Internal conflicts are usually easily resolved. However, unconscious conflicts that linger inside you can result in anxiety that seeps to the surface. Anxiety is a painfully unpleasant emotion that no one likes to experience. The effort to keep these anxieties at a distance is known as defense mechanisms. Defense mechanisms are mostly an unconscious response to protect an individual from unpleasant emotions.
This article examines 7 Ego defense mechanisms and gives examples of how these defense mechanisms can be identified in everyday situations.
Displacement – Displacement involves the discharging of unexpressed feelings. These feelings are often of hostility or anger on objects less dangerous than those arousing the feeling.
Example: When a spouse has a rough day at home or work and takes it out on their partner by starting an argument or initiating a fight.
Rationalization: When using a manufactured explanation to hide or mask unworthy purposes for one’s behavior, this is known as rationalization.
Example: When someone uses bible passages to justify hateful or cruel behavior.
Regression: Retreating to an earlier developmental adoption of seemingly opposite or immature behavior.
Example: An individual does not get their way so they resort to a temper tantrum.
Repression: Preventing painful or dangerous thoughts from entering consciousness is called repression.
Example: A victim of a traumatic event may not have any recollection of the details of such an event.
Sublimation: Channeling frustrated sexual energy into substitutive activities.
Example: A sexually frustrated artist paints wildly erotic pictures.
Projection: When an individual assigns their own thoughts, feelings or motives onto another.
Example: A man unconsciously dislikes his boss. He in turn feels as though his boss dislikes him.
Identification: Strengthening one’s self esteem by forming an association with a person or group.
Example: A boy may join a karate class to bolster self esteem.
Why is it important to know about Ego Defense Mechanisms? Because, if you know better you do better. How many of us have taken our problems out on our spouse or thrown a temper tantrum when we didn’t get our way? How many of us use rationalization in our every day lives? Now that we have a better understanding of the unconscious motives behind our behavior, we can make healthy decisions that effect those around us. If we come home after a bad day, maybe we will think twice about taking it out on our spouse. When we can identify the unconscious factors that may be holding us back, we can make a conscious effect to improve the quality of our lives and enhance our emotional wellness.
Weiten, W. (2008). Psychology: Themes and variations, briefer version (7th ed.). Belmont, CA: Thomson Learning, Inc.