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Defense Mechanisms

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Chapter 12; p482

Focus Questions

What are defense mechanisms?

Defense mechanisms are the unconscious psychological processes that people develop to relieve anxiety.

What are the most common defense mechanisms?

Among questionable forms of coping are the defense mechanism described by Freud. These are unconscious psychological processes, mental of symbolic, developed to relieve anxiety. They include the following:

Most Common Defense Mechanisims

Repression

(The Primary Mechanism)

The person tries to banish offending desires from conscious thought to the point of being totally unaware of the original desires.
(Keeping distressing thoughts and feelings buried in the unconscious)

Rationalization 

The person attempts to deal with a stressful situation by claiming that the stressor was of minimal importance and may even have had beneficial effects.
(Creating false but plausible excuses to justify unacceptable behavior)

Sublimation 

The person unconsciously transforms conflict and anxiety into different but related desire that is more acceptable to society and to him/her self.

Identification 

The person attempts to take on the virtues of an admired person.
(Bolstering self-esteem by forming an imaginary or real alliance with some person or group)

Reaction Formation

The person pretends to possess desires that are the opposite if the desires that are causing conflict and anxiety. (Behaving in a way that is exactly the opposite of one’s true feelings)

Projection 

The person attributes to others the desires or thoughts that have caused personal conflict. (attributing one’s own thoughts, feelings, or motives to another)

Denial 

The person attempts to dispel anxiety by refusing altogether to accept reality. 

Displacement

Substitution

Sublimination

The person tries to escape the discomfort of unwanted ideas or feelings by transferring them onto another person. (diverting emotional feelings, usually anger, from their original source to a substitute target)

Regression 

The person retreats toward behaviors that usually characterize a lower level of maturity. ( a reversion to immature patterns of behavior)

Introjection 

Identifying with some idea or object so deeply that it becomes a part of that person.

One example often used is when a child envelops representational images of his absent parents into himself, simultaneously fusing them with his own personality.

Compensation

Direct Compensation

Overcompensation

Encountering failure or frustration in some sphere of activity, one overemphasizes another. The term is also applied to the process of over-correcting for a handicap or limitation. Examples: (1) a physically unattractive adolescent becomes an expert dancer. (2) a youth with residual muscle damage from poliomyelitis becomes an athlete. (3) Demosthenes.

Intellectualization

(isolation). Concentrating on the intellectual components of the situations as to distance oneself from the anxiety provoking emotions associated with these situations.

Intellectualization is a defense mechanism where reasoning is used to block confrontation with an unconscious conflict and its associated emotional stress. It involves removing one’s self, emotionally, from a stressful event. Intellectualization is often accomplished through rationalization; rather than accepting reality, one may explain it away to remove one’s self.

Fixation

Fixation in human psychology refers to the state where an individual becomes obsessed with an attachment to another human, animal or inanimate object

 

 

Common Defense Mechanisms (12 of 25)

 

Repression: (The Primary Mechanism):
The person tries to banish offending desires from conscious thought to the point of being totally unaware of the original desires.
(Keeping distressing thoughts and feelings buried in the unconscious)
Ex. A traumatized soldier has no recollection of the details of a close brush with death.

Rationalization: The person attempts to deal with a stressful situation by claiming that the stressor was of minimal importance and may even have had beneficial effects.
(Creating false but plausible excuses to justify unacceptable behavior)
Ex. a student who cheats on an exam may rationalize the action with the claim that everybody cheats, which makes cheating easier to accept.

Sublimation: The person unconsciously transforms conflict and anxiety into different but related desire that is more acceptable to society and to him/her self.

Identification: The person attempts to take on the virtues of an admired person.
(Bolstering self-esteem by forming an imaginary or real alliance with some person or group)
Ex. An insecure young man joins a fraternity to boost his self-esteem.

Reaction Formation: The person pretends to possess desires that are the opposite if the desires that are causing conflict and anxiety. (Behaving in a way that is exactly the opposite of one’s true feelings)
Ex. A parent who unconsciously resents a child spoils the child with outlandish gifts.

Projection: The person attributes to others the desires or thoughts that have caused personal conflict. (attributing one’s own thoughts, feelings, or motives to another)
Ex. A person who does not want to recognize his/her inadequate tennis skills blames all bad shots on a flawed racquet.

Denial: The person attempts to dispel anxiety by refusing altogether to accept reality.

Displacement (Substitution and Sublimination): The person tries to escape the discomfort of unwanted ideas or feelings by transferring them onto another person. (diverting emotional feelings, usually anger, from their original source to a substitute target)
Ex. After failing a important exam, a student takes her anger out on her little brother.

Regression: The person retreats toward behaviors that usually characterize a lower level of maturity. ( a reversion to immature patterns of behavior)
Ex. An adult has a temper tantrum when he doesn’t get his way.

Introjection: Identifying with some idea or object so deeply that it becomes a part of that person.
One example often used is when a child envelops representational images of his absent parents into himself, simultaneously fusing them with his own personality.

Compensation (Direct Compensation, Overcompensation): Encountering failure or frustration in some sphere of activity, one overemphasizes another. The term is also applied to the process of over-correcting for a handicap or limitation. Examples: (1) a physically unattractive adolescent becomes an expert dancer. (2) a youth with residual muscle damage from poliomyelitis becomes an athlete. (3) Demosthenes.

Intellectualization :( isolation). Concentrating on the intellectual components of the situations as to distance oneself from the anxiety provoking emotions associated with these situations.

Intellectualization is a defense mechanism where reasoning is used to block confrontation with an unconscious conflict and its associated emotional stress. It involves removing one’s self, emotionally, from a stressful event. Intellectualization is often accomplished through rationalization; rather than accepting reality, one may explain it away to remove one’s self.

Fixation: in human psychology refers to the state where an individual becomes obsessed with an attachment to another human, animal or inanimate object.

 

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Written by Joseph Eulo

May 28, 2008 at 7:39 am

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