John D. Rockefeller once said, “I believe in the supreme worth of the individual and in the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.
In achieving happiness, whether it is in our personal, social or professional lives, we all use defenses to cope. Sometimes we use rituals, denial,
disengagement and displacement of energies, activity and games.
Looking back at my forty plus years of nursing, I have used many defenses to cope, some consciously others unconsciously.
As a young nurse, the first time I had to take care of a child who was dying and then had to tell her mother, that her child had died. I found
myself avoiding the mother when she arrived on the floor. The staff members were all sad and it was so difficult to imagine me telling her such bad news.
Finally when I told her, she trembled, held her tummy and tears flooded her face.
As I comforted her, I felt her pain. I minimized the loss by talking to her about God’s will and reminding her that there won’t be any more suffering for her child.
I felt sad and there was a knot in my stomach. I came to work every day that week, thinking about that mother, her family and her pain. At the beginning of the
next week, I told myself, you cannot get so emtionally involved every time a child dies, so I blocked off the experience and carried on with my work.
As an operating room nurse, there were moments in the operating room holding area, when I’d see a mother with tears rolling down her checks, comforting
her baby who was about to have surgery. Sometimes I was overcome with compassion, I felt like going over to her, hugging her and shedding a few tears myself. But instead I would go over, say, “hello!,” comfort her and say to the baby,” what a cute boy you are? Give me a smile”. I’d totally denied the seriousness and the reality of the situation, then focus on taking the best care of the baby and keeping the mother informed of our progress in surgery.
There were many other occasions, that would some times move me to tears, as I comforted and took care of my patients. There were also many times, when I shared the joy of a family’s new born baby’s arrival, or the return visit of a patient , who had come to show the medical and nursing staff , their miraculous recovery form an accident or some kind of complicated surgery. Both the good moments and the some what stressful moments impacted me, by developing my strength, my spirituality, my character and the human side of touching someone elses, life in a caring way.
I did learn very quickly how to cope with the organizational stresses, because if they are not coped with, they can lead to adverse situations, such as, absenteeism, job change and health problems. It was important for me create a balance between my individual needs and the organizational needs. This helped to reduce my stress, achieve job satisfaction and gave me personal happiness. Self care was one of my ways of reducing stress. Starting with a healthy life style that included proper diet, exercise, relaxation, adequate sleep and meditation.
I pampered myself with massages, manicures, pedicures and made a fuss about my hair, spent some time at an health spa. I enjoyed the sunrise, and the sunset, took long walks among nature or visited the zoo. I stayed connected with family and friends, I had a support system and kept a positive attitude. In addition I had a great sense of humor. Today I continue to pamper myself and use my defenses as I enjoy my individual right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. As you pursue your individual right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, what defenses and techniques do you use?