What Are Ego Defense Mechanisms?
When you accidentally injure yourself your body automatically begins several healing processes with the aim of restoring your body to its original healthy state.
But what if you were emotionally hurt? What if you faced a sudden shock or a tremendous amount of stress? What if your anxiety becomes more than you can handle? What if you lost a close person?
Just like your body has defenses against physical wounds and injuries it also has its defenses against emotional shocks and wounds. These mechanisms are called "Ego Defense Mechanisms" or "Unconscious Defense Mechanisms".
Ego Defense Mechanisms:
The following is an explanation of each of the ego defense mechanisms:
- Denial: Denial is the act of refusing to acknowledge the presence of the threat or the occurrence of the unpleasant event. Examples of denial would be refusing to acknowledge the death of a person or questioning the qualifications of the doctor who diagnosed the disease. The problem with denial is that it blocks the road to acceptance. You won’t be able to get over that event until you first accept it.
- Displacement: Displacement is transferring or discharging your emotions on a less threatening object. For example, shouting at your children or having a fight with your neighbor right after your boss shouts at is an example of displacement. You are angry at your boss but you are shouting at your kids instead. If your displacement ego defense mechanism gets fired then try to control yourself a bit and then work on identifying your real enemy. Don’t attack innocent people just because someone you can't harm has emotionally hurt you.
- Repression: Repression is the complete memory loss of a painful event. In this case, your subconscious mind doesn’t want you to remember what happened because it may negatively affect your mood.
- Projection: Projection is throwing the blame for the unwanted event upon others. For example saying that you failed an exam because the teacher is a racist.
- Rationalization: Rationalization is the act of rationalizing your wrong actions and creating a self serving explanation for what you did. Saying “I have the right to cheat in the exam because the lessons weren’t well explained” is a basic example of rationalization.
- Suppression: Avoiding thinking about the unwanted event and burring it deep. Suppressed emotions can result in mood swings that come out of nowhere and in severe depression. In my book, The ultimate guide to getting over depression i explained how ignoring your problems and allowing them to accumulate can be the primary source for depression. Some people face problems as soon as they encounter them while others bury them deeply in their subconscious minds or throw them behind their backs. When they do so their subconscious minds usually responds back with depression.
- Sublimation: Sublimation is satisfying your socially unacceptable needs in a socially accepted way. For example becoming a boxer in order to satisfy your hidden need for violence.
- Regression: Regression is returning to a previous state of development. Crying instead of taking actions to solve your problems means you have returned to the stage of childhood.
- Identification: By identifying with something or someone else you can increase your sense of self-worth. Saying that a famous singer is a friend of yours can make you feel good about yourself
- Undoing: This means trying to fix your mistake, like sending a SMS to apologize to a friend you've recently had a fight with.
- Fantasy: It's pretty much self-explanatory. Imagining yourself beating up your boss with a chair after he shouts at you is a perfect example of fantasizing
- Reaction Formation: Taking actions that are the opposite of your real desires, like for example greeting one of your enemies warmly just to show that you don’t hate him.
- Humor: Looking at the funny side of a situation can help you forget about the real problem.
- Compensation: Hiding your weaknesses by acting as a beacon of strength; saying something like “I'm never scared” after watching a horror movie.
- Affiliation: Affiliation is to seek the help of another person in getting over your problem.
- Dissociation: Dissociating yourself from reality is another famous defense mechanism
So, Are Ego Defense Mechanisms Effective?
Sometimes they are healthy and sometimes not. Some of them can help you, while others can make the problem even worse; whenever possible, try to consciously detect the presence of the defense mechanism and see if it is really beneficial or not.
If you find that it is not beneficial then try to avoid it or use a better one.
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