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The Common Defense Mechanisms

Most notably used by Freud in his psychoanalytic theory, a defense mechanism is a tactic developed by the ego to protect against anxiety. Defense mechanisms are thought to safeguard the mind against feelings and thoughts that are too difficult for the conscious mind to cope with. In some instances, defense mechanisms are thought to keep inappropriate or unwanted thoughts and impulses from entering the conscious mind. For example, if you are faced with a particularly unpleasant task, your mind may choose to forget your responsibility in order to avoid the dreaded assignment. Although we may knowingly use these mechanisms, in many cases these defenses occur unconsciously and work to distort reality. While many defense mechanisms can be unhealthy, they can also be adaptive and allow us to cope and function normally. The greatest problems arise when defense mechanisms are overused in order to avoid dealing with problems. Compensation – Overachieving in one area to compensate for failures in another. An example might be someone who has a chronic illness and is not physically able to compete with other students at school instead becomes the “best” student in the class. Another example: if you think you are an dumb you may work at becoming more physically fit than others to make up for this shortcoming. Denial is the refusal to accept reality to a painful event. Denial may be a subconscious or conscious process of blinding yourself to negative self-concepts that you believe exist, but that you do not want to deal with. It is "closing your eyes" to the negative self-concepts about people, places, or things that you find too severe to deal with. For example, a family may pretend and act as if the father is only sick when it is obvious that he is an alcoholic. Displacement is the redirecting emotions to a safer, substitute target. Example: Being angry at your teacher then taking out your feelings on a younger sibling when you get home. –or- Your parent makes you angry so you go in your room and throw something or punch the wall. Fantasy involves creating an inner world when the real world becomes too painful, difficult, or stressful. Example: A nursing student feels unsure and inadequate in the hospital arena. She fantasies about someone having a cardiac arrest in the lobby and she will come to their aid and save their life with CPR. Intellectualization involves removing the emotion from emotional experiences, and discussing painful events in detached, uncaring ways. Someone who intellectualizes becomes very distant from their feelings. An example: An individual who when told they had a life threatening disease focuses exclusively on the statistical percentages of recovery and is unable to cope with their fear and sadness. Projection is the attribution to others of your own negative self-concepts. This occurs when people want to avoid facing negative self-concepts about their behaviors or intentions and do so by seeing them, instead, in other people. Example: An chronically angry individual accuses their friend of hostility. –or- a cheating boyfriend accuses his girlfriend of cheating

(co-dependent behavior when one feels he/she can’t cope by self) Passive-aggression – Indirectly expressing anger. Undoing is the attempt to take back behavior or thoughts that are unacceptable. Or. That way. anxiety-provoking situation can actually be an adaptive defense mechanism .A woman who is furious at her sister’s child and wishes her harm might become overly concerned and protective of the child's health. Other Defense Mechanisms Since Freud first described the original defense mechanisms. but you go out of your way to show care and concern for them. –or. you may hate your parents. Reaction Formation occurs when we have a reaction that is too painful or threatening to feel (such as intense hate for someone with power over us). For example. a millionaire might give to charities for the poor to make up for profiting from the poor. ignore and repress these situations. For example. For example. we turn it into the opposite (intense liking for that person). Some of these defense mechanisms include:       Acting out – The individual copes with stress by engaging in attention-seeking behavior to try and get notice that they crave. Instead. Regression is the retreating to behavior appropriate for an earlier stage of development. Humor – Pointing out the funny or ironic aspects of a situation. Example: A child who is overwhelmed with fear or anger when a new sibling is born might become clinging and begin thumb sucking or bed wetting. Example: Might not acknowledge hurtful things that parent(s) say. (teen silently resents chores. Another example of undoing would be excessively praising someone after having insulted them. an individual who has feelings for the same sex verbally chastises homosexual relationships. puts dishes in washer.Defense Mechanisms 2 Rationalization is creating false but credible justifications. (dislike certain people at school and doesn’t join a club they’re in order to avoid contact with them) Altruism – Satisfying internal needs through helping others. While defense mechanisms are often thought of as negative reactions. some of these defenses can be helpful. we aren't threatened by the feeling. utilizing humor to overcome a stressful. Repression involves putting painful thoughts and memories out of our minds and forgetting them. other researchers have continued to describe other methods of reducing anxiety. a parent may buy their child a lot of gifts to make up for not spending time with them. Sometimes called “stuffing”. but does sloppy job and bangs plates around—easier for parent to take charge of chore) Avoidance – Refusing to deal with or encounter unpleasant objects or situations. (school children trying to be class clown) Affiliation – Involves turning to other people for support. Example: The officer position you may have wished for and didn't get becomes "a dumb job for nerds.