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What Is Defense Mechanism In Psychology

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The Top 10 Most Common Psychological Defense Mechanisms

What are Psychological Defence mechanisms?

Psychologists have categorized defense mechanisms based on a scale of how primitive they are. The more primitive the defense mechanism, the less effective they are for the individual in the long-term. Primitive defense mechanisms are typically very effective in the short term, thats why they are favored by many people, especially children. Adults who never learn more effective and healthy coping strategies may also rely on these primitive defense mechanisms as well.

Since Freuds initial work on the subject, many more types of defense mechanisms have been identified but the following 10 have been shown to be the most commonly exhibited by people.

The Language Of Our Defense System

According to Robert and Lisa Firestone, we all have an internal dialogue or critical inner voice that acts as the language of our defense system. This voice is like a sadistic inner coach that encourages us to retreat from goal-directed activities, cut off our feelings, and create distance from other people. It isolates us by encouraging cynical attitudes toward others and self-hating thoughts toward ourselves.

The critical inner voice is not an auditory hallucination but is typically experienced as negative thoughts or commentary that seamlessly weave into our day and frequently ruin our mood. For instance, during a meeting, we may think to ourselves, Just keep quiet. No one wants to hear what you have to say. On a first date, it may make us self-conscious with thoughts like, You sound so stupid. What is wrong with you?

In addition to critiquing us, our inner critic can also sound seductive or soothing. Just have another drink. It will help you relax. You should spend the night at home. Theres no need to go to that party and feel awkward the whole time. Later, this same voice will attack us with thoughts like, You said that you werent going to drink and failed yet again. Youre pathetic! You stayed home again and have no friends. What a loser!

You can learn more about challenging your critical inner voice here.

What Is Regression Defense Mechanism

Regression From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Regression , according to psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, is a defense mechanism leading to the temporary or long-term reversion of the ego to an earlier stage of development rather than handling unacceptable impulses in a more adaptive way

Subsequently, one may also ask, what is regression in psychology example?

Regression is a return to earlier stages of development and abandoned forms of gratification belonging to them, prompted by dangers or conflicts arising at one of the later stages. A young wife, for example, might retreat to the security of her parents’ home after her

One may also ask, what is denial defense mechanism? Denial. Denial is the refusal to accept reality or fact, acting as if a painful event, thought or feeling did not exist. It is considered one of the most primitive of the defense mechanisms because it is characteristic of early childhood development.

Correspondingly, what is an example of repression defense mechanism?

Repression is another well-known defense mechanism. Repression acts to keep information out of conscious awareness. 3? For example, a person who has repressed memories of abuse suffered as a child may later have difficulty forming relationships.

What causes a person to regress?

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Enhancing Healthcare Team Outcomes

Recognition and interpersonal communication about any defense mechanisms the patient is using amongst the psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, primary care provider, nurse, and family can help to orient the team and enhance patient-centered care. Psychodynamic therapy can involve the patient in their own care by achieving greater awareness of their own patterns of psychological defense mechanisms. Some meta-analysis studies have shown psychodynamic therapy to have equal efficacy compared to cognitive behavioral therapy and pharmacotherapy in the treatment of mild to moderate mood disorders. It is important to recognize that therapeutic treatments based on self-awareness and communication will avoid the possible complications of pharmacotherapy, such as side effects and drug-to-drug interactions, and some patients may be more willing to try these therapies compared to pharmacotherapy.

Defense Mechanism Of Displacement: Case Study

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A young girl recently called for therapy. When asked what is it for, she said, My work is affecting my family life, I lose my temper at work because of my boss, he shouts and insults me like a moron and I remove all the anger on my younger sister at home, and now, it is affecting my relationship with her, please help!

Havent we heard similar stories or even experienced this?

Well, this is a classic example of the defense mechanism of Displacement.

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Defense Mechanisms In Childhood

The shape of our specific defense mechanisms is heavily informed by how we are related to as children, ways we observe our parents or influential figures, and the attachment pattern we experience. Thus, the armor we build around ourselves can manifest in different ways. When we are babies or young children, the coping strategies we form can include self-soothing habits like cradling a blanket or sucking our thumb. As we get older, we may take on the defensive posture of trying to take care of ourselves or become pseudoindependent. This is often the case with people who experience an avoidant attachment. On the other hand, our defense may be to try to command attention by acting out, a defense often adopted by someone with an anxious attachment.

As kids, our defense mechanism may be to keep quiet, or it may be to shout and in order to be heard. We may feel driven to rebel against rules and restrictions, or we may attempt to achieve perfectionism. We may have learned not to trust anyone for fear of being hurt or to feel self-reliant and guarded against wanting anything from anyone else. Or, we may have felt desperate to put ourselves out there and make sure we are not abandoned.

Defense Mechanisms in Adulthood

In order to catch on to whether or not we are living our lives from a defended posture, its helpful to consider what Robert Firestone called the major characteristics of the inward or defended person. These include:

How A Defense Mechanism Can Hurt Us

Oftentimes, a defense mechanism can offer instant gratification or immediate relief by alleviating our anxiety or cutting us off from a deeper level of feeling. We may not be conscious of it in the moment, but the reason we reach for that second glass of wine, pick that fight with our partner, or shy away from a challenge may be because we got scared and felt we had to retreat into our shell or put ourselves back in place.

For example, say we had an incredibly close night with our partner in which we felt both loved by them and loving toward them. That feeling can trigger myriad unconscious reactions: the anxiety of relying on that person, the fear of losing him or her, or the shame of not having felt that kind of love as a child. The next morning we may find ourselves feeling a slightly critical and starting to act irritable. It may even feel like a relief to complain to them or make little comments that push them away. Ultimately, we no longer feel as close to the person, and although we may feel bad, we also feel a bit safer having retreated into our defense mechanism and covering over those deeper feelings being stirred.

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Are Defense Mechanisms Unhealthy

Not always. More of the commonly discussed defenses, such as denial and projection, may be maladaptive and worth addressing in therapy. But the purpose of defense mechanisms is to protect the self from anxiety or distressand sometimes thats a good thing. For example, a guest at a party might use humor to diffuse an uncomfortable situation. Or someone in an emotionally draining profession, such as a counselor for suicidal individuals, may decide to compartmentalize their work to better function in daily life.

Recommended Steps And Techniques

10 Psychological Defense Mechanisms
  • If the client is unaware that he/she is using the defense mechanism of displacement, the therapist can help the client become aware of the same either:
  • With the help of a structured interview or
  • With the help of the NLP technique of Perceptual Position or
  • Once the client becomes aware of the displacement taking place, the next step is to help the client understand the original source of the emotion. The original source would include the person, the situation and the thought/belief that is causing the emotion. Open-ended questions in combination with the ABC model from CBT can be used by the therapist.
  • Next, help the client restructure the thought or the underlying belief identified in the previous step. If-then statement, NLP SWISH and belief change processes can be used for the same.
  • Next, help the client brainstorm strategies and identify skills that can help him/her deal with the original source more effectively. SOFT SEA Coaching process along with NLP Modelling are the techniques that can be used for the same.
  • Next, help the client release the current emotion and replace it with a more appropriate/resourceful emotion. Hypnodrama is probably the best process to use for this purpose.
  • Last do future pacing so that the client can mentally rehearse the application of the new strategy and skills is the new resourceful state. Make necessary modification in the strategy if required.
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    Are There Mature Defense Mechanisms

    Defense mechanisms are often painted in a bad light, but not all of them will ruin your life or keep you from acknowledging your feelings in an unhealthy way. Knowing the difference between suppressing your emotions and processing them at your own speed can determine whether your mechanisms will contribute to your growth or stunted emotional development.

    If you recognize that a friend uses defense mechanisms to try and cope with negativity in an unhealthy, you might just want to share what you have learned. Defense mechanisms arent always unhealthy, but in the long run, they can prevent people from facing problems, solving them, and growing in the process.

    Defense Mechanisms In Everyday Life

    Life is full of unexpected or challenging situations, and defense mechanisms can potentially alleviate that discomfort. They can manifest, for example, in passive-aggressive behavior when two friends cant confront conflict or when an employee displaces anger toward her boss onto her daughter that night at dinner. Defense mechanisms can reflect isolated incidents, both beneficial and maladaptive, or a consistent pattern of behavior that can be explored with the help of a therapist.

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    When Do Individuals Develop Defense Mechanisms

    Defense mechanisms might emerge more severely and consistently in some people due to insecurities in childhood, some psychologists believe. Children may not know how to grapple with or overcome certain challenges, which leads them to question themselves and enact defenses against those challenges. Adults have the ability to address those challenges, but obsolete defense mechanisms might occasionally reappear to alleviate the stress.

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    An extreme example of this is the Stockholm Syndrome, where hostages establish an emotional bond with their captor and take on their behaviors.

    Patty Hearst was abused and raped by her captors, yet she joined their Symbionese Liberation Army and even took part in one of their bank robberies. At her trial, she was acquitted because she was a victim suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.

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    Sun Behavioral Delaware Can Help You Develop Healthy Ways To Cope With The Difficulties Of Everyday Life

    At SUN Delaware, our skilled and compassionate mental health professionals use the best industry-led and evidence-based treatment modalities to help you learn new, healthy ways to cope with the difficulties of life.

    Our programs use every tool at our disposal to help give our patients a path to recovery and wellness. This includes everything from psychopharmacology to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy . The SUN team guides each patient through the process and provides all the tools necessary for recovery.

    Call us today at to get started on your path towards wellness.

    Potential Problem To Consider

  • In the light of these long run negative consequences, it may also seem appropriate to make the client experience and deal with these negative emotion that theyre desperately trying to avoid. But a closer look and experience says that such confrontational tactics at least in the initial phase of therapy has a huge potential to complicate the therapist-client relationship.
  • Confrontation without proper bounce-back mechanisms in place may lead to the client actually losing trust in their therapist. They may also conclude that such confrontation is indicative of the fact that their therapist doesnt get them or see things as they see.
  • The worst case scenario may not just be that the client will quit therapy without any significant results but that as a result of this confrontation they might not want to go to another therapist as well.
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    Descriptive Statistics And Group Differences

    In our sample, the defense patterns mean scores were in the normal range. The same applied for PID-5-BF scores. Descriptive statistics on the measures used in this study are reported in Table 1 for the full sample and differentiated by gender.

    Table 1. Descriptive statistics of defense mechanisms and maladaptive personality domains.

    A MANOVA showed that sociodemographic variables are significantly associated with DM scores in the sample . However, multivariate tests showed that only age had significant main effects in the model. Tests of between-subject effects showed that sublimation , humor , suppression , idealization , and somatization were significantly associated with the factor comprising the sociodemographic variables. The analysis of the main effects of the model variables on the DMs further showed that male gender was linked to higher suppression , while female gender was linked to higher somatization younger age was linked to higher anticipation , higher autistic fantasy , and lower sublimation higher levels of education were linked with higher humor and higher idealization .

    Why Do We Deflect Or Project

    14 Psychological Defense Mechanisms

    No one wants to look or feel bad, right? We don’t want people to think badly of us. We don’t want them to think we’re inept or that we make mistakes. We want them to think highly and to look up to us. As a result, we tend to look for ways to make ourselves look better. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to do that at all times in life. There are times when we will all make mistakes. There are times when we will all do something that requires punishment or negative repercussions. This is completely normal, and we shouldnt develop harmful ego defenses to combat looking or feeling bad. Because, when we do, it can negatively affect the thoughts, feelings, and emotions of others.

    For some, deflection is merely a coping mechanism to try and make sure people don’t think less of them. It is purely one of the easiest ego defense mechanisms. They may not mean harm to anyone else by deflecting, and they don’t necessarily want themselves to look perfect, but they want to avoid looking unintelligent. They deflect because they’re trying to stay in someone’s good graces or because they’re nervous about what will happen if people believe that they made a big mistake. They may feel bad about the deflection if it causes someone else to get in trouble.

    The Importance Of Taking The Fall

    Frequently Asked Questions About Deflection and Other Defense Mechanisms

    What is deflection in conversation?

    What does it mean when a person is deflecting?

    Is deflection a defense mechanism?

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    What Are Defense Mechanisms

    Sigmund Freud proposed the concepts of conscious, unconscious, and subconscious, and went on to talk about the concept of defense mechanisms as an integral part of the unconscious psyche. He said that in our daily lives, we are faced with certain negative stimuli from time to time which can get too threatening to handle in all their intensity. These stimuli can corrode a persons ego and make living impossible, causing severe mental stress, and in their most corrosive form, can even lead to a nervous breakdown. It is because of this that we push these unpleasant thoughts and situations into our unconscious mind without even realizing it, and arent even aware of their existence until they come up in the form of inexplicable behavior .

    How Defense Mechanisms Can Be Corrosive

    While defense mechanisms are considered to be important for our mental health, it is important to understand that these can take one away from reality. Lets draw a parallel hereif a person starts coughing, he will take a syrup and deal with it thus, but if the coughing does not stop even after trying all the methods possible, he will visit a physician to get to the root of the problem. If he does not visit a doctor, he is simply worsening his condition. Similarly, defense mechanisms are only supposed to act as a buffer and help a person deal with the initial shock. After this stage is over, he is expected to face reality, and take the necessary steps to deal with the problem at hand. Failure to do so means that he is moving away from reality which, in itself, can be extremely detrimental.

    Defense mechanisms help by softening the blow and help in cushioning our ego. But because this happens at an unconscious level, we may not be aware that we are putting these into use which is where their corrosive nature might come into force and take us away from reality. That is why it is important to know about these defense mechanisms, and understand when to bring the brakes into practice.

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