Many years ago, Freud defined so called “defence mechanisms” to respond to stress exposure. Nowadays, the list of these mechanism has been expanded. The defence mechanisms are unconscious coping techniques, meaning that most of us do not realize that we are using them in a particular moment. These techniques might result in healthy or unhealthy consequences depending upon which mechanism we are using.
The more primitive a defence mechanism, the less effective it works over the long-term. However, more primitive defense mechanisms are usually very effective short-term, and that is why are favored by many people.
Defence mechanisms exist in a hierarchical ordering from least to more mature or adaptive:
- Denial= you ignore unpleasant external realities and refuse their acknowledgement.
- Fantasy= you are gratifying your frustrated desires by imaginary achievements.
- Projection= you are attributing your own unacceptable desire or impulse onto someone else.
- Displacement= you are releasing your anxiety against a substitute object when doing so against the source the anxiety.
- Identification= you are taking on the characteristics of someone viewed as successful.
- Regression= you are temporary returning to an earlier stage of development rather than handling unacceptable impulses in a more adult way.
- Repression= you are attempting to repel desires towards pleasurable instincts, caused by a threat of suffering if the desire is satisfied.
- Reaction Formation= you are adopting or expressing the strong opposite of you true feelings and motives.
- Rationalization= you ae justifying an unacceptable thought or feeling by selecting a logical reason to think or feel that way.
- Anticipation= you are forecasting future danger and coping with it gradually using small steps.
- Humour= you are accepting you shortcoming and talking about it in a socially acceptable way.
- Mindfulness= you are adopting a particular orientation towards your own experiences in the present moment through expressing curiosity, openness, and acceptance.
- Patience= you are enduring difficult circumstances for some time before responding negatively.
- Sublimation= you are transforming a socially unacceptable anxiety into a source of energy that produces no adverse consequences making them socially acceptable.
- Suppression= you delay your conscious decision paying attention to your emotion in order to cope with the present reality.
- Tolerance= you are deliberately allowing a thing of which you disapprove.
- Assertiveness= you are putting an emphasis on our need and thoughts in a manner that is respectful, direct, and firm.
A partial extract from my upcoming book Stress and Health: What you need to know for your well-being
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