Written October 28, 2016
The major defense mechanisms are repression, rationalization, projection, reaction formation, sublimation, displacement, denial, and compensation. These defense mechanisms can be good and bad. They can be good because they are a way of avoiding anxiety or guilt for a short time. They can be bad because it prevents people from dealing with the source of the problem at the given time and putting it off may be worse in the long run. I believe that most, if not all, people have used one of these defense mechanisms at some point in their lives.
The first type of defense mechanism is called repression. Repression is the act of unconsciously pushing bad memories out of one’s mind. In some cases, people have been known to experience memory loss due to repression. These bad memories can include things that are threatening urges or ideas from conscious awareness. An example of repression would be a someone that was abused as a child and having no memory of being abused yet subconsciously has difficulty forming relationships.
The next type of defense mechanism is rationalization. This involves a person trying to make actions seem reasonable. Some people can interpret rationalization as making up excuses for one’s mistakes. An example of rationalization would be spanking a child and claiming that it is good for them. It may sound rational to some, but it is not the real reason for spanking a child and therefore makes it rationalization.
Projection is another form of unconscious defense. It involves a person placing their own thoughts onto another person. Personally, I feel that this form of defense could do a lot more harm than good. It has a lot of protentional to ruin current relationships or hinder the creation of new relationships. An example of projection would be claiming that a person hates you rather than stating you hate that person.
Another type of defense is reaction formation. This is when a person acts the complete opposite way of how they really feel. A good example of this would be observing crushes in children. Young children, when they form a crush on another child, tend to act mean towards that person rather than just expressing how they feel. I personally believe that this is a way of preventing yourself from getting hurt by showing someone your vulnerable side.
Sublimation is a form of defense because it is the unconscious conversion of unacceptable impulses into socially acceptable actions. In other words, it’s a way of expressing bad impulses in positive ways. For example, one may turn to art or sports if they feel sexual or aggressive impulses rather than acting on their original impulses. Sublimation is something that I have personally never experienced, but it sounds like a good defense mechanism rather than actually acting on one’s impulses.
The next form of defense is called displacement. Displacement is when someone deflects an impulse from the original target to a less threatening one. I find that this one could also be very dangerous. An example of displacement is when you get mad at your boss. Because it is your boss, you cannot lash out at them directly. Displacement is when you take that anger and project it onto your family, friends or pet(s).
Another form of unconscious defense is denial. It is when a person just stops an impulse. It sounds like it would be very difficult to just stop desiring something. An example of denial is getting asked if you have romantic feelings for someone. Rather than admitting it, you would just flat out claim that you have not even the slightest interest in that person. I feel that denial can relate to reaction formation, as it is acting/claiming one thing when you actually feel the complete opposite.
The last form of defense is called compensation. Compensation is when one strives to make up for an unconscious impulse or fear. One example of compensation would be one acting extremely competitive in the workplace due to feeling inferior. I also feel that, in a workplace or in school, this is very common.
Personally, I have experienced a lot of these defense mechanisms in one way or another. I have specifically experienced denial a lot in the more recent years. In order to avoid feeling anxious (as I do have a bad anxiety disorder), I started to completely deny things about myself despite knowing otherwise that it was true. I would deny symptoms of my anxiety and depression for years until I couldn’t ignore them any longer.