Defense Mechanism

Defense Mechanisms/Mental Mechanisms ‡ These are intra psychic devices that serve as the first line of ego protection and defense. ‡ These are specific psychological maneuvers existing primarily outside of and beyond conscious awareness. ‡ They may be described as stereotyped, repetitive, and rigid means of adaptation, healthy or unhealthy

Defense Mechanisms are used to:

‡ To minimize anxiety ‡ To protect the ego ‡ To maintain repression
± Repression is useful to the individual to:
‡ Prevent discomfort


‡ Failing or refusing to acknowledge something bad about ourselves ‡ The unconscious refusal to face thoughts, feelings, wishes, needs, or reality that are intolerable. Blocking the awareness of reality by refusing to acknowledge its existence. ‡ Eg: denying that your physician's diagnosis of cancer is correct and seeking a second opinion


‡ Repression: inability to recall painful or unpleasant thoughts or feelings because they are automatically and involuntarily pushed into one s unconsciousness. Referred to as burying alive mechanism ‡ The involuntary exclusion of a painful or conflictual thought, impulse or memory from awareness ‡ This is the primary ego defense mechanismothers reinforce it


‡ It is used to unconsciously justify ideas, actions, or feelings with good, acceptable reasons or explanation. It is also to maintain self-respect, prevent guilt feelings, and obtain social approval or acceptance. Referred to as self-deception


‡ Offering a socially acceptable yet less logical explanation for an act or decision actually produced by unconscious impulses ‡ Example: man buys a new car having convinced himself his old car wont make it through the winter ‡ A woman with a closet full of dresses buys a new one because she has nothing to wear


‡ returning to a previous stage of development ‡ Regression: retreating to past levels of behavior that reduce anxiety, allow one to feel more comfortable, and permit dependency. A mechanism through which an individual retreats to an earlier stage of life and subjectively more comfortable level of adjustment. ‡ Eg: sitting in a corner and crying after hearing bad news; throwing a temper tantrum when you don't get your way


‡ Attributing ones thoughts or impulses to another person-- this allows expression of a desire or impulse (making something unacceptable now acceptable) but confuses the ego allowing for a reduction of anxiety ‡ Example: blaming another person for self failure ‡ You have a strong dislike for someone so you tell other people that they do not like you ‡ Projection: scapegoat defense mechanism The person may blame others for faults, feelings, or shortcomings that are unacceptable to self.

‡ Displacement: a mechanism that serves to transfer feelings such as frustration, hostility, or anxiety from one idea, person, or object to another. The substitute target is less threatening and allows the person to release emotional reaction.

‡ Transferring frustration to less threatening people or objects. ‡ A change in the object by which an instinctual drive is to be satisfied; shifting the emotional component from one object or idea to another ‡ Example: a woman is abandoned by her fiancé ; she quickly finds another man to take his place ‡ A salesman is angered by his supervisor and later when returning home punishes his children for misbehavior would usually be tolerated or ignored

‡ Sublimation: the rechanneling of consciously intolerable or socially unacceptable impulses or behavior into activities that are not personally or socially acceptable. e.g. a college student who has hostile feelings rechannels them by joining the debate team


‡ Redirecting energy from basic drives to more acceptable behaviors. ‡ To reduce the force of an instinctual drive by using the energy in other, usually constructive activities ‡ For Example: a woman who is forced to take on a very restrictive diet takes up still life painting that usually include food ‡ A teenager who has just broken up with his girlfriend has published poems that deal with heartbreak

‡ Suppression: willfully or voluntarily putting an acceptable thought or feeling out of one s mind with the ability to recall the thought or feeling at will. A deliberate, intentional exclusion from the conscious mind, can be referred as voluntary forgetting . ‡ Eg: trying to forget something that causes you anxiety

‡ Compensation: the act of making up for a real or imagined inability or deficiency with a specified behavior to maintain self-respect of self-esteem. The person overcomes an inability by becoming proficient in another area. ‡ Reaction-formation/Overcompensation: The person exaggerates or overdevelops certain actions by displaying exactly the opposite behavior, attitude or feeling from what he or she normally would show in a given situation. Example- a man who dislikes his mother-in-law may act very politely and courteously toward her.

‡ Intellectualization: the act of transferring emotional concerns into the intellectual sphere. The person uses intelligent reasoning as a means of avoiding confrontation with unconscious conflicts and their stressful emotions. ‡ Eg: focusing on the details of a funeral as opposed to the sadness and grief

‡ Substitution: the unconscious act of replacing a goal when it is blocked. The replacement of consciously unacceptable emotions, drives, attitudes, or needs by those that are more acceptable. Example-a student nurse in a degree program who feels unable to master the clinical competence decided to become a respiratory technician.

‡ Undoing/Restitution: the negation of a previous consciously intolerable action or experience to reduce or alleviate feelings of guilt. Example- a man sends flowers to his girlfriend after he embarrassed her at a cocktail party. Symbolization: an object, idea, or act represents another through some common aspect and carries the emotional feeling associated with the other.

‡ Introjection: attributing to oneself the good qualities of another, symbolically taking on the character trait of another person by ingesting the philosophy, ideas, knowledge, custom, mores, or attitudes of that person. ‡ Conversion: the transferring of a mental conflict into physical symptoms to release tension or anxiety. e.g. a man develops paralysis of his lower extremities after he learns that his wife has a terminal cancer.

‡ Fantasy: imagined events or mental images( daydreaming) to express unconscious conflicts, gratify unconscious wishes, or prepare for anticipated events. e.g. a young woman on a popular television soap opera, fantasized she had a child, as she sat in a rocking chair, held a baby doll, and sang lullabies. ‡ Isolation: the process of separating an unacceptable feeling, idea, or impulse from one s thoughts ( also known as Mental Isolation)


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