What is a Defense Mechanism?
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What is a Defense Mechanism?

defense mechanism

Whenever an individual suffers from threatening or difficult emotion, they tend to protect themselves by using defense mechanisms. Defense mechanisms are some unconscious strategies that an individual use to protect themselves. These unconscious mechanisms help our mind to cope with the feeling of stress and anxiety in a healthy way. The father of modern psychology and a psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud developed the idea of defense mechanisms as a way to understand human behavior. 

There are eight types of defense mechanisms
A. Denial:

This is a defense mechanism that involves refusing to accept reality. Denial can be adaptive in the short term, helping us to cope with difficult situations, and can be done by ignoring or denying the existence of a situation. However, if it is used excessively or in unhealthy ways, it can lead to problems in our lives.

For example

  • A person who has been diagnosed with a major illness may deny that they are sick.
  • A person who has been cheated on by their partner may deny that the cheating happened.
B. Distortion:

This involves changing the way we perceive reality. This can be done by exaggerating or minimizing the importance of certain events, or by reinterpreting them in a way that is more comfortable for us. This can be short-term, helping us to deal with stress and anxiety. It can impact our mental health if used in an unhealthy manner.

For example

  • Exaggeration: A person who is feeling insecure about their appearance may exaggerate their flaws and minimize their strengths.
  • Minimization: A person who is feeling guilty about something they have done may minimize the importance of their actions and convince themselves that they are not a bad person.
C. Projection:

It involves a person accusing someone else of having thoughts or feelings that they themselves are having. It can be a way of avoiding unwanted thoughts or feelings.

For example

  • A person who is feeling angry may accuse someone else of being angry.
  • A person who is feeling jealous may accuse someone else of being jealous.
D. Disassociation:

When an individual disconnect themselves from their thoughts, feelings emotions, identity, and memories they are using a disassociation defense mechanism. It is used when someone has a traumatic memory and experience.

For example

  • You may have gaps in your memory of a traumatic event. For example, you may not remember how you got to the hospital after being in a car accident.
  • You may have memories of the event, but they may feel like they are not your own. For example, you may feel like you are watching the event happen from a distance, or that you are not really in control of your thoughts or actions.
E. Repression:

It involves the repression of unwanted feelings, thoughts, and emotions in the unconscious mind to avoid dealing with them. With this, a person can block the painful feelings or situations where they experience them.

For example

  • A person who is facing a terminal illness may repress the knowledge of their own mortality.
  • someone witnessing a traumatic accident as a child. As an adult, they can’t consciously recall the event, but they experience intense anxiety near accident scenes, revealing the repressed memory’s emotional impact.
F. Reaction formation:

It involves expressing the opposite of an unwanted or anxiety-provoking thought or feeling. It is a way of protecting ourselves from difficult or threatening emotions by expressing them in a way that is more acceptable to us or to others.

For example

  •  A person who is feeling angry may express excessive love or affection.
  • A person who is feeling jealous may express excessive concern for the well-being of the person they are jealous of.
G. Displacement:

Redirecting the emotion and thoughts from the original source to a less threatening one.

For example

  • A person who is angry with their boss may take their anger out on their spouse or child.
  • A person who is feeling insecure about their appearance may make fun of someone else’s appearance.
H. Intellectualization:

It involves emphasizing facts that are logical, rational, and rational to avoid uncomfortable situations.

For example

  • A person who is grieving the loss of a loved one may focus on the practical aspects of the funeral and ignore their feelings of sadness.
Tips for healthy Defense mechanism

If you know about your defense mechanism it is important to use this defense mechanism in a healthy way. Following are some tips for healthy defense mechanisms-

  • Accept your emotions
  • Name your emotions
  • Express emotions in a healthy way
  • Positive self-talk
  • Exercise
  • Meditation

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