Choosing Change #7: Schemas, Defenses, Distortions and Resolution (Part 2 of 3)
Thanks for reading…
- The Introductory post about Choosing Change,
- Choosing Change #1: Safe People, Safe Places and Safe Processes
- Choosing Change #2: So what’s my reasonable contribution to your change process? (Part 1 of 2)
- Choosing Change #3: So what’s my reasonable contribution to your change process? (Part 2 of 2)
- Choosing Change #4: Gardening with Intention
- Choosing Change #5: Traveling with Intention
- Choosing Change #6: Schemas, Defenses, Distortions and Resolution (Part 1 of 3)
In this post, we’ll take a closer look at what Dr. Sigmund Freud called our “Ego Defenses,” along with other non-productive thought processes that create havoc and damage to us and our relationships called “Cognitive Distortions,”of which Dr. Aaron T Beck (and Dr. David D. Burns) researched and contributed to the field behavioral health.
Unfortunately, both of these components of our mind constitute and facilitate what I call our “Emotional and Thinking Saboteurs.” Why do I call Ego Defenses and Cognitive Distortions Our Saboteurs? Glad you asked!
So what are Ego Defenses and Cognitive Distortions and how do they harm us?
1) Ego Defenses are our unconscious psychological thoughts (but our eventual behaviors) that arise from within us to curtail or control any uncomfortable feelings (but primarily our anxiety) that we may experience.
Without delving into too much psychobabble, Dr. Freud stated that Ego Defenses serve to protect the vulnerable, child-like part of us that does not want to experience any hurt, pain, frustration or any negative emotion (called our “Id”).
When we feel anxiety or any unwanted emotions connected to unwanted or undesirable situations in our life, Dr. Freud posited that our natural response is to defend ourselves with the use of one or more of the Ego Defenses.
Much like the picture (above) of the Storm Troopers from Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens, one prime reason that we default to the use of Ego Defenses is because we think they’ll help to protect and defend us from any form of psychological danger or discomfort that we anticipate experiencing (when our fight, take flight or freeze responses are triggered).
The problem with Ego Defenses (similar to our Maladaptive Schemas and Schema Modes) is that when our brain is triggered then interprets we’re experiencing discomfort, harm, anxiety, guilt, shame, trapped or there’s a threat to our person, then we’ll employ Ego Defenses to “help” us to cope with our troubled emotions. However, if practiced continually, they could become a regular part of our “day-in and day-out” coping mechanisms.
Thats a big problem because like a “wac-a-mole” game, our Ego Defenses could pop up in the blink of an eye and before we know it, we can become Emotionally Flooded then Emotionally Regressed, which puts squarely (and quickly) onto “the psychological train traveling in the wrong direction.” This “wrong direction” is not what we intend to do, and is unfortunately in the opposite direction from the useful, practical, purposeful and mindful “Healthy Adult Ego State mode” living that accompanies traveling with intention.
So the problem with using Ego Defenses is that although we use them to protect ourselves, this “protection” comes at a cost and a consequence.
The consequence is that most of our Defenses were developed when we were actually children, therefore, the age range, quality and characteristics of the behavior connected with defending ourselves (which others see, no matter how old we actually are) will appear to be child-like or at best Adolescent in nature.
The cost is that we could wind up doing irreparable damage to our personal integrity and to our relationships by depending upon thought patterns and behaviors that are disturbing, dangerous and unreliable.
A key tip to identify when an Ego Defense (or Cognitive Distortion) is being used is if the behavior that one is demonstrating resembles the Negative Characteristics of a Parent or a Child (see lower left and right columns) versus the healthier, thoughtful and positive behavior of our Adult Ego State (middle column).
(Note: Our Ego Defenses may start unconsciously but as they consistently “bubble up” to the awareness of others and ourselves, it’ll be hard to deny their presence, especially if our thoughts and behavior frequently demonstrate these defensive and “child-like” behaviors).
2) Cognitive Distortions are (primarily negative) thoughts that arise from within us that reflect that we’re “mis-reading,” misinterpreting or distorting “real” aspect(s) of our life, our relationships and our existence.
I’ll often describe Cognitive Distortions as the experience one has when they open their eyes underwater; anything that you see or any aspect of your reality will be impaired, inaccurate and of course, distorted.
As we’ll see with many of the Cognitive Distortions, our thoughts, then our feelings tend to be overwhelmingly negative, because a primary purpose of these distortions is to cause us to blow things out of proportion than they really are, or cause us to want to “control the uncontrollable,” or, cause us to want to berate ourselves (and others) mercilessly, even though evidences presented would easily disprove the conclusions we’ve reached about such matters.
Another problem with Cognitive Distortions is that they create “negative feedback loops” that tend to reinforce, mislead or twist our thoughts and feelings that we have about ourselves, others and the life situations that impact us.
They’re “saboteurs” because they impact and impede our ability to let go of the narrow and usually inaccurate way we may be perceiving ourselves or our experiences, which could cause us to get struck in some negative, often untrue and dangerously tight thought patterns that provides help or assistance to no one.
On the other hand, clarity and truth do help to eliminate defenses and distortions, which means we’ll want to integrate truth or factual data into our minds to disprove the inaccuracies connected with any defensive behavior or thought distortion.
Until our Healthy Adult helps us to integrate the truth into our thought patterns to clear up and provide additional insight that could be helpful and beneficial to us, we’re prone to give weight to and reiterate thoughts that are off base, exaggerated and damaging to us and in the process, employ these psychological mechanisms in an effort to protect ourselves.
So lets look at a list of Ego Defenses, then a list of our Cognitive Distortions. Before we do, here’s a little extra information about the phenomenon called “Emotional Flooding” from my book Cultivating Love: When Secrets Surface, as its the flooding process that tends to prompt the unconscious or conscious process of Ego Defenses and Cognitive Distortions in an attempt to protect ourselves:
“When you feel flashes of hurt, pain, anger, distress, turmoil, shame, fear, loneliness or threatened, you are susceptible to a physiological and psychological experience called Emotional Flooding.
The flooding is actually an automatic response of your Sympathetic Nervous System, which is interpreting that you are threatened, and as a basic survival instinct, has flooded your brain with neurotransmitters and your body with hormones to prepare you to either “fight, take flight, or to freeze” in an attempt to escape the situation that is causing you distress.
Psychologist and researcher John Gottman calls this “Diffuse Physiological Arousal” (DPA), due to the fact that many parts of your body are effected at one time, and that your body is “aroused and on alert” in order to prepare you for the ability to respond quickly to the perceived or the actual threat.
Gottman’s research also points out that DPA (flooding) may cause you to feel powerless, especially if you experience two difficult emotions simultaneously (i.e., feeling angry and trapped in a marriage, could lead to you feeling powerlessness, and subsequently into a flooding experience; feeling remorse, shame and guilt because of an affair, could lead to feelings of powerlessness, and again, to feeling like you are flooded).
If you become physiologically “triggered,” due to any of your senses interpreting that you are threatened, and you begin to experience a temporary inability to make healthy and rational decisions for yourself or for your relationship, and it seems like you have lost control over your ability to contain yourself, then in all likelihood you are experiencing DPA or an emotional flooding experience.
Knowing that the DPA experience is temporary helps, but noticeable damage to your primary relationship could be done before your brain and body return to a calmer, steadier, and conflict resolving state. Read through this section to obtain insight, and for suggestions that you could incorporate into your First Aid Kit – Assignment # 4 (The PRACTICAL and The PROCESS sides), pg. 53.
Why do we fight so much? Our Ego Defenses
Read through the list of Ego Defenses below. Identify which of these defense mechanisms you tend to “default” to when you’re emotionally triggered, experience a DPA episode and are ultimately challenged in your ability to calm down and return to a Healthier Adult Ego State mode of operating.
At the end of the section about Cognitive Distortions is a repeat of the “A-C-T-I-V-E” model, to provide insight about how to come to your own assistance when these “saboteurs” sneak up on you and threaten to interrupt your resolve to live intentionally.
Oh, and here’s one more thing from the book, just in case you’re in a relationship:
(“Note: There could be a tendency to investigate and inventory your partner’s behavior. That is not what this exercise is intended to accomplish. This exercise is intended for you to identify and work on your own behavior, which is the only thing you can control, and is your first order of business as you restore calm, clarity and intentionality with your thoughts, feelings and behavior” pg. 57).
Common Ego Defenses
1) Acting Out: Acting out occurs when we deal with conflict, struggles or disagreements by engaging in inappropriate behavior that harms us or our relationships (i.e., using sex, food, work, spending, rage or other passive-aggressive but also impulsive behaviors to “manage” your emotions while also creating distance between you and the others with whom you’re experiencing conflict).
2) Attacking: Attacking occurs when we engage in verbal or physical aggression or intimidation to wear the other person down when we feel threatened (i.e., by name calling, getting in one’s face, labeling the other, breaking things in order to intimidate them).
3) Avoidance: Avoidance occurs when we evade, shun, deflect or circumvent something that causes anxiety or discomfort (i.e., hiding behind a “wall of words,” or, by “being nice” and engaging in over the top compliance with others to hide our true feelings).
4) Denial: Denial occurs when we refuse to acknowledge or integrate vital information concerning a feeling, thought, event or circumstance into our awareness (i.e., dismissing the thoughts, feelings or experience of another without consideration, or, refusing to integrate significant or truthful information that helps you to know yourself, your spouse or components of any situation better).
5) Displacement: Displacement occurs when we shift uncomfortable or distressing feelings that originate with one person to a “safer” or more vulnerable target (i.e., yelling at the kids when you’d like to yell at your spouse, driving fast or “road raging” to express or escape the rage you’re not aware of nor expressing appropriately with others).
6) Dissociation: Dissociation occurs when we split off, separate from our consciousness or isolate and compartmentalize significant parts of our mental experience due to the immense distress or traumatization its causing to us (i.e., suppressing, repressing or not thinking about traumatic and painful experiences that have occurred to you).
7) Emotionality: Emotionality occurs when we engage in outbursts and displays of emotion with the intent to hide, masquerade or obscure the truth or reality (i.e., initiating a fight to distract from addressing important issues that are creating distress, or feigning depression or anxiety in order to avoid not working through your personal or relational issues with integrity).
8) Fixation: Fixation occurs when we become stuck in a younger ego state or stage of psychological development, which hampers our ability to function at our actual chronological (and hopefully Adult) age, ego state and current stage of psychological development (i.e., demonstrating childlike or adolescent responses when distressed versus responses that are maturer and are indicative of your ability to respond as a Functional Adult).
9) Fantasy: Fantasy occurs when we forsake reality and the world that we live in and replace it with an imaginary make believe world of our own creation (i.e., to escape, avoid any intra- or interpersonal hurt, pain or anxiety, but also to resist and escape reality at all costs by engaging in pleasurable and self-medicating acting out behaviors).
10) Help-Rejecting Complaining: Help-Rejection Complaining occurs when we ask for help or complain that others are not helping us enough, then, when we receive their help we dismiss their contribution in order to remain in an unhealthy and “one-down” victim stance (Note: Conveying requests that are negative and repetitive to others without responsibly offering up solutions that could solve one’s problems is basically complaining thats usually followed up by the rejection of help or assistance; this “strategy” solidify’s one’s “Victim” stance and status).
11) Intellectualization: Intellectualization occurs when we circumvent and hide our emotions by engaging in cerebral or factual conversations, in order to reduce our anxiety and manage other undesirable feelings (i.e., using knowledge or scholarly discourses to disguise angry, hostile or rageful feelings toward others passive-aggressively or aggressively).
12) Passive Aggression: Passive-Aggressive behaviors occur when we express our (often negative) emotions toward others indirectly or “just out of their view” by engaging in manipulative, procrastinating, intentional failure, sullen or other behaviors to express our anger and/or disappointment toward them. Passive -aggression occurs because others may want something from us that we’re not ready to give to them, or, because we’re not getting something that we want from them. The intent is to make them hurt, because we’re hurting.
13) Projection: Projection occurs when we propel onto others uncomfortable, undesirable or unacceptable characteristics that we see or have in ourselves, as a way to reduce our internal anxiety (i.e., taking the view that you’re uncomfortable around others, when in reality, you in engage in behaviors that creates discomfort in those very people you say you’re uncomfortable around).
14) Provocation: Provocation occurs when we incite or instigate some form of emotional arousal in others so that we could turn around and take out our anger or revenge upon them (i.e., engaging in child-like behavior like picking fights when you don’t get what you want versus communicating with integrity then engaging in collaborative behavior to fulfill your wants, needs and requests for change responsibly).
15) Rationalization: Rationalization occurs when we invent or provide inaccurate reasons for impulses or behavior that we wish to justify and present as truth. A good friend called this the “rational lies” that we tell to others to justify our thoughts and behavior to ourselves and to them (i.e., engaging in workaholic behavior then justifying your activity for not having time to work on your marriage).
16) Reaction Formation: Reaction Formation occurs when we avoid something by taking a diametrically opposed position (i.e., professing love for someone you hate, or, appearing to have it together, when you don’t).
17) Regression: Regression occurs when we engage in child-like behavior or revert to a Child-like Ego state in an attempt to avoid dealing with problems from our actual, psychologically developmental and usually chronological age (i.e., engaging in pouting behavior to express discontent or to manipulate outcomes, or, engaging in fear based behavior in an attempt to control the responses of others).
18) Resistance: Resistance occurs when we consciously block and refuse to integrate information about our behavior that is a “blind spot” to us, but not to others. Resistance is another form of denial. Theres a saying: “What you resist, will persist.” Ask yourself, “What is the secondary gain I receive for employing resistance, and subsequently, not addressing my problems truthfully and with integrity?”).
19) Somatization: Somatization occurs when we avoid dealing with our emotional problems by masking or converting them into physical symptoms or ailments (i.e., persistently complaining of headaches, stomachaches, fatigue, etc. to avoid addressing problems that require your attention).
20) Undoing: Undoing occurs when we avoid distress and anxiety connected to our engagement in unacceptable behavior by doing the opposite of that behavior, usually in an attempt to negate its meaning and effect upon ourselves and/or others (i.e., being a Teetotaler by day, but a raging alcoholic at night, or, being overly nice to someone who we despise and would love to humiliate).
I’ll have some questions for you to consider about the Ego Defenses and Cognitive Distortions after the A-C-T-I-V-E model.
For now, the Cognitive Distortions listed here are defined by Dr. John M. Grohol (Copyright 2014 http://www.psychcentral.com – all rights reserved) and are reprinted here with permission, with my comments (Dr. McGill) in italics.
Since I see a lot of couples who are working to overcome the effects of addictive behaviors in their relationship, most of my responses to the definitions are written with compulsive behaviors in mind that I’ve seen couples struggle with in their relationship.
As with the Ego Defenses, try to identify which of these automatic and usually negative distortions or thoughts are currently at work in you, and prohibit you from achieving your constructive and Healthy Adult outcomes.
Are you seeing situations clearly? Our Cognitive Distortions
1) Always Being Right: We are continually on trial to prove that our opinions and actions are correct. Being wrong is unthinkable, and we will go to any length to demonstrate our rightness. Being right is often more important than the feelings of others, even loved ones (e.g., “You’re an addict, you have no credibility, so don’t try to convince me otherwise” or “I don’t care how you feel…you need to concede and apologize”).
2) Blaming: We hold other people responsible for our pain, or take the other track and blame ourselves for every problem (e.g., “You made me this way, so this is what you get” or, “you’re right, everything that has happened to us is my fault!”).
3) Catastrophizing: We expect disaster to strike, no matter what. This is also referred to as “magnifying or minimizing” (e.g., During/after a fight: “You have not changed, and you’ll never change” or, “Why are you bringing that up? It’s been a year already, when are you going to get over this?).
4) Control Fallacies: If we feel externally controlled, we see ourselves as a helpless victim of fate. The fallacy of internal control has us assuming responsibility for the pain and happiness of everyone around us (e.g., “I will never get better if you keep doing things like that” [external], or, “She’s right. I destroy any opportunity for us to create any new and meaningful memories” [internal]).
5) Emotional Reasoning: We believe that what we feel must be true automatically. You assume that your unhealthy emotions reflect the way things really are – “I feel it, therefore it must be true” (e.g., “You can’t tell me how to feel! I just feel it in my gut… you must be acting out again” or, “I feel like you hate me and will never forgive me, so I want out, I want a divorce”).
6) Fallacy of Change: We expect that other people will change to suit us if we just pressure or cajole them enough. We need to change people because our hopes for happiness seem to depend entirely on them (e.g., “I’ll feel better when you get rid of your secretary” or, “If you worked your COSA (Co- Sex) program instead of trying to change me, I’d be happy”).
7) Fallacy of Fairness: We feel resentful because we think we know what is fair, but other people won’t agree with us. We go through life applying a measuring ruler against every situation judging its “fairness,” and often feel badly and negative because expectations never measure up (e.g., “I’m the one doing all the work, you aren’t going to therapy, meetings, or talking to your family to make things better. Why do I have to do all the work? Its not fair!”).
8) Filtering: We take the negative details and magnify them while filtering out all positive aspects of a situation (e.g., “You’re still blowing up like you did before you went to treatment…you haven’t changed one bit!” or, “You don’t give me credit for anything that I’m doing to change”).
9) Global Labeling: We generalize one or two qualities into a negative global judgment. These are extreme forms of generalizing, and are also referred to as “labeling” and “mislabeling.”
Instead of describing an error in context of a specific situation, people will attach an unhealthy label to themselves. Mislabeling involves describing an event with language that is highly colored and emotionally loaded (e.g., “I’m such a codependent…I let him say and do what he wants to do because I can never stand up for myself and say no,” or, “I didn’t handle last night right; I’m so stupid! I’ll never get this right!”).
10) Heaven’s Reward Fallacy: We expect our sacrifice and self-denial to pay off, as if someone is keeping score. We feel bitter when the reward does not come (e.g., “It’s been a year since he came back from treatment, and six months since he’s moved back into the house…I expect to be treated better than he is treating me now,” or, “I gave her space for 6 months, lived in that apartment, gone to meetings, and did what she asked of me…I deserve to be treated better than this”).
11) Jumping to Conclusions: Without individuals saying so, we know what they are feeling and why they act the way they do. In particular, we are able to determine how people are feeling toward us (e.g., “I know what you are going to do. You’re not going to listen to me, but you’ll put this on me and say it is my fault. You always do that. I just know thats what you are going to do” or, “His secretary said he left the office 30 minutes ago. He’s not where he’s supposed to be. I think he’s talking with that woman again!”).
12) Personalization: Thinking that everything people do or say is some kind of reaction to us. A person also sees himself or herself as the cause of some unhealthy external event that they were not responsible for (e.g., “I feel you said and did that just to hurt me…there’s no other reason, you were just angry and you took it out on me” or, “You’re keeping a journal just so you could record mean things about me”).
13) Polarized Thinking: Things are either “black or white.” We have to be perfect or we’re a failure; there is no middle ground. You place people or situations in “either/or” categories, with no shades of gray or allowing for the complexity of most people and situations (e.g., “You either pass the polygraph or we’re through” or, “I have to be absolutely perfect or you’ll never forgive me; I can’t do this!”).
14) The “Shoulds, Musts and Oughts”: We have a list of ironclad rules about how others and we should behave. People who break the rules make us angry, and we feel guilty when we violate these rules. When a person directs should statements toward others, they often feel anger, frustration and resentment (e.g., “Its not the same if I have to tell him what I want…he should know what to do” or, “I shouldn’t be feeling this,” or “You should be listening to me; by now, you ought to know better!”).
Questions for your consideration about the Ego Defenses and Cognitive Distortions
So as we conclude these sections about Ego Defenses and Cognitive Distortions, I have a few questions for you to consider…
- Which of the Ego Defenses and Cognitive Distortions do you “default” to or implement when you’re triggered?
- How is the Defense or the Distortion in operation in your life today? What purpose does it serve?
- Is there a negative or unhealthy or dysfunctional “payoff” that you receive by keeping the distortion or defense alive? What is it?
- How does your Healthy Adult assist you to “extinguish” the associated behavior when the Defense or Distortion pops up?
- If you could “rewrite or replace” the Defense(s) or the Distortion(s) with healthier behaviors, what would you do differently and what would the healthy behavior look like?
- How does your Faith/Spirituality guide you to develop any new and healthy behaviors that you wish to create?
- What additional characteristics and practices of your Healthy Adult Mode will you need to develop or strengthen in order to achieve healthier outcomes in your life/relationships?
Defenses and Distortions…so what do I do now?
“Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity”
Step Two of the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous
Some of you could be thinking “I’m a hot mess!” after reading all of this stuff about your cognitions. Well, I’m probably not going to agree with that self assessment, but if you do see some aspect of your behavior in the Defense/Distortion descriptions, please know that you can do something to augment and correct your current condition and situation!
If you see some of these Defenses and Distortions in yourself, don’t be alarmed. We all gravitate to or default to using Ego Defenses and Cognitive Distortions at some time or another. What matters most is our ability to recognize when they emerge, then intervene in order to interrupt and replace them with value-oriented responses before they do harm to us or to our relationships.
Thats why I’ll ask you to consider employing the “A-C-T-I-V-E” model in order to remain active in your process of doing something constructive with your thoughts, feelings and behaviors when you notice the presence of these “unwanted weeds” popping up in your mental garden. Without going into too much detail with the full model, allow me to provide a comment regarding how the first 3 letters (“A-C-T”) could be of benefit to us in dealing constructively with our Defenses and Cognitions.
First, the “A” in the “A-C-T-I-V-E” model encourages us to be AWARE of how schemas from our past experiences could be currently sabotaging our efforts. Developing mindfulness habits that help us to see whats going on psychologically and biologically within us empowers us with the ability to interrupt any unwanted, unhealthy and potentially incapacitating schemas that foment error message(s) from our past.
When we recognize then interrupt the internal error messages ignited by our maladaptive Schemas, Schema modes, Defenses and Distortions, we’re actually doing Adult Ego state and Healthy Adult mode work.
Our awareness provides us with the ability to analyze what got triggered, brainstorm, select then employ better options that are more adaptive that work for us and the situation at hand, then take responsibility to create better outcomes based on exercising behaviors that are in accord with the values we’ve chosen to live by.
But the benefits of being aware don’t stop there. As we continue to get better at developing and exercising personal awareness, we grant ourselves the opportunity to transition to the “C” or second part of the “A-C-T-I-V-E” model.
This second part reminds us that we have the ability to “Challenge, Change and replace our unwanted Schemas with adaptive and Healthy Adult mode behaviors that actually work” for us, versus allowing schemas, modes, defenses and distortions to impede and sabotage our progress!
This means if a life experience “triggers” a Failure schema in me and wants me to repetitively “fire” by Attacking (a defense), replaying Negative messages (a schema) about how Defective (another Schema) I am, then Displace my anger (a defense) onto others because I thought I could control a situation at work (Fallacy of Control, a Distortion), then I’ve got some work to do to Challenge then Change all of these insane cognitions that are swirling in my head!
One of the first things that could help me with challenging then changing my cognitions is to practice the spiritual discipline called Fellowship. Fellowshipping helps me to “live in consultation” with other people who are wiser, have answers, could provide guidance and help me to “drop the rock” of self-abuse.
On the contrary, these “Yodas” (i.e., Pastors, Priests, Therapists, Sponsors, Coaches, Spiritual Guides or Healthy Adult role models) that I fellowship with will also “re-mind” me to use my energy constructively by considering truthful, corrective and affirming behaviors that I could employ to obtain positive outcomes with my thinking. These “as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” encounters model how I can come to my own assistance quickly and regularly for my own well being.
The “T” or the third part of “A-C-T-I-V-E” model encourages us to TERMINATE any destructive Ego Defenses or Cognitive Distortions that our maladaptive schemas wants us to use to “protect” ourselves, but really keep us stuck in child-like ways of operating.
This is really empowering because it reminds me I have a choice to eliminate, extinguish, put to death and cease any of these maladaptive Defenses and Distortions in a moments notice, in a blink of an eye because they’re not working for me, nor are they helping me to reach or achieve my goals or live according to values that make sense to me regarding how I wish to live my life.
Today, I get to terminate Defenses and Distortions and replace them with Efficacy, Empowerment and any other of the “Empowering E’s” that are useful to me. Talk about creating sane living and saner outcomes!
Today, I realize that no matter what my Maladaptive Schemas, Schema Modes, Ego Defenses or Cognitive Distortions are, if I choose to change and work hard to change, then change is possible. Why? Because I believe in hard work and that a Power greater than me (has and) could restore me to sanity, as evidenced by engaging in sane thinking and sane behaviors.
But I also realize that if I do my work, I’ll reap the benefits that accompanies “gardening with intentionality,” which means I get to develop new characteristics and values that that will change and support my thinking, my feelings, my behaviors and my outcomes with myself and others. It feels like a big set of tasks, but I only have to do this diligent work today. I only have to work hard today. Tomorrow, if I get tomorrow, I get to choose to work hard then experience and enjoy the fruit of my labor in real time, with is today. Just one day at a time.
So if you’ve felt discouraged about your own processes, do you remember the words that Yoda, Luke’s wise mentor and guide conveyed to him when he had become discouraged as he considered the enormity of the tasks set before him…?
I want to remind you that you’re not different. Your thinking may be different from the adaptive processes that I’ve been suggesting to you but you’re not different. You may feel broken, defective, deprived, diseased, reactive, regressed and so on, however, I also want to remind that you also have within you the capacity to come to your own assistance and engage in resilient processes that will prove that you’re more than the sum total of the negative messages of maladaptive schemas, modes, defenses and distortions.
I encourage you to not let the different schemas, defenses and distortion interrupt your ability to cultivate very different but positive outcomes for yourself. This is what Yoda shared:
Let me repeat what Yoda conveyed, hoping his message falls on the fertile soil of your mind: We’ll need to “unlearn what we have learned” in our futile attempt to “help,” protect or defend ourselves. Those old patterns, schemas and methodologies need to be retired and replaced with positive, constructive and adaptive values that will help versus hinder our growth, maturation, healing and progress.
We’ll need to recognize when our mind pulls up the old, outdated and faulty mental files that we either had programmed within us or that we acquired somewhere along our life journey. Then, we’ll want to replace then learn how to be proficient and skilled at living with our new values, mindsets and behaviors, because we find them to be useful, functional and valuable ways of viewing then doing life.
Finally before you reacquaint yourself with the “A-C-T-I-V-E” model, we’ll want to remind ourselves of the power that accompanies Choice. Choosing to learn then implement on a consistent basis any Adult Ego state or Healthy Adult mode behavior means we have the ability to “reparent” and grow ourselves into the wiser, maturer and capable person who hits the behavioral targets in life that are important to us and others.
As a reminder, we’ll take an in-depth look at the functions and payoffs of developing and operating in our Healthy Adult mode in Choosing Change #8: Schemas, Defenses, Distortions and Resolution (Part 3 of 3), but for now and in closing, its important to know that the Healthy Adult mode helps us by employing the components of the “A-C-T-I-V-E” model.
The Healthy Adult mode helps us to “remain A-C-T-I-V-E” by…
- A: Be AWARE of how schemas from your past experiences could be currently sabotaging your efforts. We’ll want to be AWARE of how our old maladaptive schemas and thought patterns that were “uploaded and/or programmed” into us at a younger age are currently operating and sabotaging our efforts by triggering episodes of Emotional Regression and by activating maladaptive schema modes. These internal processes threaten to sabotage our ability to come to our own assistance and to the assistance of our relationships. Once we’re aware of which Schemas and Schema modes are “triggering and firing,” we can…
- C: CHALLENGE, CHANGE and replace the unwanted Schemas with adaptive and Healthy Adult mode behaviors that work! This means we’ll need to work hard to identify, change and convert negative personality traits into productive and positive traits that are life-giving and life-affirming to us and to others. As we do this, we’ll want to…
- T: TERMINATE any destructive Ego Defenses or Cognitive Distortions that our maladaptive schemas want to use to “protect” us, but really keep us stuck in child-like ways of operating. Being aware of then challenging, changing and replacing distorted thinking and defensive reactions helps us to transition from being “reactors to actors.” As Actors we’re consciously and responsibly involved in our own change, healing and growth processes. What really helps our process to gain momentum is to…
- I: INVESTIGATE what Adult Values and Virtues make sense to us and are reasonable for us to develop and incorporate into our lives on a daily basis (especially to counterbalance our maladaptive schemas and maladaptive schema modes). Identifying values that help to protect, affirm, nurture and breathe life into us while also guiding us to develop loving, meaningful and mature relationships is what our Healthy Adult mode (and our Higher Power) is capable of giving to us. Once these “very valuable values” are identified, we afford ourselves with the opportunity to reap and benefit from living a value-filled, value focused and empowered life! But investigating and identifying the values is only the first step. After this, we’ll want to…
- V: VALIDATE ourselves by consistently living according to values, virtues and ideals that are sensible, reasonable and functional for us and others. On the surface this seems like an easy choice to make. However, when the “Tyranny of the Shoulds, Musts and Oughts” resurface, they try to hijack us from functional and intentional living because our schemas and schema modes tend to trigger emotional regression, which facilitate immature and child-like reactions. Daily practice of our Values provides us with empowering reminders that we have choices, opportunities and abilities as Adults to make informed and responsible decisions to protect, love, nurture and guide us in our efforts to become Wise or “skilled at living.” Finally, what makes being “A-C-T-I-V-E” a success is being in a continual mindset to…
- E: EVALUATE if our choices and behaviors are helping us to achieve the outcomes that we want and are working toward. The English word “Evaluation” comes from the French word “Evaluer,” which means “to find the value of.” What this means is that most of the choices that we make based on practicing our values will yield very productive outcomes for us. Living in the Healthy Adult mode means we enjoy the fruit of our labor by practicing, extracting and enjoying the benefits that come from choosing to live by our values! However, when our choices cease to provide the optimum changes that are good for us and others, we evaluate then recalibrate to make any necessary changes to stimulate productive growth outcomes per our values for ourselves and others.
Oh, here’s the full exchange that Yoda had with Luke:
No matter what, don’t let the Defense or Distortion tell you that achieving Healthy Adult living and outcomes isn’t possible. Do, then do some more, then do some more (work) and then reap and enjoy the fruit of your labor.
Remind yourself that just like the other Heroes in the Star Wars movie, you’re on a personal Hero’s Journey and like the others, you’ll encounter what they experienced:
- You’re called to a different life and…
- You’ll meet and need mentors…
- You’ll face tests and you’ll have enemies that want to thwart your progress…
- You’ll face ordeals but in the end…
- You’ll find the road back to healthy living and…
- You’ll experience the rewards of your labor and…
- You’ll be wiser in life due to everything you’ve learned during your journey.
In light of this, its my hope that you’ll realize that you, your thoughts, your feelings, your life and your relationships are worth the positive and fruitful outcomes that are possible as you continue on your journey to experience the benefits that are possible when you’re Choosing Change.
Let me leave this word of inspiration with you, as we’ll move toward learning more practical, adaptive, healthy and Adult ways to overcome our Schemas, Defenses, Distortions in the next post:
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you” – Philippians 4:8-9 (TNIV).
Thanks for reading this post on Choosing Change. Future posts on Choosing Change will be labeled “Choosing Change #8,” “Choosing Change #9,” “Choosing Change #10” and so on.
Also, as time permits, please visit the other blogs written by Dr Ken McGill: Daily Bread for Life and “3 – 2 – 5 – 4 – 24″ for additional information that could be helpful. I welcome your comments below or via email and your favorites, your retweets and your “+1’s” if you have a brief moment and find the information helpful. Again, it is my desire to provide the very best info for your consideration.
TeleHealth/Video counseling sessions are available for those who prefer to meet online – Dr. McGill