The idiots guide to the prior idiots phenomenon
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Defense mechanisms are a part of our everyday life. Even if you're not a by or training, you've got to admit that there's something to be said for the idea that everyone engages in some form of at least some of the time. The question is—can you detect the form of deception that you, your friends, colleagues, and family are using at any given moment? We'll take a look at the 9 most common defense mechanisms but first, let's set the record straight on two counts. First, it was a Freud, but not Sigmund, who defined the defense mechanisms. They also protect you from the of confronting your weaknesses and foibles. You can now add these two points to the 25 surprising facts about psychology I wrote about in an. When you use denial, you simply refuse to accept the truth or reality of a fact or experience. Denial may also be used by and may even be a beneficial initial protective response. In the long run, however, denial can prevent you from incorporating unpleasant information about yourself and your life and have potentially destructive consequences. One step above denial in the generic classification scheme, repression involves simply forgetting something bad. You might forget an unpleasant experience, in the past, such as a car accident at which you were found to be at fault. Repression, like denial, can be temporarily beneficial, particularly if you've forgotten something bad that happened to you, but as with denial, if you don't come to grips with the experience it may come back to haunt you. However, every once in a while, a person either reverts back to a childlike state of development. That road rage you see when drivers are stuck in traffic is a great example of regression. People may also show regression when they return to a child-like state of dependency. Retreating under the blankets when you've had a bad day is one possible instance. The problem with regression is that you may regret letting your childish self show in a self-destructive way. Driving badly or refusing to talk to people who've made you feel bad, mad, or sad can eventually get you in worse trouble than what you had when you began. In displacement you transfer your original feelings that would get you in trouble usually away from the person who is the target of your rage to a more hapless and harmless victim. Here's the classic example: You've had a very unpleasant interaction with your boss or teacher, but you can't show your anger toward him or her. That's not very nice imagery, but you get the picture. Any time you shift your true feelings from their original, anxiety-provoking, source to one you perceive as less likely to cause you harm, you're quite possibly using displacement. Unfortunately, displacement may protect you from being fired or failing a class, but it won't protect your hand if you decide to displace your anger from the true target to a window or wall. The first four defense mechanisms were relatively easy to understand. Projection is more challenging. First, you have to start with the assumption that to recognize a particular quality in yourself would cause you psychic pain. Let's take a kind of silly example. For instance, you feel that an outfit you spent too much on looks really bad on you. Wearing this outfit, you walk into the room where your friends stare at you perhaps for a moment too long in your opinion. They say nothing and do nothing that in reality could be construed as critical. Don't you like this outfit? In a less silly case, you might project your more general feelings of or insecurity onto friends—or worse—people who don't know and you with all your projected flaws. Let's say you're worried that you're not really very smart. You make a dumb mistake that no one says anything about at all, and accuse others of saying that you're dumb, inferior, or just plain stupid. The point is that no one said anything that in reality could be construed as critical. Now we're getting into advanced defense mechanism territory. Most people have difficulty reaction formation, but it's really quite straightforward. Let's say that you secretly harbor lustful feelings toward someone you should probably stay away from. You don't want to admit to these feelings, so you instead express the very opposite of those feelings. This object of your lust now becomes the object of your bitter hatred. Her secret obsession with became reversed into her extreme scorn for all things sexual. In short, reaction formation means expressing the opposite of your inner feelings in your outward behavior. You might also neutralize your feelings of anxiety, anger, or insecurity in a way that is less likely to lead to embarrassing moments than some of the above defense mechanisms. In intellectualization, you think away an emotion or reaction that you don't enjoy feeling. For instance, rather than confront the intense distress and rejection you feel after your roommate suddenly decides to move out, you conduct a detailed financial analysis of how much you can afford to spend now that you're on your own. Although you aren't denying that the event occurred, you're not thinking about its emotional consequences. When you rationalize something, you try to explain it away. As a defense mechanism, rationalization is somewhat like intellectualization, but it involves dealing with a piece of bad behavior on your part rather than converting a painful or negative emotion into a more neutral set of thoughts. People often use rationalization to shore up their insecurities or remorse after doing something they regret such as an. It's easier to blame someone else than to take the heat yourself, particularly if you would otherwise feel shame or. For example, let's say you lose your temper in front of people you want to like and respect you. Now, to help make yourself feel better, you mentally attribute your outburst to a situation outside your control, and twist things so that you can blame someone else for provoking you. We've just seen that people can use their emotions to fire up a cognitively-oriented response. Intellectualization tends to occur over the short run, but sublimation develops over a long period of time, perhaps even throughout the course of a person's. This is perhaps putting things in terms that are too extreme. More realistically, sublimation occurs when people transform their conflicted emotions into productive outlets. They do say that psychologists are inherently nosy not true!! In short, defense mechanisms are one of our commonest ways to cope with unpleasant emotions. Although Freud and many of his followers believed that we use them to combat sexual or aggressive feelings, defense mechanisms apply to a wide range of reactions from anxiety to insecurity. Which defense mechanism is most adaptive? According to research by George Vaillant, people who use these defense mechanisms more often than the others tend to experience better family relationships and work lives. You may never rid yourself of all your defense mechanisms, but at least you can grow from understanding what they can, and cannot, do for you. Follow me on swhitbo for daily updates on psychology, , and and please check out my website, where you can get additional information, self-tests, and links. Copyright 2011 Susan Krauss Whitbourne Ph. If you are interested in reading general references about defense mechanisms, you can check out these interesting and recent sources: Kramer, U. Coping and defence mechanisms: What's the difference? Psychology and : Theory, Research and Practice, 83 2 , 207-221. Psychopathology, defence mechanisms, and the psychosocial work environment. International Journal of Social , 56 6 , 563-577. Addressing and interpreting defense mechanisms in psychotherapy: General considerations. Psychiatry: Interpersonal and Biological Processes, 74 2 , 142-165. They will complain about how angry everyone they encounter appears to be, while denying that they themselves have any anger at all. It's everyone else who is acting that way. I've only learned about psychology informally thru magazines and the web, but another form of projection that I've noticed, espcially in my own family, is ascribing positive personality traits to someone that hasn't elicited the behaviors that warrant the traits. In the same way that a negative emotion like anger can be projected to deflect it from yourself, I believe a positive emotion like love can be reflected onto someone to obscure his character. Was looking for a quick list, but one that had depth. Lots to learn here. I host a personal growth show, and created an entire episode around it. I don't want to spam the comments, so I won't mention the show here. But I did want to say Thank You Susan! It also felt really personable rather than clinical. It seems like something that just about anyone could read and understand. The real life examples provided with each defense mechanism are very helpful. It is one thing to have a textbook definition of something, but being provided with a realistic, relatable example makes it all the more easier to identify when we are using these mechanisms in every day life. And when we can identify them, we can better pinpoint why we react in different ways. I think that is a crucial step in not being ruled by our defense mechanisms. I wish there would have been a little more information on projection, but I really like how you highlighted that projection is often rooted in our own perceptions of a situation and feelings rather than the actions of others. Thank you for taking the time to write this article! I also appreciate that it felt very personal rather than clinical. I think it is an article that anyone could read and understand. The real life examples that you provided with each defense mechanism is very helpful. It is one thing to have a textbook definition of something, but it is so much easier to understand something when you can clearly relate it to every day life experiences. Reading this article was actually the first time I had every heard of intellectualization, so I am glad you included that in your list. I think I would have liked to hear a little bit more about projection, but I like that you pointed out that projection is about the feelings and perceptions of the individual who is projecting rather than the actions of others. Thank you so much for writing this article! I also use repression and projection to the degree you described it imagining others think of me what I think of myself and very occasionally regression last resort coping mechanism, everything else needs to fail first but I am virtually incapable of coping with the shame of childlikeness - apart from to see it as 'very interesting' I start pondering to myself how complex the mind is and how incredibly powerful merely psychic processes can be etc, which reduces the shame momentarily so this is probably why it's my last resort. If I intellectualise a lot and this is apparently a 'mature' mechanism... I never phisically abuse her though. She drives me crazy with her neediness. What does this tell about my personality and inner issues? Would be so important for me to understand. I have no boss or other people who put me down. But my personal life is a mess. Curious though is there a difference or such a thing as Ego and Feeling Defense mechanisms? Other than the original reference which referred to Ego and Feeling Defense mechanisms, I can find no reference making the two separate. Would appreciate your thoughts and input on the two being separate. My spouse and I practice very detrimental defense mechanisms. My spouse often regresses by using a blanket or just stops talking to me. If I mention something my spouse is doing that is hurtful towards me, I get total denial and I am accused of attacking them, heaven forbid they made a mistake by hurting my feelings, oh no they are just too perfect to make mistakes. My spouse was sexually abused and often makes comments about detesting sex, but I catch them looking at photos of provocative women explained in reaction formation. After my spouse tries to rationalize their behavior and often denies everything. My defense mechanism is often denial and projection and I regress by withdrawing from my spouse completely, providing no communication! While reading through, I was comparing the notes I took today in my Personality class. Our professor lectured over each of your key points, except for intellectualization and sublimination. While he covered the topics as a whole, you thoroughly explained each concept and helped me to create a better understanding of them. For instance, while our Prof. I learned that when we shift our feelings, we shift them to a target that is less intimidating to us. This article does a great job of explaining the different defense mechanisms and giving examples that are easy to understand and apply. Of all the defense mechanisms, I didn't think the one that I use the most would be Regression. It seems to be one of the more childish mechanisms, and I don't consider myself to be a childish person. I also am the kind of person that will refuse to talk to others when they upset me. This article was very interesting and I'm definitely going to think more about which defense mechanisms I'm using in certain situations.