Defense Mechanisms

During my psychiatric nursing course over this summer the topic of defense mechanisms came up. When learning about defense mechanisms, I became more and more aware of how I was using/used in the past a variety of defense mechanisms in order to stay in my eating disorder. They are also used alot in interpersonal relationships. Below is some information on defenses. It's long but I find it pretty interesting.


Defense mechanisms protect us from being consciously aware of a thought or feeling which we cannot tolerate. The defense only allows the unconscious thought or feeling to be expressed indirectly in a disguised form. Let's say you are angry with a professor because he is very critical of you. Here's how the various defenses might hide and/or transform that anger:

Denial: You completely reject the thought or feeling.
"I'm not angry with him!"

Suppression: You are vaguely aware of the thought or feeling, but try to hide it.
"I'm going to try to be nice to him."

Reaction Formation: You turn the feeling into its opposite.
"I think he's really great!"

Projection: You think someone else has your thought or feeling.
"That professor hates me."
"That student hates the proof."

Displacement: You redirect your feelings to another target...
"I hate that secretary."

Rationalization: You come up with various explanations to justify the situation (while denying your feelings).
"He's so critical because he's trying to help us do our best."

Intellectualization: A type of rationalization, only more intellectualized.
"This situation reminds me of how Nietzsche said that anger is ontological despair."

Undoing: You try to reverse or undo your feeling by DOING something that indicates the opposite feeling. It may be an "apology" for the feeling you find unacceptable within yourself.
"I think I'll give that professor an apple."
Isolation of affect: You "think" the feeling but don't really feel it.
"I guess I'm angry with him, sort of."

Regression: You revert to an old, usually immature behavior to ventilate your feeling.
"Let's shoot spitballs at people!"

Sublimation: You redirect the feeling into a socially productive activity.
"I'm going to write a poem about anger."

** Defenses may hide any of a variety of thoughts or feelings: anger, fear, sadness, depression, greed, envy, competitiveness, love, passion, admiration, criticalness, dependency, selfishness, grandiosity, helplessness.

wow that is awesome thanks for sharing

♥ Thanks for sharing!