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Defense mechanisms

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Video transcript

- [Voiceover] Defense mechanisms are ways of protecting ourselves when we have to deal with our unconscious wants, feelings, desires, impulses. In some ways defense mechanisms actually act as a psychological shield against our anxiety or discomfort at these unconscious psychological processes. And defense mechanisms have actually been classified into several different categories. The first category was described as being pathological defense mechanisms, and these defense mechanisms are generally thought to distort reality so that a person can deal with a situation. So while there are several of these, the most important one is one called denial, where the person just pretends that something hasn't happened or isn't true. For example, if someone's diagnosed with breast cancer, a defense mechanism would be for them to deny that such a thing has happened or deny that they have breast cancer. And denial is the main defense mechanism that I want to talk about under this pathological category. There are a number of defense mechanisms here, but I'm just going to pick out the most important ones for you to know. One step up from pathological defense mechanisms we actually move into a category called immature defense mechanisms, and while these are sometimes present in adults, they are generally not as socially accepted, and if defense mechanisms are commonly used, it may cause somebody to have social problems. One of the key defense mechanisms here is called projection, and what happens here in projection is that somebody attributes their own hidden and unconscious thoughts or emotions and actually attributes them to somebody else. So someone is very, very, very jealous, for example, they can actually project out that jealously and say, oh, that other person actually has problems with jealousy and it's not really me. It's a way of being able to shift one's own feelings across to somebody else and identify somebody else as possessing these unacceptable thoughts or feelings. So that's projection, but what can actually also happen is something called projective identification. In projective identification, once that person has something attributed to them, projected onto them, like jealousy, for example, that person can actually subsequently start to demonstrate exactly those thoughts or feelings or whatever's been projected onto them and actually start to feel that way. Like, yes, I am a jealous person, and maybe I'm going to act like that. So this projection can subsequently, once it's projected onto this individual, this individual may start acting in that manner, and that's called projective identification. Another important immature defense mechanism to think about is passive aggression, and what happens in passive aggression is someone expresses their aggression by actually failing to do something or doing something very slowly for somebody else. So it's an indirect or passive way of expressing their anger. Okay, so as we can see so far, we've outlined one pathological defense mechanism, denial, and two immature defense mechanisms, and this is by no means comprehensive. There are many more defense mechanisms, but I'm picking out the most important ones. Now let's move onto a set of defense mechanisms that are called neurotic, and let's start by one called intellectualization. And what happens in intellectualization is that somebody picks out the intellectual aspects of any situation and detaches it from the emotional aspects, taking away that anxiety invoking emotional part of a situation. So this is really a separation of emotion from ideas. Related to this is another defense mechanism by the name of rationalization, and what happens in rationalization is that we figure out a way of making an excuse and convincing ourselves that we were at no fault. Often times our thought process may involve some false logic or false reasoning, but it's useful for us because it enables us to avoid blaming ourselves. We also have another neurotic defense mechanism by the name of regression, and what happens in regression is that we end up performing behaviors as if we were at a much younger stage in our lives. So, for example, if we can talk and speak and move about and do things normally, we may resort to whining or throwing a tantrum or acting in a way that is much more like somebody that was at a much younger stage in life. Some people might say, acting like a baby. And a very similar word to this is something called repression, but it's actually a very different concept. This is like most of these defense mechanisms, an unconscious process, where our thoughts that may be coming into our consciousness are pushed down into our unconscious. And finally, in this category, we have something called displacement, and I'm actually going to go down a little bit just to show you what that looks like. What could happen in displacement is that an individual may feel very angry towards one person, but because it's not safe or it may be difficult to express that anger, they may displace that anger onto an easier target. For example, if a wife is angry at her husband, she may, instead of shouting or getting angry at him, may actually get angry at her child. Okay, so those are several of the neurotic defense mechanisms. Now I want to talk to you about some of the mature defense mechanisms, and the reason why these are important is that people who demonstrate strong use of defense mechanisms are happier, healthier, and more satisfied with life. So what are these more mature defense mechanisms? These defense mechanisms include things like the use of humor, the telling of jokes or engaging in humorous activity to partly be truthful about some of these hidden feelings but also to make it much more socially acceptable. Another defense mechanism here is called sublimation. So if someone, for example, really has violent urges, they can channel their negative energy into positive energy. So, for example, violent urges may lead to them actually becoming a boxer or a fitness trainer or a weight-lifter, instead of actually going out and hurting someone. There's also another process, and think about repression that I mentioned earlier. It sounds like repression, and it's actually called suppression, and suppression is actually a much more conscious way of transferring negative emotions or feelings and pushing them away from conscious thought so we can get on with things, but we can easily access those thoughts at a later time. And finally, I want to mention one last defense mechanism, which is altruism, which is basically when we are in the service of other people. We actually feel very fulfilled and gain pleasure and satisfaction. So these categories are the mature defense mechanisms. So there are certainly a lot of defense mechanisms here, and it's important to know that this is by no means exhaustive. So something else I want to cover is a defense mechanism called reaction formation, and this is often referred to as being part of the neurotic group of defense mechanisms. But this is particularly interesting because those unconscious wishes or feelings that are experienced by a person they actually end up doing the complete opposite. So, for example, somebody that has a problem with immigration may actually volunteer to work at an immigration center, helping people develop their language skills or their Visa issues.