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Defense Mechanism

Updated on April 17, 2011
There is one race of people for whom psychoanalysis is of no use whatsoever.
There is one race of people for whom psychoanalysis is of no use whatsoever.

Escape mechanism is a term designating what is usually referred to in psychology and psychoanalysis as a defense mechanism. In severe emotional frustration and conflict, behavior may become disorganized (one cannot respond intelligently) and actions are desperate and ineffective. To prevent such disturbed reactions when adaptive problem-solving methods are not available, the individual may employ various psychological means of escape. These are protective techniques used unconsciously to ward off emotional distress and to maintain a sense of self-esteem and control.

The theory of defense mechanisms was developed by Sigmund Freud, who saw them as techniques for avoiding fear and anxiety. Elaborated by his daughter Anna Freud and other psychoanalysts, the theory has found wide acceptance in psychology. A large number of mechanisms have been described, with some writers dividing them in two groups: primary defenses (denial and repression) and secondary defensive adjustments that support and maintain the initial avoidance reaction.

Denial is a failure to face reality, whereby an unpleasant external danger is ignored. Repression is the rejection of a disturbing impulse, wish, thought, or memory in oneself. The other defense mechanisms presuppose denial or repression, and represent further means of supporting the initial avoidance.

Many such secondary defensive strategies have been recognized, including escape from unpleasant demands by retreat to a more gratifying past way of behaving (regression); attribution of one's unacceptable impulses to other individuals, in which case these persons may be enthusiastically punished (projection and scapegoating); and self-deception as to true motives by finding more approved ones (rationalization).

All distort reality.


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    • Several Ninjas profile image

      Several Ninjas 7 years ago

      thank you Kimberly. as cwarden says, its a fascinating topic.

      if you want to read more about it then is a good place to start and then check out teh references and external linx at the bottom for even more info.

    • prey profile image

      prey 7 years ago from places you should hope we never meet

      voted up! It's Kimberly btw. I actually never knew the terminology for these behavioral patterns

      very cool


    • Several Ninjas profile image

      Several Ninjas 7 years ago

      it is a very interesting subject. i've only just scratched the surface.

    • cwarden profile image

      cwarden 7 years ago from USA

      I've always found this to be a fascinating topic. Very well written!