Defense mechanism, in psychoanalytic theory, any of a group of mental processes that enables the mind to reach compromise solutions to conflicts that it is unable to resolve. The process is usually unconscious, and the compromise generally involves concealing from oneself internal drives or feelings that threaten to lower self-esteem or provoke anxiety. The concept derives from the psychoanalytic hypothesis that there are forces in the mind that oppose and battle against each other. The term was first used in Sigmund Freud’s paper “The Neuro-Psychoses of Defence” (1894).
Some of the major defense mechanisms described by psychoanalysts are the following:
1. Repression is the withdrawal from consciousness of an unwanted idea, affect, or desire by pushing it down, or repressing it, into the unconscious part of the mind. An example may be found in a case of hysterical amnesia, in which the victim has performed or witnessed some disturbing act and then completely forgotten the act itself and the circumstances surrounding it.
2. Reaction formation is the fixation in consciousness of an idea, affect, or desire that is opposite to a feared unconscious impulse. A mother who bears an unwanted child, for example, may react to her feelings of guilt for not wanting the child by becoming extremely solicitous and overprotective to convince both the child and herself that she is a good mother.
3. Projection is a form of defense in which unwanted feelings are displaced onto another person, where they then appear as a threat from the external world. A common form of projection occurs when an individual, threatened by his own angry feelings, accuses another of harbouring hostile thoughts.
4. Regression is a return to earlier stages of development and abandoned forms of gratification belonging to them, prompted by dangers or conflicts arising at one of the later stages. A young wife, for example, might retreat to the security of her parents’ home after her first quarrel with her husband.
5. Sublimation is the diversion or deflection of instinctual drives, usually sexual ones, into noninstinctual channels. Psychoanalytic theory holds that the energy invested in sexual impulses can be shifted to the pursuit of more acceptable and even socially valuable achievements, such as artistic or scientific endeavours.
6. Denial is the conscious refusal to perceive that painful facts exist. In denying latent feelings of homosexuality or hostility, or mental defects in one’s child, an individual can escape intolerable thoughts, feelings, or events.
7. Rationalization is the substitution of a safe and reasonable explanation for the true (but threatening) cause of behaviour.
Psychoanalysts emphasize that the use of a defense mechanism is a normal part of personality function and not in and of itself a sign of psychological disorder. Various psychological disorders, however, can be characterized by an excessive or rigid use of these defenses.
Essay on Sigmund Freud's Ego Defense Mechanisms
518 Words3 Pages
Sigmund Freud is perhaps one of the most well-known theorists in regards to the study of the human psyche. Freud’s model of the human psyche is comprised of three core elements: the Id, or the unconscious mind; things out of our awareness. The
Superego, or the subconscious mind, and finally the Ego, which lies between the unconscious and subconscious. Freud proposes that there are nine ego defense mechanisms that act the ego uses in its job as the mediator between the id and the superego. In psychoanalysis, an ego defense mechanism is an unconscious personality reaction that the ego uses to protect our conscious mind from threatening feelings or perceptions.
The ego defense mechanisms are as follows: denial, displacement,…show more content…
If I’m planning to do something but something else comes up, I may try and rationalize the decision by ‘putting down’ the other option – “weather is going to be bad”, “I didn’t really want to do that anyway”, or “I can always go later”. Another example is entertainment – movies, music, or activities; I may not like a certain type of film or genre of music, but when American pop-culture is rife with that type of music or movie, I’ll try and rationalize my association with such things as “everything in moderation” or “it’s fine, as long as I don’t indulge”. Displacement is another defense mechanism I’ve noticed. If I’m having a bad day or if I’m mad for one reason or another, I notice that I’d often take it out on undeserving people. Often I would use an angry tone with someone if I’d just been in an argument, as my anger has not yet subsided. As with everything, “everything in moderation”. I believe ego defense mechanisms are not completely unhealthy, and that using them to deal with some situations can prove to be beneficial in the development of our personality. However, if one relies primarily on ego defense mechanisms and refuses to deal with circumstances “head on”, they will develop problems later in life. In situations when one is undoubtedly guilty, it is impossible to rationalize or justify their actions or attitudes and hide behind unfounded explanations in