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What are Psychological Defense Mechanisms?

Guest Author - Sam Vaknin

By Sam Vaknin
Author of "Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited"

According to Freud and his followers, our psyche is a battlefield between instinctual urges and drives (the id), the constraints imposed by reality on the gratification of these impulses (the ego), and the norms of society (the superego). This constant infighting generates what Freud called "neurotic anxiety" (fear of losing control) and "moral anxiety" (guilt and shame).
But these are not the only types of anxiety. "Reality anxiety" is the fear of genuine threats and it combines with the other two to yield a morbid and surrealistic inner landscape.

These multiple, recurrent, "mini-panics" are potentially intolerable, overwhelming, and destructive. Hence the need to defend against them. There are dozens of defense mechanisms. The most common among them:

Acting Out

When an inner conflict (most often, frustration) translates into aggression. It involves acting with little or no insight or reflection and in order to attract attention and disrupt other people's cosy lives.

Denial

Perhaps the most primitive and best known defense mechanism. People simply ignore unpleasant facts, they filter out data and content that contravene their self-image, prejudices, and preconceived notions of others and of the world.

Devaluation

Attributing negative or inferior traits or qualifiers to self or others. This is done in order to punish the person devalued and to mitigate his or her impact on and importance to the devaluer. When the self is devalued, it is a self-defeating and self-destructive act.

Displacement

When we cannot confront the real sources of our frustration, pain, and envy, we tend to pick a fight with someone weaker or irrelevant and, thus, less menacing. Children often do it because they perceive conflicts with parents and caregivers as life-threatening. Instead, they go out and torment the cat or bully someone at school or lash out at their siblings.


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Author Bio

Sam Vaknin ( http://samvak.tripod.com ) is the author of Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain - How the West Lost the East. He served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, Global Politician, PopMatters, eBookWeb , and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He was the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.

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Content copyright © 2014 by Sam Vaknin. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Sam Vaknin. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Dr. Jonice Webb for details.

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