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Mental mechanisms and defense mechanisms are terms used

interchangeably to describe the unconscious attempt to obtain relief from emotional
conflict or anxiety.
1. To resolve a mental conflict.
2. To reduce anxiety or fear
3. Protect ones self-esteem
4. Protect ones sense of security
Defense mechanisms:
-Willfully or consciously putting a thought or feeling out of ones mind with the
ability to recall the thought or feeling at will. A deliberate, intentional exclusion
from the conscious mind is referred to as voluntary forgetting.
Ex: Id rather not talk about it right now
Lets talk about my accident later
-One of the most common defense mechanisms, referred to as the burying alive
mechanism. The person is unable to recall painful or unpleasant thoughts or
feelings because they are automatically and involuntarily pushed into ones
-The most common ego defense mechanism. Referred to as self-deception at its
subtle best. It is used to justify ideas, actions, or feelings with good, acceptable
reasons or explanations.
Ex: A teenaged girl who was not asked to the junior prom tells her friend,
John really wanted to date me but felt sorry for Ann and took her the
-Also referred to as the imitator. People use it in an attempt to be like someone or
to resemble the personality and traits of another
-The act of making up for a real or imagined inability or deficiency with a specific
behavior to maintain self respect or self-esteem
Ex: A short girl may become the manager of the girls basketball team because she
is not tall enough to qualify for the team.
- Also referred to as overcompensation. The person exaggerates or overdevelops
certain actions by displaying exactly the opposite behavior, attitude, or feeling from
what he normally would show in a given situation.
Ex: 1. A young man who dislikes his mother-in-law may act very polite and
courteous toward her.

2. A woman who hates children may talk very lovingly to a friends young
son(although privately she considers him a brat).
-The act of finding another goal when is blocked. Also defined as the replacement of
consciously unacceptable emotions, drives, attitudes, or needs by those that are
more acceptable.
Ex: A student who likes to take up nursing but realizes that she is unable to
cope with the academic standard decides to take up LPN.
-A mechanism that serves to transfer feelings such as frustration, hostility, or
anxiety from one idea, person, or object to another.
Ex: Slamming the door when you are angry
Or yelling at one person when you are angry at another
-The negation of a previous consciously intolerable action or experience to reduce or
alleviate feelings of guilt.
Ex: A young man sends flowers to his fiance after he embarrassed her at a cocktail
A young man who feels guilty of having another love affair with a female
regularly sends flowers to his girlfriend.
-Often termed as scapegoat defense mechanism. The person rejects unwanted
characteristics of self and assigns them to others. He may blame others for faults,
feelings, or shortcomings that are unacceptable to self.
Ex: 1. A man who is late for work states, My wife forgot to set the alarm
last night so I overslept.
2. A student who fails in an exam blames his teacher for not discussing
the topic properly.
-An object, idea, or act represents another through some common aspect and
carries the emotional feeling associated with the other.
Ex: The engagement ring symbolizes love and a commitment to another
person. Wearing a white wedding gown generally symbolizes the
brides purity.
-Retreating to past levels of behavior that reduce anxiety, allow one to feel
comfortable, and permit dependency. The person has regressed to earlier
developmental levels to reduce feelings of anxiety.
Ex: 1. A 27 year old woman acts like a 17 year old on her first date with a fellow
2. A 5 year- old boy who is toilet trained becomes incontinent during his
fathers hospitalization.

-The rechanneling of consciously intolerable or socially unacceptable impulses or

behaviors into activities that are personally or socially acceptable.
Ex: 1. A college student who has hostile feelings re channels them by joining the
debate team.
2. An aggressive young woman volunteers to head the Fund drive in her community.
-The unconscious refusal to face thoughts, feelings, wishes, needs, or reality factors
that are intolerable. Also defined as blocking the awareness of reality by refusing to
acknowledge its existence.
Ex: A person who is told he has terminal cancer denies the diagnosis by telling his
family he had a little tumor on his lung and his doctor removed all of it.
-Attributing to oneself the good qualities of another; Symbolitically taking on the
character trait of another person by ingesting his philosophy, ideas, knowledge, or
Ex: One patient who claimed to be Moses grew a long hair, wore a blanket and
sandals , and read his bible daily. He refuses to participate in activities unless he
was called Moses.
-The transferring of mental conflict into a physical symptom to release tension or
Ex: an elderly woman experiences sudden blindness after witnessing a
Ex: a middle-aged man develops paralysis of his lower extremities after he
learns that his wife has terminal cancer.
-Imagined events or mental images (e.g daydreaming) to express unconscious
conflicts , gratify unconscious wishes, or prepare for anticipated future events.
-The process of separating an unacceptable feeling, idea, or impulse from ones
(also referred to as emotional isolation)
Ex: An oncologist is able to care for a terminally ill cancer patient by
separating or isolating his feelings or emotional reaction to the patients
inevitable death. He focuses on the treatment, not the prognosis.
-The act of separating and detaching a strong, emotionally charged conflict from
ones consciousness.
Ex: A woman who was raped was found wandering a busy highway in torn clothing.
When examined by the ER physician, the woman was exhibiting symptoms of
traumatic amnesia.

-The act of transferring emotional concerns into the intellectual sphere. The person
uses reasoning as a means of avoiding confrontation with unconscious conflicts and
their stressful emotions.
Ex: A young man shows no emotional response to the dear John letter he
received from his fiance; instead, he tells his roommate he is trying to
figure out why she changed her mind about the upcoming wedding.