There are supposedly as many as 31 defense mechanisms in psychology and the truth is that there are basically only 4 which are an excuse, denial, blame, and compensation. There are also combinations of two or more simultaneously such as denial and compensation which can be considered to be a multiple defense mechanism.
Repression is the most controversial defense mechanism since it is supposedly a conscious desire to suppress a painful, unpleasant, or traumatic event in our lives. The very conscious attempt at trying to forget actually reinforces the ability of the brain to remember the incident so conscious repression is really not chemically or mentally possible in the first place. Whether the incident was painful or pleasurable we can’t repress the memory consciously and it really has to fade in our memories through enough elapsed time which causes forgetting pure and simple. Repression is a mythical defense mechanism which has no validity in reality and is just a form of a conscious form of attempted but failed denial.
According to psychologists denial is supposedly an unconscious rejection of an unpleasant event or idea when in fact it is an impulsive rejection of any event whether pleasant or unpleasant. Denying that you will die of cancer or denying that you will have a good time while visiting the Sahara desert is an impulsive opinion which clashes or is different than reality or what existence really is. Denial is conscious or unconscious and there is no fundamental difference in what it really is or pure denial.
Suppression: n. trying to exclude an anxiety producing subset(s) from awareness. Not wanting to talk about a recent divorce or not wanting to think about a good event thinking that it is too good to be true and therefore not wanting to think about it is an attempt at denial which may not succeed all the time. Suppression is really a form of denial or not wanting to think about or deal with a good or bad situation for the time being or trying to deny thoughts for duration.
Rationalization is just an excuse for a behavior whether it is rational or irrational. You can defend a behavior of getting a C on a test by either saying that you didn’t spend enough time studying which is probably true or lying that the teacher asked stupid questions thus lying and blaming the teacher somewhat irrationally. Any excuse is either rational or irrational, either the truth or a lie, and either reality or a fiction. Yes, there is partial rationality, partial truths, and partial realities which are combinations of the two extremes or antonyms. A rationalization is really just an excuse with all its possible combinations. There are scientific excuses which are just proven concepts using the scientific method. Yes, you can have a scientific excuse or a nonscientific excuse for doing or thinking something.
Intellectualization is assessing a situation without any associated emotions being present. A wife may have dented a fender and feel no guilt or a wife may feel a son’s death by cancer was merciful and feel no sadness or anger. Intellectualization is really accepting a subset(s) or event(s) and suppressing the stereotypic or common feelings or emotions associated with the subset(s). You could consider intellectualization as really being a denial of emotional counterparts for an event(s).
Identification is the conscious and/or impulsive attempt at imitating a respected human. There is really a question as to whether this is really a defense mechanism because what are you really defending against? Imitation is not defending yourself against anything but rather trying to be like someone else and you may in fact not be defending yourself against some imagined inadequacy or lack of ability. If you do have some inadequacy or lack of ability then you are perhaps just trying to compensate for your weakness(s).
Introjection is really a form of compensation where you are imitating the attitudes and behaviors of someone else and making them your own so you feel better about yourself or feel more important thus feeding your ego. A psychiatric patient analyzing other patients like a psychiatrist and a daughter disciplining like her mother is really an imitation of someone else done in a conscious or impulsive way.
Reaction formation is a conscious behavior which seems to run contrary to the actual feelings or emotions felt for a human. It would seem to make sense that if you hate or don’t like someone then you would not send them any gifts or lie and say that you like or love them to others. Some humans are capable of this form of dissonant behavior and it is called reaction formation which may be considered to be denial or a defense mechanism which tries to hide or lie about your true feelings in public about a human.
Sublimation is the diversion of energy from an immediate sexual and/or biological impulse to a more acceptable social goal(s). Aggressive or violent tendencies in a human may be diverted from actual violence on a human to participation in an aggressive sport, competitive game, or a violent video game or movies. A desire to have sex with an actual human may be diverted to masturbation, pornography, or just working hard. Hyperactive or very energetic individuals may use exercise or hard physical labor as a way to work off some of that extra biological energy. Sublimation can be thought of as defending yourself from unacceptable behavior by doing something else instead or compensating for a weakness perceived as an unacceptable urge by doing something acceptable and a strength.
Displacement is discharging pent up feelings on a less threatening subset(s). Instead of yelling at the boss you may wait until you get home and yell at your spouse. A psychiatric patient may pick a fight with another patient after being told by the psychiatrist that she may not have an 8 hour pass to leave. Displacement is really a form of compensation where you feel weak or inappropriate thus suppressing your feelings for a duration and then expressing them at some point in the future and showing strength although not always appropriate for the occasion.
Projection is really blaming someone else for your bad behavior or bad thinking. It is really blaming and considering the action a personal excuse or justification for your behavior. Projection is really a form of lying about the contributory cause of your bad behavior and/or thoughts and lying that it was someone else’s fault. Defense mechanisms are sometimes real or imagined excuses and sometimes outright intentional or unintentional lies about your behavior and/or thoughts.
Conversion is the psychic stress manifesting itself as a physical symptom. A husbands impotence after discovery of his infidelity or a physical paralysis of a body part or blindness after psychological trauma are examples of conversion. Conversion can be thought of as an unconscious reaction of the body to a conscious psychological extreme stress. Conversion is not a defense mechanism but an example of the body malfunctioning under extreme psychic stress. If it is a defense mechanism then the body is not doing a very good job of defending itself.
Undoing is really compensating for doing and/or thinking something wrong or bad. A mother may make a son’s favorite cookies after disciplining him rather harshly or a human may have violent thoughts and be especially nice to the human being affected after the thoughts subside. It can be thought of as a defense mechanism to avoid continuing feelings of guilt or compensating for feelings of guilt.
Dissociation is ignoring a usually very unpleasant event(s) which you don’t want to think about or make a decision about. An example may be saying that he meant well after a husband spends money unwisely or ignoring abusive statements or behavior in an abusive relationship because we don’t like the bad feelings which the behavior is trying to cause. Dissociation is really a form of denial of a usually traumatic event(s) which we would rather forget if given the choice and our own personal excuse for it.
Regression is a return to a former level of development or a childlike state such as a human assuming the fetal position in his room after admitting to being responsible for bad behavior or a college student going to bed with a teddy bear as a security blanket. It is really debatable whether a human can really regress to a childlike state which is really just doing something in a childlike way again and not really assuming a childlike state with very many childlike behaviors which a state implies.
Acting out is supposedly a unique defense mechanism. A person may want to curse after falling over in a busy street, but the ego, perceiving this as contradicting social etiquette, will often lead to them holding back on the expletives. This is really just a denial of an impulse. On some occasions, however, we may not be able to balance our impulses and will defend the ego by simply acting out the irrational desires.
For example a person might “act out” by theatrically storming out of a stressful meeting when they would otherwise stay calm and hide their unease. This is really an example of compensation where you are compensating for extreme stress by storming out physically.
Anticipation is supposedly a unique defense mechanism. The anticipation of a potentially stressful event is one way a person might mentally prepare for it. Anticipation might involve rehearsing possible outcomes in one’s mind or telling oneself that it will not be as bad as they imagine. A person with a phobia of dentists might anticipate an appointment to have a tooth filling by telling themselves that the procedure will be over in just a few minutes, and reminding themselves that they have had one previously without any problems. Anticipation is really an example of compensation or compensating for anxiety by mentally convincing yourself that the source of the anxiety is really not as bad as it seems.
An act of goodwill towards another person, known as altruistic behavior, can be used as a way of diffusing a potentially anxious situation. Altruism supposedly may be used as a defense mechanism, for example, by being particularly helpful to a person who we feel might dislike us or neutralizing an argument with kind words and positivity. This is really compensating for our bad feelings or bad impressions by being kind and positive towards someone hoping that they will be more positive towards us or return the favor.
Avoidance seems to be a unique defense mechanism but it is not. When a perceived situation creates anxiety, one convenient option is sometimes to avoid it. Although avoidance can provide an escape from a particular event, it neglects to deal with the cause of the anxiety. For example, a person might know that they are due to give a stressful presentation to colleagues at work, and take a sick day in order to avoid giving it. Avoidance in this situation might be only a short term option, however, if the presentation is rescheduled to another day. Someone may also avoid thinking about something which causes anxiety, preferring to leave it unresolved instead of confronting it. Avoidance is usually a temporary denial of an unpleasant situation or circumstance and trying to compensate for anxiety by effectively moving or running away from the source of the anxiety.
Fantasy for some mundane and distressed humans is just trying to deny reality and compensating for a bad situation with pleasant or good unrealistic thoughts. Fantasy is not a unique defense mechanism.
Humor can be sued as an adaptive technique to help us to cope with tense or stressful situations. Looking for a funny aspect in an environment in which we lack control can help us to endure it, and can even be an altruistic act in helping other to better cope as well. Humor is sometimes used as a personal partial denial of a bad or good situation or event(s) and compensating for anxiety by joking about the anxiety causing event(s).
Showing humility involves lowering our expectations and view of our self importance, sacrificing our pride and often focusing on others. Humility can enable us to pacify those around us in tense conflicts and encourage cooperation with other people to take place. For example, someone who is known to boast about their abilities may show humility whilst trying to complete a difficult task. This might encourage others to empathize with, and help, them. Humility is really denying ourselves excessive pride and is not a unique defense mechanism.
Idealization involves creating an ideal impression of a person, place or object by emphasizing their positive qualities and neglecting those that are negative. Idealization adjusts the way in which we perceive the world around us and can lead us to make judgements that support our idealized concepts. People often idealize their recollections of being on holiday or memories from childhood, seeing them as “happier times”, but fail to recollect arguments or stresses during those periods. We often idealize the image we hold of people we admire – relatives, partners or celebrities, making excuses for their failures and emphasizing their more admirable qualities. Idealization is really a largely unconscious partial denial of reality or it is more like an absolutist way of thinking.
A passive aggressive person may be uncooperative in carrying out their duties or other tasks, may deliberately ignore someone when spoken to and might adopt a negative view of their situation, such as their job, and of those around them such as colleagues. Passive aggression is a denial of personal physical and/or verbal aggression and compensating for the unsocial tendency with other dysfunctional behaviors.
The self serving bias arises from our need to protect the ego from self criticism and to defend ourselves from the complaints of others. We show a self serving bias when we exaggerate the importance of our own achievements – after passing a test, we might over-estimate the significance of that particular exam, and take credit for completing it without acknowledging the role that tutors played in our success. Similarly, when faced with potential criticism we might deflect blame, apportioning responsibility for failure to anybody but ourselves. Whilst many of us show signs of this self serving bias, it can be an ineffective method of defense as it distorts our view of reality and our ability to rationalize and interpret events effectively. Self serving bias is really a partial denial of reality by exaggerating our abilities, making excuses for our behavior, or blaming others.
Social comparison is supposedly a defense mechanism used sometimes. When people feel that they have been victims of unjust actions, they may defend the ego by comparing themselves to those worse off. Similarly, we may se similarities between ourselves and others in a better position to improve our self image. These defense mechanisms are known as download or upward social comparisons. For example, a man who has broken a leg and is confined to a wheelchair may make a downwards social comparison with a person who has been diagnosed with a more serious condition to make their own situation seem less troublesome. Alternatively, a person might seek to identify with a person of a perceived higher social position, such as when they learn that a celebrity is eating at the same restaurant as they are. These social comparisons are sometimes really a denial of personal injustice and trying to compensate for the injustice by thinking about more pleasant social comparisons which feed our ego.
Splitting is really not a defense mechanism but merely someone trying to think of the world in absolutist terms of black or white, yes or no, good or bad, right or wrong, and either or. This approach stems from ignorance and is a lazy and stupid way of looking at the world and not a defense mechanism.
Wishful thinking is not a unique defense mechanism. Rather it is an attempt at denying reality and compensating for the distressing realities with unrealistic wishes.
Excuse: v. to attempt to (delay and/or escape) and/or avoid a subset(s) and/or to attempt to subtract blame for an (unfulfilled promise and/or mistake) and/or offense and trying to defend and/or justify the action(s) and/or inaction(s) with a real valid reason and/or lie
Deny: v. to refuse acknowledgement of the truth of a subset(s) and/or to refuse a request
Blame: v. to judge responsibility for a (mistake(s) and/or wrong(s) and/or (injustice(s) and/or immorality(s)) and/or bad circumstance(s)
Compensate: v. to give and/or to do to someone and/or to oneself a subset(s) such as money and/or a behavior(s) in recognition of loss and/or suffering and/or injury incurred note: psychologically that subset(s) may be a thought(s) and/or word(s) and/or behavior(s) that you have or demonstrate.
A defense mechanism or a defense of yourself happens by making an excuse for or denying that a thought and/or behavior existed or exists. Sometimes you defend yourself by trying to compensate for doing and/or thinking something bad and/or wrong. Sometimes you try to defend yourself by blaming someone else for your bad behavior and/or thoughts.
An excuse may be real or imagined and if it is imagined then you are intentionally or unintentionally lying to yourself or others about the thought and/or behavior. In a nutshell all defense mechanisms are either and excuse, denial, blame, and/or compensation.
Trying to stereotype a handful of behaviors and giving them a fancy name all classified as a defense mechanism is misleading the public and perpetuating psychological unproven myths. It is time to rethink psychological defense mechanisms and simplify them to what they really are and not what they should be with misguided historical intellectualization.
Thoughts and/or behaviors are either intentional or unintentional and they can be either real or imagined. In the process of defending ourselves we often do so intentionally or unintentionally and we do so with a firm grip on reality or we descend into an imaginary world of thoughts and/or behaviors which are really lies about reality as it exists. We sometimes lie to ourselves and lie to others either intentionally or unintentionally trying to defend ourselves and this is ultimately the cause of so much psychological stress and trauma in the real world.
Our subconscious brain processes these basic four defense mechanisms and when we impulsively make an excuse, deny, blame, and/or compensate the origins of the defense mechanisms are the subconscious sometimes modified by a conscious defense too.
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