How does the mind protect itself?

By 3 January 2015August 14th, 2018No Comments

We aim at instinctively protecting our ego (i.e. an acceptable self-image), in many ways. The only issue is that defenses usually are short-term and may, in the long run, be more hurtful than helpful, by masking out the problems that we have to solve here-and-now. These defenses block us in jobs we do not like, bore the ones around us and hurt the ones that love us. We all have them and use them from time to time; the important thing here is to know when they are no longer useful and we need to put them aside.

People use at least five defense mechanisms to protect their souls every day. If we know what these are, we can more easily be aware of them and use them properly, without ‘fooling ourselves’.

  1. Denial – we do not admit we have a problem.
  2. Projection – we throw the negative feeling from and about ourselves towards the other, as if the other person would think all these negative things about us.
  3. Internalization – we prefer to have a poor opinion about ourselves in order to avoid the thought that someone else has a poor opinion about us or does not love us.
  4. Sublimation – we translate thoughts which we consider unacceptable towards other forms of manifestation (ex. through artistic expression). Sublimation is the healthiest among the defense mechanisms.
  5. Regression – when life seems difficult and overwhelming, we return symbolically towards the past (during childhood mostly) and to a carefree life, when we used to live feeling protected by the adults taking all responsibility for our lives.
  6. Rationalization – consists in logical explanations for truths that we cannot stand.
  7. Intellectualization – we look for rational intellectualized defenses to our problems.
  8. Reaction formation – we do exactly the opposite of our initial feelings.
  9. Displacement – redirecting of our negative feelings which we are ashamed to recognize (usually, they are aggressive impulses) towards other areas, which seem more at hand.
  10. Fantasy escape – dissociation from reality through dreams, books, movies, sexual fantasies (pornography) etc.
  11. In detail, but also succinctly, you can find more about defense mechanisms used by your mindhere, in a short movie abundant with examples (click “Playlist” in the bottom left corner, then 2/13 – Anna Freud):