SPLITTING REACTION FORMATION
1. REPRESSION Involuntary recall painful or unpleasant thoughts or feelings cause they are automatically
& involuntarily pushed into one’s unconsciousness.
FORGETFULNESS Blackout (alcoholic intoxication) blocking (Alzheimer’s/Dementia)
Memory gaps Confabulation = making story to fill in memory gaps also used by
Wernicke’s Korsakoff’s = ↓ Vit. B1-thiamine, peripheral neuritis (tingling
sensation) ↓ B6 Pyridoxine, B9 folic acid, B12 P. anemia. Ex. Sexually abused as a
child blocks the experience from her consciousness and is confused about inability to
SUPPRESSION – used Willingly or voluntarily putting unacceptable thoughts or feelings out of one’s mind
selective inattention with the ability to recall the thoughts or feelings at will.
Ex. Voluntary forgetfulness or “I rather not talk about it, right now!”
2. CONVERSION Transferring of mental conflict or emotional anxiety into physical symptom to release
Somatic/somatoform Ex. A soldier experiences sudden blindness after witnessing his best friend dying from a
disease grenade blast; Diarrhea before exam; suppress anger HPN
DISSOCIATION Act of detaching of separating a strong emotionally charged conflict from one’s
#1 DM: Multiple
personality= destruction of Ex. A woman raped found wandering a busy highway – traumatic amnesia.
SYMBOLIZATION – An object, idea, or act represents another through some common aspect and carries the
unconscious; emotional feeling associated with the other.
#1 DM: Phobias Ex. Engagement ring symbol of love; phobias
3. IDENTIFICATION – Unconsciously, people use it to identify with the personality and traits of another. To
external preserve one’s ego or self. Mimics/simulates external behavior , like fashion & fads
DM: Preschooler Ex. Imitator, similar to role playing
INTROJECTION – Attributing to oneself the good qualities of another. Incorporate feelings & emotions,
INTERNAL values & beliefs, traits and personality. “ingestion, internalization”
DM: Depression & counter Ex. Acting & dressing like Jesus Christ
4. SUBLIMATION Re-channeling of consciously intolerable or Socially Unacceptable Behaviors or
impulses into personally or socially acceptable. Modify the issue, problem is still present
Ex. An aggressive person joins debate team (behavior modification)++
COMPENSATION The act of making up for a real or imagined deficiency with a specific behavior.
Conscious or unconscious.
Problem is not connected.
Ex. An unattractive girl became a very good tennis player. - +
5. RATIONALIZATION – Most common ego DM. Unconsciously used to justify ideas, actions and/or feelings with
object good acceptable reasons or explanation. Irrational/illogical excuses to escape
responsibility. Rationalization is justifying one’s actions which are based on other
#1 DM: Anti-social disorder motives. It is usually seen among alcoholics.
Ex. It wasn’t worth it; anyway, it is all for the best. Student fails an exam, blames it on the
Temporarily alleviates anxiety.
PROJECTION – person Person rejects unwanted characteristics of self and assigns them to others.Projection is
attributing to others one’s unconscious wishes/fear. Usually it is observed in
#1 DM: Paranoid paranoid patients.
Ex. Blaming others for own faults. “scapegoat”
6. DISPLACEMENT – Mechanism that serves to transfer feelings such as frustration, hostility or anxiety from
higher to lower one idea, person or object to another.
Ex. Yelling at a subordinate after being yelled at by the boss.
UNDOING OR Negation of previous consciously intolerable action or experience to reduce or alleviate
RESTITUTION – lower to feelings of guilt.
Ex. Sending flowers after embarrassing her in public.
DM: Obsessive Compulsive
7. SPLITTING Viewing people as all good, and others as all bad
Impulsive = poor self-control
Ex. Hx of drug addicts & alcoholics
DM: Borderline (female)
REACTION FORMATION Person exaggerates or overdevelops certain actions by displaying exactly the opposite
behavior, attitude, or feeling from what he or she normally would show in a given
#1 DM: Passive-aggressive situation. OVERCOMPENSATION. Conscious intent often altruistic. Procrastinate
Ex. Student hating her CI may act very courteously towards her.
8. REGRESSION A. temporary retreat to past levels of behavior that reduce anxiety, allow one to feel
more comfortable. Ex. A 27 year old acts like a 17 y.o. on her first date with a fellow
employee; smoking at parties chronic regression
FIXATION Permanent or persistence into later life of interests and behavior patterns appropriate to
an early age. Without stressors
Ex. Chain smokers, alcoholics = oral fixation
9. The act of transferring emotional concerns into the intellectual sphere. Exaggeration of
INTELLECTUALIZATION intellect. Person uses reasoning as a means to avoid confrontation. Ex. “Dear John” Letter
the groom is trying to figure out with his room mate why his fiancée changed her mind –
to avoid confronting her.
ACTING - OUT Unconscious wish turned into reality
Ex. Molested child wants to be comforted becomes psychologist = Oprah
10. DENIAL The unconscious refusal /avoidance to face thoughts, feelings, wishes, needs, and/or
reality factors that are intolerable. Blocking the awareness of reality. Ex. “things will get
#1DM: better, soon”
Alcoholics, PTSD, incurable 14 y/o girl who is undergoing dialysis says, “What’s good about this, is that
illness after it I will look good & thin.” This shows that the teen is denying her
Cancer patient saying, “You might have mixed my result with other patients,”
is showing denial
FANTASY Imagined events or mental images. Wishful thinking; Temporary flight from reality to ↓
anxiety. Ex. Daydreaming. (permanent flight from reality: autism)
A number of phenomena are used to aid in the maintenance of repression. These are termed Ego
Defense Mechanisms (the terms “Mental Mechanisms” and “Defense Mechanisms” are essentially
synonymous with this). The primary functions of these mechanisms are:
1. to minimize anxiety
2. to protect the ego
3. to maintain repression
Repression is useful to the individual since:
1. it prevents discomfort
2. it leads to some economy of time and effort
A. Level 1 Defence Mechanisms
The mechanisms on this level, when predominating, almost always are severely pathological. These
three defences, in conjunction, permit one to effectively rearrange external reality and eliminate the
need to cope with reality. The pathological users of these mechanisms frequently appear crazy or
insane to others. These are the quot;psychoticquot; defences, common in overt psychosis. However, they are
found in dreams and throughout childhood as healthy mechanisms.
• Denial: Refusal to accept external reality because it is too threatening; arguing against an
anxiety-provoking stimulus by stating it doesn't exist; resolution of emotional conflict and
reduction of anxiety by refusing to perceive or consciously acknowledge the more unpleasant
aspects of external reality.
• Distortion: A gross reshaping of external reality to meet internal needs.
• Delusional Projection: Grossly frank delusions about external reality, usually of a persecutory
B. Level 2 Defence Mechanisms
These mechanisms are often present in adults and more commonly present in adolescence. These
mechanisms lessen distress and anxiety provoked by threatening people or by uncomfortable reality.
People who excessively use such defences are seen as socially undesirable in that they are immature,
difficult to deal with and seriously out of touch with reality. These are the so-called quot;immaturequot;
defences and overuse almost always lead to serious problems in a person's ability to cope effectively.
These defences are often seen in severe depression and personality disorders. In adolescence, the
occurrence of all of these defences is normal.
• Fantasy: Tendency to retreat into fantasy in order to resolve inner and outer conflicts.
• Projection: Projection is a primitive form of paranoia. Projection also reduces anxiety by
allowing the expression of the undesirable impulses or desires without becoming consciously
aware of them; attributing one's own unacknowledged unacceptable/unwanted thoughts and
emotions to another; includes severe prejudice, severe jealousy, hypervigilance to external
danger, and quot;injustice collectingquot;. It is shifting one's unacceptable thoughts, feelings and
impulses within oneself onto someone else, such that those same thoughts, feelings, beliefs
and motivations are perceived as being possessed by the other.
• Hypochondriasis: The transformation of negative feelings towards others into negative feelings
toward self, pain, illness, and anxiety.
• Passive aggression: Aggression towards others expressed indirectly or passively.
• Acting out: Direct expression of an unconscious wish or impulse without conscious awareness
of the emotion that drives that expressive behavior.
• Idealization: Subconsciously choosing to perceive another individual as having more positive
qualities than he or she may actually have.
C. Level 3 Defence Mechanisms
These mechanisms are considered neurotic, but fairly common in adults. Such defences have short-
term advantages in coping, but can often cause long-term problems in relationships, work and in
enjoying life when used as one's primary style of coping with the world.
• Displacement: Defence mechanism that shifts sexual or aggressive impulses to a more
acceptable or less threatening target; redirecting emotion to a safer outlet; separation of
emotion from its real object and redirection of the intense emotion toward someone or
something that is less offensive or threatening in order to avoid dealing directly with what is
frightening or threatening. For example, a mother may yell at her child because she is angry
with her husband.
• Dissociation: Temporary drastic modification of one's personal identity or character to avoid
emotional distress; separation or postponement of a feeling that normally would accompany a
situation or thought.
• Isolation: Separation of feelings from ideas and events, for example, describing a murder with
graphic details with no emotional response.
• Intellectualization: A form of isolation; concentrating on the intellectual components of a
situation so as to distance oneself from the associated anxiety-provoking emotions; separation
of emotion from ideas; thinking about wishes in formal, affectively bland terms and not acting
on them; avoiding unacceptable emotions by focusing on the intellectual aspects (e.g.
• Reaction Formation: Converting unconscious wishes or impulses that are perceived to be
dangerous into their opposites; behavior that is completely the opposite of what one really
wants or feels; taking the opposite belief because the true belief causes anxiety. This defence
can work effectively for coping in the short term, but will eventually break down.
• Repression: Process of pulling thoughts into the unconscious and preventing painful or
dangerous thoughts from entering consciousness; seemingly unexplainable naivety, memory
lapse or lack of awareness of one's own situation and condition; the emotion is conscious, but
the idea behind it is absent.
D. Level 4 Defence Mechanisms
These are commonly found among emotionally healthy adults and are considered the most mature,
even though many have their origins in the immature level. However, these have been adapted
through the years so as to optimize success in life and relationships. The use of these defences
enhances user pleasure and feelings of mastery. These defences help the users to integrate conflicting
emotions and thoughts while still remaining effective. Persons who use these mechanisms are viewed
as having virtues.
• Altruism: Constructive service to others that brings pleasure and personal satisfaction
• Anticipation: Realistic planning for future discomfort
• Humor: Overt expression of ideas and feelings (especially those that are unpleasant to focus
on or too terrible to talk about) that gives pleasure to others. Humor, which explores the
absurdity inherent in any event, enables someone to call a spade a spade, while quot;witquot; is a form
of displacement (see above under Category 3). Wit refers to the serious or distressing in a
humorous way, rather than disarming it; the thoughts remain distressing, but they are 'skirted
round' by the witticism.
• Identification: The unconscious modeling of one's self upon another person's character and
• Introjection: Identifying with some idea or object so deeply that it becomes a part of that
• Sublimation: Transformation of negative emotions or instincts into positive actions, behavior, or
• Suppression: The conscious process of pushing thoughts into the preconscious; the conscious
decision to delay paying attention to an emotion or need in order to cope with the present
reality; able to later access uncomfortable or distressing emotions and accept them
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