Defense mechanisms are unconscious behaviors people use to separate themselves from unpleasant behaviors and thoughts. They can also help people distance themselves from real or perceived threats and unwanted feelings. Prolonged use of defense mechanisms may lead to problems that may last a lifetime. As these mechanisms are unconscious for most people, knowing and learning about them can help you recognize your defense mechanisms and prevent them. Here are some of the common self-defense mechanisms in humans:
One of the most common defense mechanisms in humans is displacement. Displacement involves taking out your frustrations and anger on people or objects that are less threatening. If you have lashed out at someone at home after a stressful day at work, you have experienced this defense mechanism. Or you might have experienced a serious need to harm or hurt less-significant objects or people. We are often unconscious of this behavior as we are not often aware or keeping track of the source of discomfort or stress. If we tend to use displacement as a defense mechanism, it might lead to the breaking down of relationships and financial loss.
Denial is one of the most known defense mechanisms. Denial protects the ego of a person who cannot accept reality as it is. An example is the substance abuser who denies being an addict or a trauma survivor who may deny that the event ever occurred. Denial can work in different ways – A person can flat-out reject the existence of reality or truth, or they can admit the truth but minimize its importance. Alternatively, people in denial can also accept reality and understand the seriousness of a situation but isolate themselves by denying any responsibility. Denial temporarily shields humans from anxiety and pain; however, the stress and anxiety will finally catch up.
Repression and Suppression:
Repression is the unconscious behavior of the human mind to keep any information or memories from conscious awareness. There are plenty of people who don’t have any recollection of their childhood due to the trauma and abuse they suffered during that time. However, the memories don’t just disappear; rather, it stays out of conscious awareness while still affecting our reality and behavior. Suppression is the conscious attempt to not think about unwanted thoughts and memories. People with suppression as a defense mechanism constantly force out unwanted information from their awareness.
Intellectualization and Rationalization:
Through Intellectualization, a person might deal with their anxiety by thinking about an unpleasant event clinically and intellectually. This allows the person to avoid the emotional aspects of the event. In contrast, Rationalization is a defense mechanism in which a person rationalizes an unacceptable behavior in a logical manner. This allows the person to blame external factors for an unpleasant situation, which helps in protecting their self-esteem and ego. A common example is when people blame their success on their own skills and failures on outside forces or circumstances.