Essay on The Defense Mechanism

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Defense mechanism, in psychoanalysis, any of a variety of unconscious personality reactions which the ego uses to protect the conscious mind from threatening feelings and perceptions. Sigmund Freud first used defense as a psychoanalytic term (1894), but he did not break the notion into categories, viewing it as a singular phenomenon of repression. His daughter, Anna Freud, expanded on his theories in the 1930s, distinguishing some of the major defense mechanisms recognized today. Primary defense mechanisms include repression and denial, which serve to prevent unacceptable ideas or impulses from entering the conscience. Secondary defense mechanisms-generally appearing as an outgrowth of the primary defense mechanisms-include projection,…show more content…
The defenses can also give us insight into our own mental processes--sometimes mental gymnastics or contortions. All defenses involve distortions of reality; they are ways of feeling better by fooling ourselves. If we realized these defenses in our lives, we might handle reality better. Almost all adjustment books mention these defense mechanisms, even the writers who are arrogantly critical of Freud. An excellent text about Sigmund and Anna Freud and the ego defenses is by Christopher Monte (1980).
Repression: shoving thoughts and urges that are unacceptable or distressing into our unconscious. This is what happens to the unacceptable urges of childhood--the ego represses them. Taboo ideas, like incest, would probably never get into consciousness or, if they got there, they'd be quickly repressed. Sometimes dreams or slips of the tongue or attempts at humor reveal our unconscious motives. For example, if a teacher ridiculed you in class, you might dream he/she had a horrible auto accident. Or, trying hard to say something nice to the teacher a few days later, you comment after class, "each of your lectures seems better than the next." Or, if you were unfortunate enough to be asked to introduce your former teacher at a symposium and said, "I'd like to prevent--huh--I mean present Dr.___," some might guess the truth. All these speculations about repressed feelings are just guesses.
Repression must be distinguished from

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