List of fifteen important defense mechanisms used by an individual:- 1. Compensation 2. Rationalization 3. Projection 4. Identification 5. Substitution 6. Sublimation 7. Repression 8. Regression 9. Negativism 10. Sympathism 11. Withdrawal 12. Fantasy or Day-Dreaming 13. Reaction Formation 14. Introjection 15. Acting Out.
Defense Mechanism # 1. Compensation:
When an individual attempts to make up for a deficiency by directing his energies to some other aspects of his personality in which no deficiency exists, he is using the mechanism of compensation. For example, an academically weak student may perform very well in sports or cultural activities.
Defense Mechanism # 2. Rationalization:
This is one of the most popular mechanisms used by us. The individual who has been frustrated or who cannot solve his problem successfully and as a result feels restless tries to lessen his feelings of guilt and anxiety by using this device. He behaves and reacts in a certain way in response to frustration and instead of justifying his actions by real and true reasons, gives different reasons.
Rationalization takes a special form called sour-grapes mechanism. This name is derived from a fable about a fox who spent a lot of time and effort in jumping and reaching for grapes in a tree, that were just beyond his reach. As he could not succeed in his effort even after repeated attempts, he consoled himself by saying that those grapes were sour and hence not to be tried for anymore.
We often insist that things we cannot achieve are not worth-having. For example, a student who has failed in an examination several times may argue that only the examiners can pass such examinations. Another form that rationalization takes is known as sweet-lemon mechanism. This is opposite of sour-grapes mechanism.
The central theme here is that one thinks that whatever happens is for one’s good. For example, a person may lose a big fortune, it is as severe blow to him but the blow may be softened by the rationalization that he can now enjoy the simpler and more important and enduring things in life which he had formerly overlooked for want of time.
Another example, a housewife who lives in a small house because of limited income of her husband may praise the virtues of living in small houses, saying that they are much cozier and easier to maintain.
Defense Mechanism # 3. Projection:
We often attribute to others for our own shortcomings, desires or moral defects as a means of lessening our sense of guilt or inadequacy. For example, a person given to the habit of lying may say that all in the world are liars.
A special form of projection is called displacement or transference. For example, a student nurse, who has been scolded by the tutor-sister for negligence of duty, may feel very angry about it but instead of showing her anger on the tutor-sister, she may show her aggressive feelings on a patient who had done nothing to hurt her feelings.
Defense Mechanism # 4. Identification:
It is an adjustment mechanism which enables one to achieve satisfaction from the success of other people, groups or organizations. For example, boys often identify with their fathers and girls, with their mothers. Another example, students often identify with their favourite teacher and modify their behaviour in accordance with the latter.
One more example, when we do not possess certain qualities and are unable to achieve certain ambitions, we identify ourselves with those possessing those qualities and have achieved those ambitions, by identifying with them. Hero-worship is a form of identification, wherein we identify ourselves with some hero of a story or a drama or even someone in real life.
As we grow, we begin to identify ourselves with our schools, colleges, universities, clubs and organizations. Thus identification may operate as a desirably defence mechanism, but if excessively practiced, we may tend to bask only in the reflected glory of others and end up making no serious effort to achieve success and glory in our own lives.
Defense Mechanism # 5. Substitution:
This is an adjustment mechanism in which original goals or desires are substituted by others. The original goals are difficult to achieve, and an attempt at achieving them may end in failure then the individual tries to lessen the effects of actual failure, by setting a new modest goal which is easier to attain. For example, a boy who cannot go to a medical college for lack of funds or sufficient merit, may opt to go for an evening course in X-ray technology.
Defense Mechanism # 6. Sublimation:
It is a form of mechanism of substitution in which our acceptable desires or activities are redirected into socially desirable channels. For example, a business man who has been angry over certain events of the day may redirect his energies into games, gardening or any other manual work.
Thus he channels his negative emotions into a more desirable form of behaviour. It needs to be noted, however, that sublimation becomes possible only if the training and education have been good, and facilities for sublimation along with suitable potentialities are present in the milieu.
Defense Mechanism # 7. Repression (Selective Forgetting):
Repression is often referred to as selective forgetting. It is the most useful defence mechanism in helping the individual in controlling his dangerous desires and minimizing the threat by preventing unpleasant thoughts from becoming conscious. Repression tries to keep unpleasant information out of conscious awareness.
However, unpleasant memories just don’t disappear but continue to influence our behaviour. For example, a person who has repressed memories about his childhood sufferings may have difficulties in forming normal relationships in his later life.
Defense Mechanism # 8. Regression:
Some people do not meet the problems of life, its stress and strain in a mature way. They revert to an infantile or childish level of behaviour, and thus avoid the pain of suffering a conflict or tension. This mode of behaviour is called regression. It always implies a form of behaviour that is less mature than what is expected of the individual.
It is true that the occasional use of the mechanism may not do harm to one’s personality, but constantly retreating from one’s problems by living in the past or resorting to childish patterns of thought and behaviour constitutes a serious danger to personality development. Such a person may remain highly dependent, indecisive and afraid of change.
Defense Mechanism # 9. Negativism:
Some individuals react to stress situations by turning negative. This means they refuse to attack the problem or obstacle which confronts them. Instead, they become contradictory, stubborn and rebellious. They become uncooperative and do the opposite of what is to be done.
Children who are treated unfairly and discriminately, who are discouraged, or on the other hand, pampered too much, are likely to develop uncooperative and negativistic behaviour. Disobedience and bad temper are expressions of their negativism.
Defense Mechanism # 10. Sympathism:
Here the individual avoids the necessity of solving his problems by obtaining the sympathy of others. Many persons get contented if they can turn to someone for sympathy. They try to gain attention and secure expressions of concern over their difficulties.
Defense Mechanism # 11. Withdrawal:
Some people tend to withdraw from the situation which causes them difficulty. They do everything in their power to keep away from psychologically demanding situations. Failure and criticism make them timid and insecure.
For example, a student who is afraid of achieving success in social relationships may shun the company of other students. He may remain at home or by himself and may refuse to participate in sports or social gatherings.
Defense Mechanism # 12. Fantasy or Day-Dreaming:
Day-dreaming is a kind of withdrawal. Many of resort to it when we are face-to-face with tough problems in life. Instead of trying to solve those problems in a realistic manner, we withdraw ourselves into a world of fantasy, where we need not face failure and we succeed in every undertaking of ours.
Undeniably, day-dreaming is a pleasant thing. It may help us to escape from the disagreeableness of everyday life. It may help us to relax and gain a new perspective on things. However, excessive daydreaming may result in loss of contact with hard facts of life and may lead to psychotic disorders.
Defense Mechanism # 13. Reaction Formation:
Here the individual develops conscious attitudes and behaviour patterns which are just the opposite of the real ones. Reaction formation reduces anxiety by cultivating the opposite feeling, impulse or behaviour. Treating someone you strongly dislike, in an excessively courteous manner in order to hide your true feelings is an example of reaction formation.
Defense Mechanism # 14. Introjection:
This involves an acceptance of others’ values and norms of society as one’s own. In introjection, the individual incorporates the external demands and accepts them.
Defense Mechanism # 15. Acting Out:
This is a reaction that reduces the tension and anxiety by actually permitting the expression. For example, a person who is angry may hit the person who caused him the anger. But in most circumstances, acting out is as good as impossible because of social mores and social expectations.
Ego defences are not necessarily unhealthy. Lack of these defences or the inability to use them effectively can often lead to problems in life. However, we sometimes employ them at the wrong time or overuse them, and this can be equally destructive.