Awareness Reduction Mechanisms

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Awareness Reduction Mechanisms (ARMs), a subclass of Defense Mechanisms, are strategies that the Bodily Ego can use to reduce awareness of itself, its physical and mental condition, the "room" that it's in, and the condition of its life. ARMS are typically deployed in order to reduce pain, suffering, guilt, shame, and the disjuncture that arises from internal misalignment or external violence and abuse. Several ARMS exist, the most common being:

External ARMs

  • Compartmentalization – suppressing awareness by breaking your life and your cognitive/emotional processes into discrete spaces. When you come home at night, you block out exploitation and abuse you perpetrate at work. When you go to work in the morning, you block out violence in the home. When you go to Church, you do not think about the hypocrisies in your daily life.
  • Denial– simple refusal to accept reality “as it is.” My mom beat me with a wooden spoon and leather belts, but she denies it to this day. The equivalent external ARM is repression.
  • Distortion – reshaping reality to avoid awareness of disjunctive realities. “What doesn’t kill you leaves a scar” justifications distort our understanding of violence and abuse and provide a justification for them.
    • Humor is a form of distortion. Using humor to change the “meaning” of reality. Making sexist, racist, homophobic jokes in an attempt to render the abusive behaviours acceptable, or gain social support.
    • Intellectualization – Not a defense mechanisms by itself, but a particular form of compartmentalization, dissociation, diversion, using the powers of the intellect
  • Dissociation – detachment from reality. Disconnection, especially intellectual. Daydreaming through dissociative disorders and fugue.
  • Diversion/Distraction – engaging in other activities, behaviours that draw attention away from issues in reality. For example, getting into a running club and spending all your time away from family in order to avoid the toxicities/issues at home.
  • Rationalization – “the justification of one's behaviour and motivations by substituting "good" acceptable reasons for the actual motivations.”

Internal ARMs

  • Dissociation – detachment from reality. Disconnection, especially emotional. Daydreaming. Dissociative disorders. Typically used in an attempt to avoid stress/pain/conflict in the environment.
  • Repression – forced submersion of thoughts and feelings, like guilt, shame, etc, For the equivalent internal ARM, see Denial.
  • Regression – fall back to childhood states, allowing only simpler, childlike emotions and awareness.
  • Projection – projecting guilt, shame, other negative emotions and thoughts onto others.
  • Reaction formation – choreographing the opposite emotions. Creating a show and displaying how wonderful you really are.


Maslow has some interesting things to say about defense mechanisms, especially in light of the LP concept of Alignment, also about the nature of therapy (it is about uncovering rather than molding, and that even neurosis are somehow aimed at the g\ratification of human needs (see Seven Essential Needs. Thus for example OCD may be an attempt to satisfy one's need for safety by routinizing activity and blocking out toxic impositions.

"A fifth axiom of self-actualization theory is my contention-as yet unproven that neurosis must be considered a psychological defense and not basic to human nature. Furthermore, neurosis must be viewed as a defense against the intrinsic self, our deeper layers, full humanness, growth, and self-actualization. From this assumption, I have argued vigorously that effective counseling and psychotherapy are Taoistic or uncovering, rather than involving mainly shaping,molding, or indoctrinating....It may be relevant to point out here that ordinary neurosis and even the valve pathologies like delinquency may consequently be viewed as efforts toward the gratification of basic and meta-needs, but under the conditions of anxiety, fear, lack of courage." [1]

For LP purposes, we break ARMs down into two general categories, External ARMs and Internal ARMs. External ARMs are defense mechanisms aimed at reducing awareness of things external to the individual, like the behaviour of others, conditions at work, bullying by students/teachers, etc. Internal ARMs are defense mechanisms aimed at reducing awareness of things internal to the individual, like disjunctive shame and guilt, or awareness of complicity, etc.

An individual may deploy several ARMs at the same time.

See Also

Connection | Blocking Emotions | Steering Emotions

Further Reading

Sosteric, Mike and Ratkovic, Gina (2019,BOOK2). Lightning Path Workbook Two: Healing. Lightning Path Press. [1]

Sharp, Michael (BOOK3). Lightning Path Workbook Three: Connection. Lightning Path Press. [2]


  1. ———. “Critique of Self-Actualization. I. Some Dangers of Being-Cognition.” Journal of Individual Psychology 15, no. 1 (May 1, 1959): 24. p. 105
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