You’re not a savage, you’re an adult with an immature defense mechanism. 

While the latest Tik Tok dance craze #savagechallenge took the internet by storm, misguided people continued to roam the world in their savagery. Megan Thee Stallion, the Houston based rapper known for her lyrical skills and unapologetic sexualized content, served to popularize being a savage amongst Generation Z. Millennials had already coined such term while revelling in the culture of toxicity. Amongst these celebrated toxic traits include being petty, an introvert and having “no new friends”. Of all of these toxic traits, being a savage reigns supreme. 

A Savage Defined

When we hear the word savage, we often think of a person who is ruthless in their pursuits of love. A savage is going to take and break your heart without a care in the world. In our patriarchal society,  savages are usually women. The term has somehow allowed many women to take back the power. When men are promiscuous and heartbreakers, they are just men.  When women do the same, there’s always a distinguishing degrading title. Amongst those three, four, and five letter words, the six letter word S A V A G E is probably the most acceptable amongst women.

For example, Rihanna’s sexy lingerie brand is called Savage X Fenty. The theme of the brand coincides with Rihanna’s image of being a “savage” in her dealings with men and empowers women to be as fearless and unapologetic as she is. 

Rihanna: A Savage?

Anecdotally, Rihanna is the perfect case study. Nine months after images of a battered Rihanna at the hands of her then boyfriend Chris Brown surfaced, Rihanna released the Rated R album.  She was rebranded with a dark, zero F’s given, hardcore type of attitude. Rihanna herself even stated that making the album was a way to vent and express herself through her recovery. 

This newfound mindless persona was able to counter the disturbing image as a result of the domestic violence incident. This showed her fans that she was tough and that her Rihanna reign wouldn’t let up. Perhaps this was always her demeanor and it piqued following the violent altercation that transpired. 

Three years later, she was spotted and appeared to have rekindled with Chris Brown. Then, she appeared on Oprah’s show in her most vulnerable state, stating that she had forgiven Chris brown and clearly was very much still in love with him.

For some, this was shocking and appalling. 

But for analytical people like myself, this was only human. 

Breaking up with the love of your life is hard, but breaking up in the global court of public opinion is even harder. Rihanna never had the chance to truly process and grieve the loss of someone she once loved.  She had an image to uphold and her label execs were in charge of shifting the narrative for the sake of keeping the money train going. 

Defense Mechanisms

Similarly, defense mechanisms are no different from the facade of Rihanna in 2009. In psychology, defense mechanisms are the unconscious mental exercises that serve to protect your mind from dealing with harmful emotional turmoil. Within the umbrella term of defense mechanisms, there are mature and immature defense mechanisms. Mature defense mechanisms include anticipation, suppression and humor. Immature defense mechanisms include blocking, regression, and acting out. 

Being a savage is the perfect example of the defense mechanism of acting out. 

Acting out occurs when an individual deals with emotional stressors or conflicts by actions rather than feelings or reflections.

Many adults are living with open wounds from childhood traumas, bitter breakups and losses they have never healed from. Whether it’s minimized to having “mommy or daddy issues” or “fake love”, the honest truth is that hurt people, hurt people. Unfortunately, childhood experiences of abandonment, sexual abuse and neglect don’t leave your psyche once you become an adult. Those buried memories manifest is many other ways. 

Examples

For example, a woman who’s father abandoned the family, may have commitment issues in her relationships although she longs for the attention of a man. She may have no intention of  longterm relationships because she’d rather hurt someone else than be hurt first. In spite of her actions, what she really wants to express is that she has been abandoned before and doesn’t want it to happen again. In fact, what she really craves is everlasting love. Her defense mechanism leads her to impulsively abandon a lover to protect her own heart regardless of hurting  someone else’s feelings. 

The ultimate bachelor is another example. This is the man who doesn’t commit to anyone and has several women in rotation. He’ll never give his heart to another soul because he’s been cheated on or betrayed in the past. You may know him as the neighborhood F-boy. What his actions are really telling you is that he’s hurt and he’s trying to protect his heart. But, his actions only show that he wants to deliberately and immaturely hurt others before it happens to him.

Lastly, the cheating man is a prime example. Men cheat for a variety of reasons and we can debate all day about biology and hormones but we won’t today. Our society raises men to be devoid of emotional expression and to “take it like a man”. The immature processing of emotions play a large part in why cheating can often be the last ditch effort to abate emotions.   There are habitual cheaters and one timers, but one thing that is commonly shared is either a learned behavior or trauma. Infidelity related trauma can be due to witnessing a parent’s divorce or infidelity, sexual abuse, or having an absentee parent. 

How to Cope

Most people learn to either cope in a way that allows them to suppress their emotions or behave in a way that allows their impulses to serve as an outlet for their frustrations.

Acting out is often unconsciously or semi-consciously to gain attention. It can be destructive to self or others, and may inhibit the development of more constructive responses to feelings. 

This is evidenced in the ways that people break each other’s hearts in their quest to protect themselves at any cost. The sad part is that other people become collateral in their self preservation efforts. 

Either way, all coping mechanisms, require a therapeutic intervention. Whether it is an introspective sit down with yourself or God or a visit to a therapist, everyone can use some form of healing.

So, the next time, you want to gloat about your savage behavior, ask yourself, what am I really running away from and is this behavior destructive or constructive to myself and others?

Make sure to check out my #marriedtomedicine1 series on Instagram. I’ve been discussing all things related to marriage, medicine and everything in-between. 

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