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Examples of defense mechanisms

roughout his works, emphasized the mechanisms of the unconscious to store and process acquired emotional information. I call these mechanisms defense mechanisms.

Defense mechanisms are a group of mental processes that allow the mind to solve internal conflicts that it is incapable of solving on its own. The process of defense mechanisms occurs within the unconscious, there various forces fight and oppose each other in order to preserve the health of the psyche. These mechanisms try to hide from oneself internal impulses , feelings or memories that threaten to lower self-esteem , cause anxiety and unbalance the subject’s psyche.

The feeling of anxiety is one of the most important factors, which sends a signal to the “I” to help the defense mechanisms to realize that the health of the psyche is in danger and with it the health of the whole organism.

The “I” is situated at the center of some quite powerful forces, such as reality , society -represented by the superego- and biological needs -represented by the id. For this reason, to adapt to the reality of the “I”, the defense mechanisms fight between the “id” and the “superego” , in this way they manage to keep the “I” stable.

Defense mechanisms according to Freud

The defense mechanisms proposed by Freud in his psychoanalytic theory are the following:


As a defense mechanism, it has to do with the fact that one is  introjecting identifying models , elements of the mother, the father, models of everyday life.

It arises mainly in the oral phase. For this reason we say that we have oral anxiety when we feel bad and not because of hunger. In this sense we need to introject something, in this case food, to calm the anguish.


It is the reverse process of introjection, it is projecting aspects of one into another . Under this mechanism the individual attributes his own thoughts, feelings and desires to other people, generally they are people with whom he maintains a bond.

An example of this mechanism: the baby cries because he has physical discomfort, anguish or feels bad, but since he cannot discriminate a me-not me, if he is wrong, everything is wrong; But if an adult puts what happens to him outside, it is pathological, close to psychosis, delirium, paranoia. Although it does not mean that it is never used in critical aspects of life.

Generally, projected thoughts are thoughts that transmit some kind of disturbance to the subject’s mind. The most commonly projected thoughts are those that generate guilt , such as improper sexual desires, feelings of hatred, or aggressive thoughts.


Sublimation is for Freud the most evolved and civilized defense mechanism. From the psychosexual point of view it is the last to appear and does not necessarily appear in all subjects. It occurs in late adolescence or adulthood.

Under this mechanism, all drive, sexual energy is diverted and channeled towards another non-sexualized path in another place, in situations valued not only by the subject but also by the community, for example artistic values. In other words, socially unacceptable impulses or ideas are unconsciously transformed into socially acceptable actions or behaviors,

You need a model to be able to sublimate.


This was the first defense mechanism discovered by Freud. This is a process by which painful thoughts are prevented from entering each individual’s consciousness , removing disturbing or threatening thoughts and feelings from consciousness; repressing them and sending them to the unconscious part of the mind.

Under the control of this mechanism, the subject ignores some event or situation that has been disturbing or harmful to himself. The thoughts that are often repressed are those that would result in feelings of guilt generated by the “superego.” A clear example can be the Oedipus complex , where aggressive thoughts towards one of the parents – the same sex – are repressed almost immediately so as not to generate disturbing feelings in the child.

Repressed information may not always remain in the unconscious, sometimes it can manifest itself through dreams or failed acts .

You may also be interested in:   How to overcome sadness?


Denial is the mechanism that involves blocking external events from consciousness that the subject is unable to resolve or handle. The subject consciously refuses to perceive painful and traumatic events.

With denial the individual tries to evade reality, to escape from thoughts, situations and emotions that are intolerable for his psyche.

Denial can go as far as seeing something and saying “I don’t think so”, “it’s not there . ” For the subject it is not really there. Whoever denies, denies, and it is that despite the fact that at a certain moment they become aware that this something is there, they turn back and deny themselves again.

The mechanism of denial arises in the anal phase , and does not refer only to the field of sexuality. It is a primary mechanism and permanently distorts reality. In extreme situations the subject needs to improve to continue functioning.


Rationalization is a cognitive distortion of “facts” that makes an event or impulse less threatening. It is a more evolved mechanism, it occurs in the pre-school stage.

Passing everything through reason is what most tries to distance an individual from the affective , because when contacting the affects it could cause too much anguish and overflow. Even affective situations are given a rational explanation.

It is the easiest defense mechanism to see, and the one that is closest to consciousness. It is used frequently by people, for example: when excuses are made.

Reactive training

This mechanism generates an opposite behavior in the individual. The subject tends to behave contrary to what he thinks or feels. It’s like reacting to the opposite, according to the opposite. 

When the reactive formation mechanism is in use, the “id” is satisfied while keeping the “me” in ignorance of the true motives.

Evolutionarily this mechanism is related to the anal phase of sexual affective development, and has to do with obsessive mechanisms.


He says something and then denies it, “on second thought, no . ” The theme is when these elements become paralyzing for the life of the subject, where his life revolves around this as a problem that turns against himself and generates his suffering. It can turn into a symptom.

This mechanism is seen when one step forward and one step back successively.


This mechanism generates a setback in the psychological development aspects of a person when faced with highly stressful situations.

It occurs at any stage of life but it is necessary to advance in something to be able to return . A baby, for example, could not regress, because his psychological development is still limited.

Regression is going back to previous and known stages to solve today’s problems . Each one returns to different stages that were not resolved and it is not anywhere, but where there was pleasure or displeasure, one returns to where a fixation was made.

It is different from fixation, because in the latter it remains fixed in a stage and it is not possible to continue advancing psychically and in regression the subject can continue its development and at a certain moment it returns, it is healthier.


In this defense mechanism, the subject tries to flee from stressful situations that generate tension, isolating their thoughts and behaviors from the real situation. Isolation prevents these thoughts from emotionally damaging the subject’s psyche.

For example: Some people who are afraid of being disappointed isolate themselves from any type of interpersonal contact for fear that their feelings will be damaged.

Turning against oneself or identification with the aggressor

This mechanism occurs in extreme situations such as torture, domestic violence . There are certain sadistic aspects in this, a clear example of this is the Stockholm syndrome , where hostages identify with terrorists. This happens when a person is paralyzed by fear, for example, if an individual feels fear for another, under this mechanism he tends to conquer his fear by imitating him, becoming like him.  Behind this is the death drive; this is a very difficult risk mechanism to sustain.

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Hello Readers, I am Nikki Bella a Psychology student. I have always been concerned about human behavior and the mental processes that lead us to act and think the way we do. My collaboration as an editor in the psychology area of ​​Well Being Pole has allowed me to investigate further and expand my knowledge in the field of mental health; I have also acquired great knowledge about physical health and well-being, two fundamental bases that are directly related and are part of all mental health.

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