In the article “Sigmund Freud: life and work of the famous psychoanalyst” we commented that the function of I is to satisfy the impulses of it and not to offend the moral character of superego , while valuing reality. This is no easy task, and Freud describes that the self uses mechanisms to handle conflicts between these psychic instances.

defense mechanisms , therefore, are procedures that maintain the psychological balance in an unconscious way to face the anguish or anxiety associated with the conscious expression of a pulsional representation (sexual or aggressive), to the transgression of the moral code, or to a real external danger.

Defense mechanisms in psychoanalysis

Defence mechanisms are incorrect ways of resolving psychological conflict and can lead to disorders of mind, behaviour and, in the most extreme cases, to the somatisation of the psychological conflict that causes it.

Here are the
ten main defense mechanisms described in the theories of psychoanalysis .

1. Displacement

Refers to the redirection of an impulse (usually an aggression) towards a person or an object . For example, someone who feels frustrated with his boss and kicks his dog, or a piece of furniture. In this case we are faced with a defense mechanism: since we cannot hit the boss because he would fire us from our job, we displace the object of our anger towards any other being or object.

2. Sublimation

It is similar to displacement, but the impulse is channelled into a more acceptable form.
A sexual drive is sublimated towards a non-sexual end , aiming at objects valued positively by society, such as artistic activity, physical activity or intellectual research.

3. Repression

It’s the mechanism Sigmund Freud first discovered. It refers to the
process by which the self erases events and thoughts that would be painful if they were kept at the conscious level , since the satisfaction of the repressed drive becomes irreconcilable with other demands of the superego or of reality.

4. Projection

It refers to
the tendency of individuals to attribute (project) their own thoughts, motives or feelings towards another person . The most common projections may be aggressive behaviour that provokes a feeling of guilt, and socially unacceptable sexual fantasies or thoughts. For example, a girl hates her roommate, but the superyó tells her that this is unacceptable. She may solve the problem by thinking that it is the other person who hates her.

5. Denial

It’s the mechanism by which
the subject blocks external events from becoming part of consciousness and therefore treats obvious aspects of reality as if they did not exist. For example, a smoker who denies that smoking can cause serious problems for his health. By denying these harmful effects of smoking, he can better tolerate his habit, naturalising it.

6. Regression

It refers to
any regression to previous situations or habits, a return to immature behaviour patterns . For example, a teenager who is not allowed to go away for a weekend to a friend’s house and reacts with a tantrum and shouts in front of his parents, as if he were a minor child.

7. Reactive formation

Impulses are not only repressed, but also
are controlled by exaggerating the opposite behavior . In other words, the appearance of a painful thought is stopped by replacing it with a more pleasant one. For example, a person who is very angry with a friend, but tells him that everything is fine to avoid an argument.

8. Insulation

It is a mechanism by which s and divorce memories from feelings, as a way to better support and tolerate facts and reality. An idea that is intolerable for the self is separated from the emotions it produces, thus remaining in the consciousness in a weakened form. For example, relate a traumatic episode in a completely normal way, just as if you were talking about the weather or any other trivial matter.

9. Condensation

It’s a mechanism by which
certain elements of the unconscious (latent content) are brought together into a single image or object during sleep . It consists of the concentration of several meanings in a single symbol. The process of condensation makes the account of the manifest content much shorter than the description of the latent content. It is a term that arises from psychoanalytic explanations that give account of the creation of dreams.

10. Rationalization

In the rationalization
a real reason that is not acceptable is replaced by one that is acceptable . In other words, the perspective of reality is changed by offering a different explanation. For example, a woman falls madly in love with a man, and they start a relationship. After a month of starting the relationship, the man breaks it off because he considers that the woman has a very low self-confidence and does not let him breathe. Despite the fact that the woman has three consecutive love failures for the same reason, she concludes: “I already knew that this man was a loser”, or “from the first moment I knew that this man was not right for me”.