June 19, 2024

What is Mental Compartmentalization and How Can it Help You?

4 min read
Mental Compartmentalization

Mental compartmentalization, also known as psychological compartmentalization, is the act of separating one’s thoughts, feelings, or behaviours into separate compartments, in order to avoid conflicts or negative emotions. This is a common coping mechanism, but it can be harmful in the long run because it can prevent a person from dealing with their problems and emotions in a healthy way.

Compartmentalization is a defensive tactic that involves hiding one’s feelings and thoughts, according to psychology. It is often used to defend or justify a commitment to a particular behaviour, even if it is not necessarily conscious. 

Without this technology, some essential professions would no longer be practiced. For instance, a firefighter may be responsible for a family at home, yet in order to perform their duties, they must act quickly in life-threatening situations. They are able to function well under pressure because they can compartmentalize the two realities.

When a couple has decided to divorce, compartmentalizing can be helpful. However, for the sake of others (and to keep some privacy), they will continue to pose for photos and attend family events as though everything is OK.

Another positive aspect of compartmentalization is that it gives you the freedom to take care of your own mental health at any moment. You can “disconnect” from your acute or chronic troubles by immersing yourself in the movie you’re watching, reading a book, journaling, taking a long soothing bath, or going on a hike in nature. This will give you more energy to deal with whatever is tiring you out.

In life, there are countless opportunities for enjoyment, fulfilment, and escape. Of course, not all actions taken for enjoyment are motivated by a desire to run away. Certain pleasures are simply for our delight; there is no need to probe into the reasons behind our decision.

When you need to mentally escape from something difficult, upsetting, or overpowering, you engage in certain types of escapism. You consciously ignore an experience when you “put something out of your mind.” You can temporarily escape whatever is bothering you by doing something, distracting yourself, or shifting your attention to something else.

You can reset your emotional equilibrium by taking a nap after a challenging day, going for a walk after a fight with your partner, getting lost in a good book, playing an online game, or spending time with a friend.

However, not all forms of escape are good or helpful. Some escapes cost both the individual and others. Online gaming and excessive alcohol consumption are both problematic in that they can strain relationships and make it difficult to fulfil other commitments or achieve other goals. It’s time to revaluate what you’re doing and why when the activity takes over the rest of your life (instead of just giving you a brief break from it).

Acting-out-related compartmentalization has one primary goal: to keep clandestine and non-secretive worlds apart from one another. Internal mental and emotional seclusion is required for this to happen. Self-partitions assist in dividing up your inner experiences, thoughts, and feelings and separating them from one another and from outside events.

Because the acting-out experience is so fundamentally at odds with how you view and experience yourself, as well as with the life you’ve built, compartmentalization is utilized to encourage acting-out. These opposing experiences cannot dwell in consciousness at the same moment.

The negative effects of compartmentalization result in a fragmentation of the self, which might have serious consequences. Some people’s capacity for destructive compartmentalization may have its roots in a difficult upbringing, one in which unspoken family secrets, neglect as a kid, and physical and/or sexual abuse established the foundation for destructive escapism, which is then nourished by these earlier, unhealed wounds.

In order to cope with overwhelming terror and agony as a child, dissociative defences may have included this trauma-based compartmentalization. However, not every compartmentalization is motivated by trauma.

Here are some ways to stop mental compartmentalization:

Acknowledge your feelings: Recognize and acknowledge your feelings, even if they are difficult or uncomfortable.

Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness practices, such as meditation or yoga, can help you be more aware of your thoughts and feelings, and to live in the present moment.

Talk to someone: Sharing your thoughts and feelings with a trusted friend or therapist can help you understand and process your emotions.

Write it down: Journaling or writing about your thoughts and feelings can help you to understand and process them better.

Practice self-compassion: Be kind and compassionate to yourself. Remember that it’s normal to have difficult thoughts and feelings, and that you don’t have to be perfect.

Address the root cause: Identify the underlying problem that’s causing you to compartmentalize your thoughts and feelings and work on resolving it.

Seek professional help: If you find that you are unable to stop compartmentalizing on your own, a therapist or counsellor can help you to understand and work through the underlying issues.

It’s important to remember that change does not happen overnight, it may take time and effort to stop mental compartmentalization. It’s also important to be patient and compassionate with yourself throughout the process.

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