What Are Defense Mechanisms?

The psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud suggested that people should use defense mechanisms to avoid uncomfortable feelings and emotions. Rationalization, defined in the DSM as an acceptable and logical explanation for an action or decision caused by an unconscious impulse, is used by the ego as a defense mechanism for participating medical students.

This application involves a person not recognizing the reality of a stressful situation to protect themselves from overwhelming fear and anxiety. Defense mechanisms can be useful in certain situations, but they can also cause people to diminish or not recognize the importance of their own feelings and emotions. For example, a person who reacts in this manner may feel that negative emotions such as anger or frustration cannot express themselves.

In most cases, the behavior by which people distinguish themselves from unpleasant events, actions, or thoughts is not something the person is aware of or in control of. Negative emotional feelings after a separation can manifest in a way that the person does not even perceive.

Reaction formation involves action that contradicts the unacceptable or fear-inducing thoughts or feelings that arise. A person who uses the reaction formation as a defense mechanism can begin to exhibit conscious behavior to compensate for the fear they feel about unconscious thoughts or emotions that they find unacceptable.

Defense mechanisms are psychological strategies to protect a person from fears arising from unacceptable thoughts and feelings. Defense mechanisms are a way of seeing how people distance themselves from unpleasant thoughts, feelings, or behaviors. The behaviors that people use to distinguish themselves from unpleasant events, actions, or thoughts help to create a distance between themselves and the threat of undesirable feelings like guilt or shame.

Defense mechanisms are unconscious psychological reactions that protect people from feelings of fear, threats to their self-esteem, and things they do not think about or want to deal with. We use defense mechanisms to protect ourselves from feelings such as fear and guilt that arise when we feel threatened or when our ID or super-ego is overwhelmed.

In the field of psychology and psychodynamic theory, psychologists speak of defense mechanisms as the way a person acts or thinks to protect and defend his or her inner self, personality and self-image. In summary, a defense mechanism is a mental function that responds to perceptions that originate in the self and the outside world, collide with personal desires or feelings, or are incompatible with open or concealed views of the self.

This was used in his psychoanalytic theory of defense mechanisms by Sigmund Freud as a tactic developed by the ego to protect against fear. The purpose of the ego defense mechanism is to protect the mind and self (ego) from fear and social sanctions and to provide refuge in situations that cannot be managed alone. The ego defense mechanism is natural and normal, but it gets out of proportion and is used with the frequency with which neuroses arise, such as anxiety, phobias, obsessions, and hysteria.

Healthy people use different defense mechanisms throughout their lives. During childhood, adolescence, and adulthood, psychological defense mechanisms develop that persist from one phase to the next or revert to earlier stages in response to stressors. Many adults use less primitive defenses and while they may be fine for many, they are not the ideal way to deal with our feelings of stress and anxiety. Defense mechanisms also exist for those who steal money, who feel justified in doing so because they need the money more than the person they steal it from.

Projection means that one person accuses another of having thoughts and feelings that he or she has had. Projection aims to reduce tension by attributing unacceptable thoughts, feelings, and impulses emanating from the self to another person. Projection reduces fears by allowing the expression of undesirable impulses and desires without being aware of them, and by attributing to the collected self its own unacknowledged, unacceptable, and undesirable thoughts and emotions (including severe prejudice, jealousy, hypervigilance to external dangers and injustices) with the aim of shifting its unacceptable thoughts and feelings and impulses to be perceived by the other.

The experience of child regression occurs when one falls back into an early stage of maturity or development and is confronted with a situation that causes anxiety or the person feels threatened.

Kernberg considered the use of primitive defense mechanisms to be central to personality organization. In his writings Sigmund Freud (1894-1896) mentioned a number of defensive measures; his daughter Anna Freud (1936) developed this idea further and added ten of her own.

Displacement is the redirection of thoughts, feelings, and impulses from one person or object to another person, object, or something else. When we no longer feel close to the person we feel bad about, we feel a bit more secure after retreating to our defense mechanism to cover up the deep feelings that have been fueled. This is an ineffective defense mechanism, because anger finds a different way of expressing itself, and applying it incorrectly to other harmless persons or objects creates additional problems for most people.

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