Defense Mechanisms

By Sultan Muhammad Khan

Psychoanalytic theory was presented by Sigmund Freud, a great psychologist of 19th century. Psychoanalytic theory is the study of human mind and how it responds during the time of crisis or grief. Defense mechanisms are unconscious state of mind. Our minds find a way out for our emotions and satisfy us, take away us from unpleasant circumstances. It is the conflict between ego and super ego, one made a person emotional (sorrow, angry, unpleasant) and the other make it bearable and provide a way out from this unpleasant emotional condition. Defense mechanism is protection form undesired emotions and help during the time of grief and sorrow but some times it can take wrong turn and could be very dangerous. Defense mechanism some time can split the personality of a person which led to a more difficult stage where one needs the help of a qualified professional to help him and bring him on the right track. After Sigmund Freud Psychoanalytic theory, the psychologists paid attention to the state of mind and they start the study of mind. They find different types of defense mechanism in people, some are harmless and some are very harmful. Even in some cases some take dangerous shapes which not only dangerous for the person who had it but for other people too. Here are some types of Defense mechanisms.

  • Undoing it is the state of mind where one tries to take back his previous behavior. This type of Defense mechanism is not very harmful. If they insulted some one they tries to get them back and compensate them by praising them extremely 

  • Fantasy, also called day dreaming, is a defense mechanism where one starts imaging thing which is not happening to him in real life. If a person is not respected in real life he will start imaging him self in a life very he will be respected by all and the people will love him for his great personality or position. This type of defense mechanism is not harmful to others but is harmful to the people who have it because they left behind in real life.
  • Compartmentalization it is a process where one divided him self in compartments mentally where one part follow good values and other have no values. Where some time he will follow the law and other time he will try to find loopholes and excuse for not abiding the law. It is an unconscious act by his part. It is like two minds in one body. 
  • Compensation it is defense mechanism where one tries to compensate his weakness and stress on his strong area it is also called the process of psychologically counterbalancing
  • Projection in this type of defense mechanism the person blame other for being hostile to him, the fact is other way around. He himself is hostile person and he projects his image on others. Some time he would unreasonable to his spouse but he will thank that his spouse is unreasonable to him
  • Denial it is a defense mechanism where one refuses to accept the reality that he is in problem. It develops during childhood, where he denies that he is afraid of dark or he is not afraid of parents after doing something bad or accepts that he is in a painful situation. He looks other way and do not face the fact or reality unless it catch himt and he has no way to hide from it.
  • Displacement it is the redirecting of feelings and anger to other person who had nothing to do with it. It is like in school when a bully angry or hit a weak boy and he could not respond to him, he take out his feeling on smaller boys or on pets. It is harmful defense mechanism for others. Innocent people are targeted due to it. In office boss is angry on staff and the person who is target of that anger redirect it to others, wife, children or neighbors.
  • Reaction Formation. It is a defense mechanism where one can’t express his true emotions of unhappiness toward a job or task given to him by some one. He converts his feeling of unhappiness and unwillingness to opposite thoughts and shows his willingness and happiness for that task. He became very kind.
  • Acting Out is a defense mechanism where a person can’t express his extreme behavior he just said I am angry at you. On the other hand another will use a more practical way to show his expression like punching some thing as a result it release pressure from him. This type of defense mechanism some time harmful for one self. He can hurt himself in the process.
  • Regression is defense mechanism in which the person reversion to an earlier stage of development when he face of unacceptable thoughts or impulses. In some cases adolescent that is under pressure, fear and anger may start bed wetting again show signs of earlier childhood behaviors.
  • Repression is defense mechanism where one unconsciously blocks unacceptable feelings and thoughts. The problem is that they are doing it unintentionally. It comes out with a different behavior which could harmful in some cases. 

  • Disassociation is a defense mechanism, when a person loses track of him self and create another personality or another representation of their self in order to continue in the moment. He lose track of time. People with the history of childhood abuse suffer from this kind of disassociation. It is a very serious disorder which is very harmful for the person who has it. He sometime disconnects from the real world and lives in a different world which is not real.
  • Rationalization it is a defense mechanism where one finds different explanations for his failure putting and sees things in different perception. If  boy dumped a girl who like her very much, she reframes the situation in her thoughts that he was a loser
  • Sublimation is a defense mechanism where a person channels energy of unacceptable feeling to a more useful feeling. Redirecting unacceptable or harmful impulses into productive use.

  • Assertiveness is defense mechanism where person stress on the needs and thoughts which is respectful. They express their self in a very respective manner and people listen to them when they spoke. They are very assertive and have a strong communication skill. in some cases it is a very helpful defense mechanism


Bondi, L. 2005: Making connections and thinking through emotions: between      geography and psychotherapy Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers

Elliot, A. J. (1999). Approach and avoidance motivation and achievement goals. Educational Psychologist

Nast, H. 2000: Mapping the “unconscious”: racism and the oedipal family Annals of the Association of American Geographers
By John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

Similar Videos