and your personality naturally improves. Personality tends to evolve, in varying degrees — depending on your original personality and the amount of effort you devote to meditating — into a more vibrant and engaging personality. You’ll notice that people will enjoy being around you more than ever. Through meditation, you also become more resilient, thus will be better prepared to manage potential or impending negative events as they arise.
But all three of these qualities evolve naturally as a result of meditation. You may find that you don’t need to use altruism, humor or anticipation defensively because you’ll be better equipped to cope with unpleasant or stressful situations.
Vaillant, George Eman (1992). Ego Mechanisms of Defense: A Guide for Clinicians and Researchers. American Psychiatric Publishing. pp. 238.
Vaillant GE: Adaptation to Life. Little Brown, Boston, 1977; Semrad E: The operation of ego defenses in object loss. In The Loss of Loved Ones, DM Moriarity, editor.
Charles C Thomas, Springfield, IL, 1967; and Bibring GL, Dwyer TF, Huntington DS, Valenstein.