To live in social groups, we cannot act our sexual and aggressive impulses willy- nilly. We must control them. When the ego fears losing control of the inner war between the demands of the id and the super ego, the result is anxiety. Anxiety, said Freud, is the price we pay for civilization. Unlike specific fears, the dark cloud of anxiety is unfocused. Anxiety is therefore hard to cope with, as when we feel unsettled but are not sure why. Freud proposed that the ego protects itself against anxiety with ego defense mechanisms.
Defense mechanisms reduce or redirect anxiety in various ways, but always by distorting reality. These are the following defense mechanisms Displacement, Identification, Projection, Rationalization, Reaction Formation, Regression, Repression, and Sublimation. Identification. The process by which, according to Freud, children incorporate their parents’ values into their developing super egos. Example: My niece emulated her mother who used to be a nagger, when they were left for five days. This defense mechanism helps a person avoid self- devaluation. Repression.
This process banishes anxiety- arousing thoughts and feelings from consciousness. According to Freud, repression underlies the other defense mechanisms, all of which disguise threatening impulses and keep them from reaching consciousness. Freud believes that Repression explains why we do not remember our childhood lust for our parents of other sex. However, he also believed that repression is often incomplete, with repressed urges seeping out in dream symbols and slips of the tongue. Example: A woman, who got raped by five men, becomes amnesic about the events surrounding the accident.
This defense mechanism protects a person from traumatic experience until he or she has the resources to cope. Regression. We also cope anxiety through regression- retreating to an earlier, more infantile stage of development where some of our psychic energies still fixate. In psychoanalytic theory, an individual’s retreat, when faced with anxiety, to a more infantile psychosexual stage. Example: I sometimes throw a temper tantrum when I do not get on my own way. This defense mechanism allows a person to return to a point in development when nurturing and dependency were needed and accepted with comfort. Reaction Formation.
In psychoanalytic theory, a defense mechanism by which the ego unconsciously switches unacceptable impulses into their opposites. Thus, people may express feelings that are the opposite of their anxiety- arousing unconscious feelings. En route to consciousness, the unacceptable proposition “I Hate Him” becomes “I Love Him. ” Timidity becomes daring. Feelings of inadequacy become bravado. According to the principle behind this defense mechanism, vehement social crusaders, such as those who urgently campaign against gay rights, may be motivated by the very sexual desires against which they are crusading. Example:
The professor’s in the University refutes the new policies of the institution but voiced out to support whatever the university has decided. This defense mechanism aids in reinforcing repression by allowing feelings to be acted out in a more acceptable way. Projection. In psychoanalytic theory, the defense mechanism by which people disguise their own threatening impulses by attributing them to others. A process in which blame is attached to others or the environment for unacceptable desires, thoughts, shortcomings, and mistakes. Example: The dance team loses in the competition, so their instructor blamed the judges for biases.
This defense mechanism allows a person to deny the existence of shortcomings and mistakes; protects self- image. Rationalization. In psychoanalytic theory, a defense mechanism that offers self- justifying explanations in place of the real, more threatening, unconscious reasons for one’s actions. Example: A student who plagiarizes a paper may excuse the behavior by saying that the teacher’s assignments were unreasonable, and anyway, everybody does it. This defense mechanism helps a person cope with the inability to meet goals or certain standards.
Displacement. In psychoanalytic theory, the defense mechanism that shifts sexual or aggressive impulses towards a more acceptable or less threatening object or person, as when redirecting anger toward a safer outlet. Example: A man who has been treated unfairly at work by a superior may take his anger and frustration out on his children. The associative link involves his dual roles as inferior in the first instance, superior in the second. This defense mechanism allows for feelings to be expressed through or to less dangerous objects or people. Sublimation.
In psychoanalytic theory, the defense mechanism by which people rechannel their unacceptable impulses into socially approved activities. Example: An adolescent takes up horseback riding as a substitute for exaggerated sexual desires. This defense mechanism protects a person from behaving in irrational, impulsive ways.
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