The Ego as a Defense Mechanism Essay

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The Ego as a Defense Mechanism

The function of defense is to protect the Ego, and defence may be instigated by Anxiety due to increase in instinctual tension, Super-Ego threats or realistic dangers. Anna Freud lists nine defence : REGRESSION, repression, REACTION FORMATION, ISOLATION, UNDOING, PROJECTION, INTROJECTION, TURNING AGAINST THE SELF, and REVERSAL - plus tenth SUBLIMATION. SPLITTING and DENIAL are also usually listed as defence.

It is usually assumed that defence belong to specific stages of development, e.g. INTROJECTION , projection, denial , splitting to the ORAL phase; reaction-formation , isolation and undoing to the ANAL phase.

Defence Mechanisms are unconscious mental processes which are employed to
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· Avoidance:

This can occur in situations which arouse unpleasant feelings, memories or repressed conflicting impulses. It is more common in phobias.

· Reversal:-

Instincts are capable of undergoing reversal so that Sadism can change to Masochism , Voyeurism into Exhibitionism, etc. Reversal being usually , though not always from Active to Passive.



Rational statement is given to avoid an inner unconscious aspect of an impulse or feeling. The classic example of the " Sour Grapes" in Aesop's fable. We all give justifications which may be reasonable for our decisions, acts , feelings and whims.


Here a rationalized explanation is given , but in a rather theorizing and argumentative manner. For example a debate and discussion about value of psychoanalysis by patient may be a resistance against involvement in therapeutic relationship .


This is feeling or a behavior which the opposite of the unacceptable instinctual impulses. It is doing the opposite where the quality of the impulse is changed in its antithesis. For example kindness may be the declared behavior when the impulse is to be cruelty . Obsessive cleanliness and washing may conceal an impulse to indulge in dirty, forbidden or obscene act or phantasy.


An unconscious idea allowed into
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