Defense Mechanisms

Boxer Hand Wraps Protection Knuckle Concept

Defense mechanisms offer protection from stress or anxiety by allowing the individual to adapt to internal conflict and stressors. They circumvent thoughts or situations that are anxiety-inducing. Defense mechanisms, as described by Sigmund Freud, include:    

Regression: Regression occurs when a person retreats to behavior that occurred during an earlier developmental period. For example, a person who has relapsed from a substance use disorder may crawl into the fetal position to cope with feelings of guilt. 

Denial: Denial is refusing to recognize or accept reality. For instance, a person who is in active addiction may refuse to believe that they have a problem. 

Displacement: Displacement discharges unacceptable feelings against someone or something other than the true target of these feelings. For example, a person who is angry at their spouse might take it out on their children.

Rationalization: Rationalization is formulating an acceptable motive to explain behavior that is unacceptably motivated. An example is a person who has been sober from alcohol for 90 days having a beer to celebrate that milestone.

Intellectualization: Intellectualization is using logic or a detached perspective on something that creates strong, unpleasant feelings. For instance, a person who has lost a parent may hyperfocus on planning a funeral instead of allowing themselves to grieve.

Projection: Projection is attributing one’s own unacceptable rationale or impulses to someone else. An example is a person who is attracted to their coworker accusing their spouse of having an affair.

Reaction Formation: Reaction is adopting perceptions or behaviors that are the opposite of their actual dispositions. An example would be a person who is in denial about their own substance abuse disorder condemning people that abuse substances.

Identification: Identification is when a person assimilates to the ideas, values, or tendencies of someone in a superior position in an effort to elevate their own self-worth. For instance, a child who has a parent that consumes alcohol is likely to consume alcohol as well. 

Sublimation: Sublimation is transforming needs or desires into socially acceptable behavior. An example would be a person who experiences aggressive behaviors in turn training to be a boxer. 

Defense mechanisms offer a sense of comfort and protection, and most people use them in their daily lives. However, allowing them to dominate your everyday reactions and responses to situations can result in destructive behavior. Located in scenic Centennial, CO, Valiant Living is an all-male outpatient treatment facility that provides services to assist you in developing healthy coping mechanisms. If you or someone that you love would like to receive more information on our range of therapeutic services, please contact us at (303) 952-5035.