Sigmund Freud's Ego Defense Mechanisms Essay
Sigmund Freud is perhaps one of the most well-known theorists in regards to the study of the human psyche. Freud’s model of the human psyche is comprised of three core elements: the Id, or the unconscious mind; things out of our awareness. The
Superego, or the subconscious mind, and finally the Ego, which lies between the unconscious and subconscious. Freud proposes that there are nine ego defense mechanisms that act the ego uses in its job as the mediator between the id and the superego. In psychoanalysis, an ego defense mechanism is an unconscious personality reaction that the ego uses to protect our conscious mind from threatening feelings or perceptions.
The ego defense mechanisms are as follows: denial, displacement, projection, rationalization, reaction formation, regression, repression, sublimation, and suppression.
Ego defense seems to occur subconsciously – we are often not aware that we are becoming “defensive”. I believe that we use a complex of many, if not all of Freud’s ego defense mechanisms.
Personally, I believe regression and rationalization may be the two defense mechanisms I use most. Regression is defined as “returning to a previous stage of development”. For example, if things do not go my way and continue to do so, it might be followed by bouts of temper tantrums and mood swings.
Rationalization is supplying a rational or logical reason as opposed to the real reason. I have found that I use this “tactic” a lot, and was not aware of it before I had encountered psychology. For instance, I would...
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Sigmund Freud's Defense Mechanisms Defense Mechanisms are psychological forces which prevent undesirable or inappropriate impulses from entering consciousness (e. g. , forgetting responsibilities that we really did not want to do, projecting anger onto a spouse as opposed to your boss). Also called Defense Mechanisms, Defense System, or Ego Defenses (Allphych Online Dictionary) Sigmund Freud is famous for his theory that there is id, ego, and superego constitute a tripartite structure of personality. Freud's theory also stresses the needs of harmony and interdependence of parts for the good of the whole, but also the potential for much conflict between the elements.
The id: is the seat of sexual and aggressive instincts as well as of self-preservative instincts. The superego: is the seat of ones own conscience which places harsh restrictions upon the gratification of instincts. The ego: is the seat of intelligence, which mediates between the ids unrealistic demands for immediate gratification and the punitive superego's constraints upon them. According to Freud, we only have two drives; sex and aggression. In other words, everything we do is motivated by one of these two drives. Sex, also called Eros or the Life force, represents our drive to live, prosper, and produce offspring.
Aggression, also called Thanatos or our Death force, represents our need to stay alive and stave off threats to our existence, our power, and our prosperity. Sometimes, the ego has a difficult time satisfying both the id and the superego, but it does not have to do so without help. The ego has some tools it can use in its job as the mediator, tools that help defend the ego. These are called Ego Defense Mechanisms or Defenses. When the ego has a difficult time making both the id and the superego happy, it will employ one or more of these defenses. The primary functions of these mechanisms are: 1) to minimize anxiety; 2) to protect the ego; 3) to maintain repression.
Repression is useful to the individual since it prevents discomfort and it leads to some economy of time and effort. Although defense mechanisms serve a useful protective function, they usually involve some measure of self-deception and reality distortion, and may seriously interfere with the effective resolution of the actual problem. Ego defense-mechanisms are considered to be maladaptive when they become the predominant means of coping with stressors. Ego-defense mechanisms are learned, usually during early childhood. They are developed to deal with inner hurt, pain, anger, anxiety, sadness and self-devaluation.
They operate on relatively automatic and habitual levels. Ego defense mechanisms include such methods as: Rationalization, Displacement, Sublimation, Projection, Reaction Formation, Denial, Regression and Repression. This paper will attempt to research and explain each of these methods in full. Rationalization implies to offering a socially acceptable and apparently more or less logical explanation for an act or decision actually produced by unconscious impulses. The person rationalizing is not intentionally inventing a story to fool someone else, but instead is misleading self as well as the listener.
Examples: (1) a man buys a new car, having convinced himself that his older car won't make it through the winter. (2) a woman with a closet full of dresses buys a new one because she doesn't have anything to wear. Displacement is a change in the object by which an instinctual drive is to be satisfied; shifting the emotional component from one object or idea to another. Examples: (1) a woman is abandoned by her fiance; she quickly finds another man about whom she develops the same feelings; (2) a salesman is angered by his superior but suppresses his anger; later, on return to his home, he punishes one of his children for misbehavior that would usually be tolerated or ignored. Displacements are often quite satisfactory and workable mechanisms; if one cannot have steak, it is comforting to like hamburger equally well.
As the March Hare observed, I like what I have is the same as I have what I like. However, the example of displaced anger illustrates a situation which, if often repeated, could cause serious complications in the persons life. Sublimation is when attenuating the force of an instinctual drive by using the energy in other, usually constructive activities. This definition implies acceptance of the Libido Theory; the examples do not require it. Sublimation is often combined with other mechanisms, among them aim inhibition, displacement, and symbolization. Examples: (1) a man who is dissatisfied with his sex life but who has not stepped out on his wife becomes very busy repairing his house while his wife is out of town.
Thus, he has no time for social activities. (2) a woman is forced to undertake a restrictive diet; she becomes interested in painting and does a number of still life pictures, most of which include fruit. The conscious use of work or hobbies to divert ones thoughts from a problem or from a rejected wish is an analog of this. Sublimation is often a desirable mechanism. However, the consequences may, in addition to preventing instinctual satisfaction, interfere with the persons life in other ways if disproportionate time, money, or effort is used in the activity. Projection is attributing ones thoughts or impulses to another person. In common use, this is limited to unacceptable or undesirable impulses.
Examples: (1) a man, unable to accept that he has competitive or hostile feelings about an acquaintance, says, He doesnt like me. (2) a woman, denying to herself that she has sexual feelings about a co-worker, accuses him, without basis, of flirt and described him as a wolf. This defense mechanism is commonly over utilized by the paranoid. A broader definition of projection includes certain operations that allow for empathy and understanding of others. Recognition that another person is lonely or sad may be based not upon having seen other examples of loneliness or sadness and learning the outward manifestations but upon having experienced the feelings and recognizing automatically that another persons situation would evoke them. As in projection, the individual deals with emotional conflict or internal or external stressors by falsely attributing to another his or her own unacceptable feelings, impulses, or thoughts. Unlike simple projection, the individual does not fully disavow what is projected.
Instead, the individual remains aware of his or her own affects or impulses but mis-attributes them as justifiable reactions to the other person. Not infrequently, the individual induces the very feelings in others that were first mistakenly believed to be there, making it difficult to clarify who did what to whom first. Reaction Formation is about going to the opposite extreme; overcompensation for unacceptable impulses. Examples: (1) a man violently dislikes an employee; without being aware of doing so, he bends over backwards to not criticize the employee and gives him special privileges and advances. (2) a person with strong antisocial impulses leads a crusade against vice. (3) a married woman who is disturbed by feeling attracted to one of her husbands friends treats him rudely.
Intentional efforts to compensate for conscious dislikes and prejudices are sometimes analogous to this mechanism. Undoing is a common reaction - examples: (1) two close friends have a violent argument; when they next meet, each act as if the disagreement had never occurred. (2) when asked to recommend a friend for a job, a man makes derogatory comments which prevent the friend's getting the position; a few days later, the man drops in to see his friend and brings him a small gift. In a conscious analog of this, Napoleon made it a practice after reprimanding any officer to find some words of praise to say at their next meeting. Another common reaction is restitution, which is the mechanism of relieving the mind of a load of guilt by making up or reparation (paying up with interest). Denial is failing to recognize obvious implications or consequences of a thought, act, or situation. Examples: (1) a person having an extramarital affair gives no thought to the possibility of pregnancy. (2) persons living near a volcano disregard the dangers involved. (3) a disabled person plans to return to former activities without planning a realistic program of rehabilitation.
Conscious acceptance of a substitute with full recognition that it is a substitute for something one wants is an analog of displacement. By another anxiety-evading mechanism known as regression, the personality may suffer a loss of some of the development already attained and may revert to a lower level of adaptation and expression. The cessation of the process of development of the personality at a stage short of complete and uniform mature independence is known as fixation. Repression is the involuntary exclusion of a painful or conflictual thought, impulse, or memory from awareness. This is the primary ego defense mechanism; others reinforce it. In Psychoanalytic Theory, the defense mechanism whereby our thoughts are pulled out of our consciousness and into our unconscious.
Ego defenses are not necessarily unhealthy as you can see by the examples above. In face, the lack of these defenses or the inability to use them effectively can often lead to problems in life. However, we sometimes employ the defenses at the wrong time or overuse them, which can be equally destructive. Although defense mechanisms are often thought of as sources of psychopathology, Vaillant (1992) has explained that they should also be understood as potential steppingstones of ego development (35). There is agreement among psychoanalytic psychologists that defense mechanisms are adaptive or pathological depending on the situations in which they are employed and the intensity of use.
Gottschalk, Fronczek, and Abel (1993), for example, showed that anxiety denial in psychologically healthy individuals is a functional coping response while it furthers psychopathology among those with mental disorders. People who faced stressful environments, were less reactive and fractious was likely adaptive if not done in an excessive manner. The defenses of denial and reaction formation seem to be associated with the emotions of acceptance and joy. Bibliography: Allphych Online Dictionary web Freud, A, Ego and the Mechanisms of Defense, International Universities Press; Revised edition (December 1984) Freud, S. 1923. The ego and the id, trans.
by J. River. London: Hogarth Press. Gottschalk, L.
A. , M. A. Fronczek, and L. Abel. 1993. Emotions, defenses, coping mechanisms, and symptoms.
Psychoanalytic psychology 10: 237 - 60. Vaillant, G. E. 1992. The historical origins and future potential of Sigmund Freud's concept of the mechanisms of defense.
International Review of Psycho-Analysis 19: 35 - 50.
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