FREUD’S MECHANISTIC VIEW OF THE
mind = machine that uses psychological energy;
this energy can only be displaced or transformed
Unconscious mental processes
employed by the ego to reduce
A History of the Concept of defense
• Freud first introduced the term in "The neuro-psychoses of
• “In order to ward off unacceptable ideas or feelings that
would cause"distressing affect," a person unconsciously resorts to
certain mental processes that oppose these ideas or feelings and
render them less disturbing. These mental processes, which take
place outside the person's awareness, he called "defenses”.
• In 1936, Anna Freud published The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defense. She
elaborated and clarified the concept of defense.
• She constructed a list of these "special methods of defense," which by now were called
• Wilhelm:-individual's defensive operations become embedded in his or her personality or
character and that these traits of character must be analyzed along with the content of the
person's associations, memories, feelings, and dreams.
tripartite model of the structure of the
STRUCTURE OF PERSONALITY
• The id is that part of the mind in which are situated the instinctual sexual drives which
require satisfaction .
• Nervous system translates the organism's needs into motivational forces called instincts or
drives (Freud called them wishes)
• Translation from need to wish is called the primary process .
• pleasure principle: a demand to take care of needs immediately .
• An example of this is an infant screaming for something. It does not know what it wants, it
just knows it wants it now.
• The id is developed at birth.
• seeks instant gratification, causes impulsive unthinking behavior and has no regard for rules
or social conversion.• Irrational and not based on reality.
• It is a selfish, childish, pleasure-oriented part of the personality with no ability to delay
The superego contains internalised societal and parental standards of "good"
and "bad", "right" and "wrong" behaviour.
They include conscious appreciations of rules and regulations as well as those
Super ego,the conscience,prohibitions learned from parents & authorities.
The super-ego is that part which contains the 'conscience', socially-acquired
control mechanisms (usually imparted in the first instance by the parents) which
have been internalized.
Two aspects to the superego: the conscience, which is an internalization of
punishments and warnings; The other is called the ego ideal.
Ego ideal derives from rewards and positive models presented to the child.
• Id is bridled & managed by ego. Ego delays satisfying id’s motives
& channels behaviour in socially acceptable way.
• it searches for objects to satisfy the wishes that id creates to
represent the organisms needs .
• This is called the secondary process.
• Functions according to the reality principle: take care of a need as
soon as an appropriate object is found .
• Developed at around the age of one year
• it keeps track of the rewards and punishments handed out by mom
• The ego acts as a moderator between the pleasure sought by the id
and the morals of the superego, seeking compromises to pacify
• It can be viewed as the individual's "sense of time and place".
• Once the balance between Super Ego, Ego and Id gives
away, our minds are supposed to produce some
defenses against causing factors.
• Suppose you lost your mother. Although it is an
irreversible fact, you keep denying the reality so that
you can protect yourself from severe sorrow and self-
• If you don't employ denial or any other defense
measures, you might continue falling into deep
depression and not be able to come to the reality at all,
or worse, you could just die.
Unconscious, or partly conscious,
maneuvers by which we avoid or
minimize anxiety due to
troubling id impulses , superego
injunctions , or realistic dangers
• Reality Anxiety
– Most basic form: reality
• e.g., dog bites, impending
– Reduce tension by immediate
• Neurotic Anxiety
– anxiety arising from irresolvable
conflicts—id desires clash with
– or can arise from unconscious
fear that (id) impulses will take
control at an inopportune time
– can be driven by fear of
– threats to self esteem
• Moral Anxiety
– Results from fear of violating
moral or societal codes
– Appears as guilt or shame
Lady Macbeth experienced
moral anxiety (after plotting the
death of the King) and engaged
in undoing to ward it off.
Why Defense Mechanisms?
• We all need to manage/reduce anxiety
– helps reduce drive conflicts
– helps protect self esteem
• Defense mechanisms distort, transform, or falsify
reality (internal or external)
– allow individual to reduce dissonance and minimize
sudden changes in internal and external environments
by altering perception of events
• Conflicts and reality
– reality has inevitable frustration of desires,
– and of course lots of real pain, loss, disappointment…
George Valliant’s Classification
DEFENCE MECHANISMS 13
• Narcissistic Defences : Most primitive. In
children and adults who are psychotically
• Immature Defences: adolescents and some non
• Neurotic Defences: in OCD and hysterical
patients and in adults under stress.
• Mature defences
Id impulse or superego injunction (including
injunctions from conscience)
—> emotion (including signal anxiety) that
results from threat of id impulse being let loose
or from superego's injunctions
—> defense mechanism.
DEFENCE MECHANISMS 16
• Avoiding the awareness of some
painful aspect of reality by negating
• It abolishes external reality.
• A person who is a functioning
alcoholic will often simply deny
they have a drinking problem,
pointing to how well they function
in their job and relationships.
DEFENCE MECHANISMS 17
• Mechanism by which the ego attributes its own
intolerable sexual and aggressive impulses to the outside
person or agency.
• Coping with one’s unwanted motives by shifting them on
to someone else.
• Anxiety arising from internal conflicts can then be
reduced and problem dealt with as though it were in the
DEFENCE MECHANISMS 19
• The motive remains unaltered but the person substitutes a
different goal object for the original one.
• Often the motive is aggression that for some reason, the person
cannot vent on the source of anger.
• Shifting an emotion or drive from one idea or object to another
that resembles the original in some aspect or quality.
• Example:-The man who gets angry at his boss, but can’t
express his anger to his boss for fear of being fired. He instead
comes home and kicks the dog or starts an argument with his
DEFENCE MECHANISMS 20
• Expressing an unconscious wish or impulse through action to
avoid being conscious of an accompanying affect.
• Involves chronically giving in to an impulse to avoid the tension
arising from postponement of expression.
• Instead of saying, “I’m angry with you,” a person who acts out
may throw a book at the person, or punch a hole through a
• When a person acts out, it can act as a pressure release, and
often helps the individual feel calmer and peaceful once again.
DEFENCE MECHANISMS 21
• Ex. Tantrums,
• For instance, a child’s
temper tantrum is a form
of acting out when he or
she doesn’t get his or her
way with a parent.
• apparently motiveless
assaults, child abuse
Regression involves taking the position of a child in some problematic
situation, rather than acting in a more adult way.
Can be simple and harmless, like a person sucking a pen, or may be more
dysfunctional as crying or using moody arguments.
DEFENCE MECHANISMS 23
• Regression is normal phenomenon as well. Some
amount of regression is needed for relaxation, sleep
and orgasm in sexual intercourse.
• In the face of threat, one may retract to an earlier
pattern of adaptation, possibly a childish or primitive
• EXAMPLE:-an adolescent who is overwhelmed with
fear, anger and growing sexual impulses might become
clingy and start exhibiting earlier childhood behaviors
he has long since overcome, such as bedwetting,nail
DEFENCE MECHANISMS 24
Offering rational explanations in
an attempt to justify attitudes,
beliefs or behaviour that may
otherwise be unacceptable.
It is a method to support an
attitude with false reasons.
Substituting an acceptable
conscious motive for an
unacceptable unconscious one.
DEFENCE MECHANISMS 26
Rationalization is very common among medical
professionals in covering up medical errors
• “Why disclose the error ?,the patient was going to die anyway”
• “Telling the family about the error will make them feel worse”.
• “It was patient’s fault ,if he wasn’t so obese, sick etc. this error
wouldn’t have caused so much harm”.
• “Well we did our best, these things happen.”
DEFENCE MECHANISMS 27
• Transforming an unacceptable impulse into its opposite.
• If this mechanism is frequently used at any early stage of
ego development it can become a permanent character
trait, as in obsessional character.
• Thus love may cover up unconscious hate, shyness serves
as defence against exhibitionism.
• Ex : when a 2nd child is born in a family the first child may
show extraordinary concern for the welfare of the
Newborn. This way his unconscious hate and aggression for
his little brother is covered up.
DEFENCE MECHANISMS 29
• Repression is the unconscious blocking of
unacceptable thoughts, feelings and impulses.
• Ego excludes from the consciousness all the
psychological contents which it cannot fit in
• Primary Repression: Curbing of ideas and feelings
before they have attained consciousness.
• Secondary repression : Excluding from awareness
what was once experienced at the conscious level.
DEFENCE MECHANISMS 30
• Ex. When a child finds out about the
birth of a 2nd baby, he may feel his
love is divided.
• He feels jealousy and rivalry towards
his little brother. He represses his
aggression for fear of punishment or
further loss of love. But may
channelize his aggression through
some other activity, ex. By breaking
his brothers toys.
DEFENCE MECHANISMS 32
• For Freud, sublimation was the highest level of ego defence
• Consists of redirection of sexual impulses to socially valued activities
• He believed that much of our cultural heritage is the product of
• Ex.A writer may divert his libido to creation of poem/ novel. Thus
indirectly satisfying drives.
• Rejection by lover may induce one to divert hi energy to human
welfare or artistic and literary activities.
DEFENCE MECHANISMS 33
• Reverse of projection
• Internalizing the qualities of an object.
• This uses the fantasy of being like another
person or adopts behavior and character traits
derived from another person.
• For example
A little boy who feels painfully small
and weak may copy his father's behavior in
order to feel big and strong.
DEFENCE MECHANISMS 35
• Excessively using intellectual process to avoid
affective expression or experience.
• To avoid intimacy with people, attention is paid to
external reality to avoid the expression of inner
feelings and stress is placed on irrelevant details to
avoid percieving the whole.
• Professionals who deal with troubled people may
intellectualize in order to remain helpful without
being overwhelmed by sympathetic involvement.
My husband just died and
instead of acknowledging
my feelings of grief and
crying, for instance, I tell
myself it makes no logical
or philosophical sense to
be upset because he is
gone and being upset
will not bring him back.
DEFENCE MECHANISMS 37
• Using comedy to overtly express feelings and
thoughts without personal discomfort and without
producing an unpleasant effect on the others.
• Freud suggested that “Humour can be regarded as
the highest of these defensive processes”
• Mature humour allows individuals to look directly at
what is painful.
My pants fall down
in the middle of
the street, and I
just stand there
laughing at myself.
Most used by obsessive-compulsive personalities, consists
of the separation of ideas from the emotions that usually
a person may have the thought that his father will
die, yet he experiences no emotion along with the thought;
or a patient may tell his analyst that he has angry thoughts
about him, but he does not feel angry.
Sometimes a person's thoughts seem unbidden, alien, or
unconnected; hence anxiety and guilt are diminished even
though the thoughts are conscious.
DEFENCE MECHANISMS 40
• Realistically planning or anticipating future
• Involves careful planning or worrying and
premature, but realistic anticipation of dire
and potentially dreadful outcomes.
• Ex. Moderate amount of anxiety before
surgery promotes post surgical adaptation
DEFENCE MECHANISMS 41
• Consciously or semi consciously postponing
attention to a conscious impulse or conflict.
• Issues may be deliberately cut off but they
are not avoided.
•UNDOING:- A person tries to 'undo' an unhealthy, destructive or
otherwise threatening thought by acting out the reverse of the unacceptable.
Involves symbolically nullifying an unacceptable or guilt provoking thought, idea,
or feeling by confession or atonement.
•HYPOCONDRIASIS:- An excessive preoccupation or worry about
having a serious illness.
•IDEALIZATION:- Tending to perceive another individual as having
more desirable qualities than he or she may actually have.
•PASSIVE AGGRESSION:- Aggression towards others expressed
indirectly or passively.
•SOMATIZATION:- The transformation of uncomfortable feelings
towards others into uncomfortable feelings toward oneself: pain, illness, and
•TOLERANCE:- The practice of deliberately allowing or permitting a
thing of which one disapproves.
WHY THIS MECHANISM IS
INDISPENSABLE TO HUMAN BEINGS
• Since people are supposed to act according to social norms, it requires them to
• Besides, without defense mechanism, the whole world could be a mess.
• If people just followed their own instinctual drives without any brake, literally
chaos will emerge.
• In order to live together with others, people should utilize defense mechanism.
• Defense mechanism helps to protect our whole society as well as ego from some
displeasure. If defense mechanism fails to function properly, what will happen?
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