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Common Defence Mechanisms!

Written and reviewed by
Ms. Syeda Arifa Tasneem 88% (37 ratings)
M.Phil - Psychology
Psychologist, Bangalore  •  1 year experience

Shielding your ego - common defence mechanisms:
 

We generally try to protect ourselves from things that we don't want to think about or deal with. Just remind yourself of the last time you referred to someone as being in denial or accused someone of rationalising. Both these terms are actually referred to as defence mechanisms in psychology. Defence mechanism is an unconscious psychological mechanism that reduces anxiety arising from unacceptable or potentially harmful stimuli. In short, it is a strategy used by the ego to protect itself from anxiety.

 The use of the most common defence mechanisms:

1. Denial: it is a clear refusal to admit or recognise an obvious truth about something that has happened or is upcoming. Denial functions to protect the ego from things that the individual cannot cope with. For instance, drug addicts and alcoholics often deny that they have a problem, or victims of traumatic events deny that the event ever occurred as it is too uncomfortable or traumatic to face. 

2. Repression And suppression: in both repression and suppression we tend to remove anxiety provoking memories from our conscious awareness. When we consciously force unwanted information out of our awareness it is called suppression. However, even unconscious memories, as in repression don't just disappear, they continue to influence the person's behaviour. For instance, a person abused as a child might face difficulties forming relationships as an adult.

3. Displacement: it involves venting out anger, frustration and other negative impulses on people or situations that are less threatening. For instance, rather than expressing aggression or anger towards your boss, you to tend to express it towards your spouse, children, or pets as they are less threatening and have few negative consequences.

4. Sublimation: it is a way of acting out unacceptable impulses by converting them into more acceptable forms of behaviour. As freud believes, it is a mature way of behaving normally in socially acceptable ways. For instance, a childless woman might start a day care to fulfil her desire of nurturing a child.

5. Projection: it involves ascribing our unacceptable qualities or feelings to others. For instance, if you have an aversion towards someone, you might say that person doesn't respect you or doesn't like you.

6. Intellectualisation: it helps reduce anxiety by being cold and focusing more on the intellectual components of the situation, while avoiding the stressful emotional component of a traumatic or anxiety provoking situation. For instance, a person just diagnosed with cancer might focus on learning everything about it, in order to avoid distress and distant himself from the reality of the situation.

7. Rationalisation: it involves explaining an unacceptable behaviour or feeling in a more rational or logical manner, while avoiding the true reasons for the behaviour. For instance, a student might explain his poor grades by blaming the examiner rather than his own lack of preparation.

8. Regression: it involves reverting to childhood patterns of behaviour failing to cope with stressful events. For instance, an adult fixated in his childhood days might lack maturity and may cry or sulk upon hearing unpleasant news. 

9. Reaction formation: it involves taking up the opposite feeling or behaviour in an attempt to hide true feelings by behaving in the exact opposite manner. For instance, treating someone you dislike in an extremely friendly manner in an attempt to hide your true feelings.

Although defence mechanisms are often thought of as negative reactions, some of these can actually help ease stress during critical times, diverting their attention to what is more necessary at the moment.
 

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