Defense Mechanisms

ANXIETY IS A WARNING OF IMPENDING DANGER. Visiting a doctor or going for an examination can cause stress for a person, which leads to worse problems in the future. It is normal, but many-a-times, people experience high levels of anxiety that are distressing and interfere with effective functioning indicates the presence of an ANXIETY DISORDER. Thus, the term is a diffuse, vague, very unpleasant feeling of fear and apprehension.

Any form of anxiety is uncomfortable, and the individual experiencing it seeks its reduction or elimination just as one would seek to reduce hunger, thirst, or pain. It is the ego’s job to deal with anxiety. For lowering the objective anxiety level, the ego must deal effectively with the physical environment. Dealing with neurotic and moral anxiety involves ego processes.

Any form of anxiety is uncomfortable, and the individual experiencing it seeks its reduction or elimination just as one would seek to reduce hunger, thirst, or pain. It is the ego’s job to deal with anxiety. For lowering the objective anxiety level, the ego must deal effectively with the physical environment. Dealing with neurotic and moral anxiety involves the ego processes called EGO DEFENSE MECHANISMS. Let’s first look at the difference between ego and self-respect. The difference between ego and self-respect is not much. Ego is respecting oneself and protecting one’s self-esteem as in the context of ego defence mechanisms and, self-respect is focusing on respecting oneself and everyone, irrespective of the positions or ranks. But, the main question that arises here is how much ego is right? Ego, sometimes can be right and sometimes can be wrong as one can see while we use ego defence mechanisms in our daily, one tends to use it in situations in which he/she isn’t aware of, that can hinder the further functioning of the person. How much ego right depends on the person’s situation and how one reacts to varied circumstances.

What Is Ego Defense Mechanisms?

A prominent personality, SIGMUND FREUD, states that much of human behaviour reflects an attempt to deal with or escape from anxiety. Thus, how the ego deals with anxiety largely determines how people behave. Freud believed that people avoid stress majorly by developing defence mechanisms that defend the ego against the awareness of instinctual needs. Thus, EGO DEFENSE MECHANISM is a way of reducing anxiety by distorting reality. These all defence mechanisms keep unacceptable impulses out of the consciousness and to prevent their open expressions. Although some defence mechanisms against anxious thoughts are adaptive. People use these mechanisms to such an extent that the person gets out of reality and realistic ideas.

There are various types of ego Defense Mechanisms One Use in their Life and Distort the Reality to Avoid Anxiety in Daily Life, these are as the followings:

1. Repression

The important one is Repression, in which anxiety-provoking thoughts are discharge by the unconscious. When people repress a feeling or desire, they become unaware of that wish or desire. It is mainly the “FORGETTING” or pushing away from consciousness into unconsciousness- unacceptable thoughts or impulses. It is the fundamental defence mechanism because it is involved in all others. Repressed ideas enter consciousness after getting suppressed enough that they do not cause anxiety. These Modified repressed ideas show up in dreams, in humour, in physical symptoms. It involves avoiding thinking about a particular thing or anything that gives pain instead of focusing more on pleasure and adapts a hedonistic behaviour. Repressions could help explain the root of some phobias.

We use it in our everyday life in various situations below are some examples of the mechanism we use in daily life:

  • E.g., when a person says, I do not know why I did that behaviour. Some repressed thoughts, feelings, or desires are expressing themselves.
  • Regan, who was once verbally abused as a child, cannot remember the abuse at all.
  • A child suffers a bite of a dog in her childhood, lead to an intense fear of a dog in adult life.

2. Displacement

It is another defence mechanism. It involves replacing an object or goal that provokes anxiety with one that does not. When a person is frustrated, the frustration will show onto a weaker person or target instead of strong authority, called displacement. It involves expressing feelings that can be threatening if directed at a superior individual onto a less threatening substitute target. People often use this mechanism when they cannot express their feelings or thoughts on the person it is, first directed to instead calm themselves by redirecting on the weaker target.

Examples of displacement which reflect its usage in one’s daily life are listed below:

  • E.g., when a person gets slammed by one’s boss, they often take out their frustration over their subordinates or household members as wives or kids.
  • Sandra gets reprimanded by her boss and goes home angrily to pick up a fight with her husband.
  • Beaten by his mother, a kid gets angry but redirects his anger on the dog by hitting it with a stick.

3. Projection

Another way to deal with an anxiety-provoking thought is to attribute it to someone or something other than one’s self. Such a defence mechanism is known as projection. One sees the causes of failure, undesirable urges, and secret desires as “out there” because seeing them as part of oneself can cause anxiety leading to anxiety disorder. It is the placement of one’s unacceptable thoughts onto others as if these belonged to them and not to oneself.

It is transferring one’s intolerable motives or impulses to others. Below listed are some examples of using projection in daily life:

  • Children, who are rejected by their peers, are often trapped in this cycle as they attribute their hostility to others and anticipate that their peers are hostile toward them.
  • Maria is attracted to her sister’s family member but denies this and believes that the family member is attracted to herself.
  • Another example comes from the story of the king who, on receiving a letter stating that one of his cities lost a battle, burned the letter and believed that nothing has taken place and projects the cause on the messenger.

4. Sublimation

It refers to turning socially unacceptable urges into socially acceptable behaviour. It involves satisfying an impulse with a substituting object that is acceptable to everyone and will not create any hindrance, in a socially acceptable way. Because, often one cannot express the urges, such as aggressive tendencies and forced to convey them indirectly in the form of poetry, art, religion, football, baseball, politics, education, and everything else that characterizes civilization and which is socially acceptable. It is channelling the unacceptable urges, feelings, thoughts, tendencies, desires and, impulses into a positive and properly socially approved manner.

Examples of using it in daily life are listed below:

  • Ryder, who is very aggressive, becomes a mixed martial arts fighter.
  • Sneha tends to express her anger and loneliness in painting.

5. Reaction Formation

It is the formation of an emotional reaction or attitude that is the opposite of the unacceptable thoughts. When people acquire a desire to do something rather than doing it, they do the opposite of what they want to do as it can cause anxiety, called Reaction Formation. Here, the person defends against stress by adopting behaviours opposite his/her feelings.

Daily life examples of this ego defence mechanism are listed below:

  • A person with strong, aggressive tendencies maybe become over-nurturing and over-indulgent with people.
  • A stepmother who does not like her child and hates her child becomes over-indulgent with her child.

6. Rationalisation

It refers to making up acceptable excuses for unacceptable behaviour. It involves giving a rational and logical but false reason for a failure or short-coming rather than the real reason for it. It is conjuring up socially acceptable reasons for thoughts or actions based on unapproved motives. Herein, the person tries to make unreasonable feelings or behaviour seem reasonable and approved.

Below are some examples of how we use this mechanism in daily life:

  • Sheena, a student buys a set of new pens after doing poorly in an examination; he/she may try to rationalize her/his behaviour as I WILL DO MUCH BETTER WITH THESE PENS.
  • A young woman, Shipra, explains that she ate an entire chocolate cake so that it wouldn’t spoil in the summer heat.
  • “If I don’t have breakfast, I can have that piece of cake later on without hurting my diet.”

7. Identification

Most often, one sees the causes of failure, undesirable urges, and secret desires as “out there” instead of in the self because seeing them as part of one own self would cause anxiety. Also, when one feels frustrated and anxious because one has not lived up to some internalized value, one can symbolically borrow someone else’s success through the process of Identification. Thus the one dresses, behaves or, talks the same as the other successful person, then, some of the person’s success becomes one’s own.

Below listed some daily life examples of this ego defence mechanism:

  • To feel at ease, Shubham identifies with his stepmother to maintain the peace of the house.
  • Samantha admires Emil, the most popular girl in school, and tries to copy her behaviour and dressing sense.
  • To be the company’s favourite, Karan identifies with his boss.

8. Denial

When using this mechanism, a person refuses to accept reality. Herein, the person refuses to recognize or acknowledge a threatening situation. It refers to blocking all the external events that cause distress and damage to the person away from the awareness. If the circumstance is stressful to grasp, then the person refuses to accept the reality at all. Here, the person uses this defence mechanism unconsciously and is not aware of it.

Below are listed some examples of using this ego defence mechanism in daily life:

  • Rhea refuses to acknowledge her son got killed during his recent military deployment.
  • Shruti, suffering from Cancer, refuses to believe or altogether deny the fact of her illness.
  • Smokers themselves refuse to admit the fact that smoking is bad for their health and continues smoking.

Do We Use Defence Mechanisms in Our Daily Life?

YES, everyone in their daily lives uses some of the defence mechanisms, but the person who uses it unconsciously means that the person is not aware of using it. It is a way to suppress undesirable urges and motives without causing harm to the self and the ego and maintain peace within an individual.

Let’s look onto some common examples or the situations where one uses these ego defence mechanisms:

  • When one loses their dream job, to comfort oneself, it is common to hear from the person IT’S OKAY, EVEN I DIDN’T WANT THAT JOB HONESTLY. (RATIONALISATION)
  • When one does not like somebody, but to get their work done, one can show opposite hatred feelings as liking feelings. ( REACTION FORMATION)
  • When someone is in pain and irritated, one can feel that everybody is irritated and the person is lonely forever. (PROJECTION)
  • The child can suck their thumb or wet the bed when they need to spend time with their parents. (REGRESSION)
  • When a student learns for an exam but unfortunately fail to recall, the chapter denies accepting the fact that they forget and blames the school system. (RATIONALISATION)
  • Someone who experienced heartbreak may listen and sing sad songs to express their feelings. (SUBLIMATION)
  • When someone loses their close family member, friend or, a pet may not accept the reality. (DENIAL)
  • When one approves of a lower goal to become a high school basketball coach rather than a professional athlete. (AIM INHIBITION)