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Defense Mechanisms – Which one of it fits for you?

Defence Mechanism: it’s not what it looks like

Defensive mechanisms are unconsciously occurring psychological reactions that shield people from worry, harm to their self-esteem, and unpleasant thoughts or situations. Sigmund Freud introduced the concept of defence mechanisms in his psychoanalytic theory. According to Freud, these systems safeguard the conscious mind from inconsistencies between the animalistic id and the idealistic superego, ultimately leading to “mental homeostasis.”

The list of main defense mechanisms are as follows:


Have you ever had a really frustrating day at work, returned home, and vented your annoyance on your loved ones? If your answer was yes, you have had contact with the displacement defensive mechanism of the ego. Displacement is the act of venting our anger, emotions, and urges on less dangerous individuals or things.

Misplaced aggression is a typical illustration of this defence strategy. Rather of vent your anger in ways that could lead to bad consequences (like clashing with your boss), you instead direct your anger at a person or thing that poses no threat (such as your spouse, children, or pets).


One of the most well-known forms of defense is denial. Denial is often used to characterise situations in which people appear unable to confront reality or admit an evident truth (e.g., “They’re in denial”). Denial serves to insulate the ego from things with which the person cannot cope. Denial is the blatant refusal to acknowledge or accept that something has happened or is happening right now. While victims of horrific events could reject that the event ever happened, people who are struggling with drug or alcohol addiction frequently deny that they have a problem.

Denial also involves a significant energy expenditure, even though it could momentarily protect you from pain. To prevent anxiety or these unwanted feelings from entering our consciousness, different defenses are employed. Even when there is clear proof to support something’s existence or veracity, people frequently refuse to acknowledge it because it would make them feel uncomfortable.


Sublimation is a protective mechanism that permits us to act out unwanted impulses by changing these behaviors into a more acceptable form. For instance, someone who is extremely angry might take up kickboxing as a way to let off steam. According to Freud, sublimation signifies maturity and enables people to behave properly in socially acceptable ways.

Through Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, our expert counselors/therapists can identify and modify your ingrained Defense Mechanisms.


A defensive tactic called projection entails attributing your own undesirable traits or emotions to other individuals. For instance, you can mistakenly think that someone dislikes you if you have a strong antipathy for them. In order to reduce anxiety, projection allows the manifestation of the urge or desire in a way that the ego cannot identify.


By reflecting on situations in a clinical, detached manner, intellectualization helps to lessen anxiety. This protective mechanism enables us to concentrate solely on the cerebral element of the problem while avoiding the stressful, emotional aspects. For instance, a person who has just received a fatal sickness diagnosis may concentrate on studying everything there is to know about the condition in order to minimise their distress and maintain their distance from the situation’s reality and their sentiments regarding it.


A defense technique known as rationalization entails avoiding the real causes of a behaviour by rationalising an unwanted action or feeling. A person who is declined on a date, for instance, can explain why by claiming that they weren’t attracted to the other person in the first place. 

A student could blame the teacher for their bad exam performance rather than own up to their own lack of preparation. In addition to reducing tension, rationalisation may also safeguard one’s sense of worth and identity.


When faced with stressful situations, people occasionally give up their coping mechanisms and revert to past behavioural habits. Regression was the term Anna Freud used to describe this defence mechanism, and she proposed that individuals carry out behaviours from the stage of psychosexual development on which they are concentrated. For instance, a person who was preoccupied in an earlier developmental stage could sob or cry when given bad news.

Depending on the stage at which a person is fixated, Freud claimed that the actions connected to regression can differ significantly. For example, an individual preoccupied at the oral stage can begin eating or smoking excessively, or might become verbally abusive. An obsessive fixation on the anal stage could lead to unkemptness or neatness.

Creation of Reactions

By adopting the opposing emotion, impulse, or behaviour, reaction formation lessens anxiety. An illustration of reaction formation would be acting overly pleasant with someone you despise in order to mask your genuine feelings. Why do people act in such a manner? According to Freud, they are acting in the exact opposite way to cover up their genuine feelings by utilising reaction formation as a defence mechanism.

What Are the Mechanisms of Defense?

The ego is the element of personality that engages with reality, according to Sigmund Freud’s model of personality. Along the way, the ego must also balance the competing needs of the id and superego.

  • The ID: The id is the aspect of the personality that tries to sate all needs, desires, and urges. The id is the most fundamental, primitive aspect of our personalities, and it doesn’t take things like morality, social propriety, or even the likelihood that our wants and needs will be met into account.
  • The Superego: The superego is the aspect of the personality that strives to influence the ego to behave morally and idealistically. The internalised ideals and values we assimilate from our parents, other family members, religious influences, and society make up the superego.

Freud thought that defensive mechanisms helped protect the ego from the conflicts brought on by the id, superego, and reality in order to deal with anxiety. Freud claimed that anxiety is an unpleasant internal state that people try to escape from. As a result, the ego uses a defense mechanism to assist lessen these anxious feelings.

Dealing With Unhealthy Defensive Mechanisms

When defence mechanisms are overused in an effort to put off dealing with issues, problems can result. Here are a few strategies to deal with weak defences so that it doesn’t happen to you.

  • Improve your awareness of yourself: You can spot when you could be employing one or more protection mechanisms excessively with the aid of self-awareness. Once you’ve done this, you’ll be able to see where modifications need to be made.
  • Acquire useful coping mechanisms: If you have an unhealthy defensive mechanism, developing new coping mechanisms can help you deal with unpleasant emotions more effectively. Meditation, setting clear limits, and soliciting help are examples of coping mechanisms.
  • Seek Therapy: Discovering your unconscious defences through psychoanalytic treatment might help you develop more effective coping strategies for anxiety and suffering.

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