“Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.” –Sigmund Freud
Think about how your protagonist protects her/himself? How does s/he react when a situation is too overwhelming? Does s/he withdraw? Distance her/himself from the situation? Take it out on someone else? Repress her/his feelings? What are the consequences of using a defense mechanism to cope with a situation? How does it impact the protagonist? How do others around her/him react? And what is the protagonist’s response to the reactions of others? Does s/he use the defense mechanism more? Use a different one? Or acknowledge it?