ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Our Defense Mechanisms

Updated on June 15, 2015

Defense Mechanisms

There are many ways to escape stress. We all need to "get away from it all" periodically. Many use sports, hobbies, travel, reading, movies and a host of other activities for short-term release of stress.

However, there are other forms of escape that often can be emotionally harmful, bringing damage and distortion to our relationships. These forms of escape are known as defense mechanisms.

Actually, some defense mechanisms are actually protective systems. Often, these conflicts resolve themselves in a short amount of time. However this isn't always the case. Fortunately, our body has these mechanisms to defend us from unpleasant emotions and feelings, such as anxiety.

Defense mechanisms eventually settle into a state of long-term self deception. This results in anxiety and a host of other emotional disorders. We must know what they are. Our goal is to live realistically, for that's the way to true emotional, spiritual health.

These are a few of the most obvious:

Defense Mechanisms

  • Rationalization.

  • Identification.

  • Displacement.

  • Projection.

  • Regression.

  • Reaction Formation.

  • Repression.

  • Denial.

  • Suppression.

  • Intellectualizing


Rationalization is creating false, plausible reasons to coverup unacceptable behavior. An example would be stealing money from a wealthy person and feeling no remorse because they "can afford to lose it.” It is closely linked with denial and a way of escaping. An individual's feelings are no longer in conflict with the situation. Rather than facing the rejection or losing something, they in effect, revise their point of view.


Identification is a way of bolstering self-esteem by forming an imaginary or real connection with a person or group. Joining a sports team, fraternity, social clique are some examples.


Displacement is diverting emotional feelings, such as anger, to another target. For example, a father gets mad at the mother. The mother takes her anger out on her son. In a sort of domino effect, the son yells at his younger sister. She kicks the family pet, and so on. Another example could be a boxer punching a bag.


Projection is transferring thoughts, feelings, or motives to another. An example would be an irate person blaming others of being hostile and antagonistic. Or a thief believing everyone else is trying to con them. Projection is often used to as a way of easing guilt feelings. It allows the sinner to see them self as the good guy. It's other people causing all the problems. It's common for people to attribute their own anger, jealousy, pride and other perfectionist tendencies onto others.


Regression is reverting to immature patterns of behavior. An obvious example might be a teenager throwing a temper tantrum, or whining and crying to elicit sympathy from their parents. Regression occurs when individuals faced with conflicts revert to an earlier stage of emotional immaturity, where they feel more protected from life's stresses will. This is often seen in children where trauma is experienced when mom brings a new baby into the home. The child has unconscious fears they will be replaced or lose their parents affection. They may revert to wetting the head or baby talk in an effort to get more attention.

Reaction formation

Reaction formation is behaving the opposite of how one truly feels. We see this in relationships, where “I hate him” changes into “I love him.” A person using reaction formation aggressively projects the opposite image of what they really are. It involves a lie told not only to others but themselves. In a way defying rational explanation, this individual is able to compartmentalize conflicting aspects. This invariably produces anxiety.


Repression is possibly the most curious. It's burying unpleasant thoughts and emotions in the unconscious mind. There has been much controversy concerning repressed memories. Various accounts of false memories resurfacing have occurred. Caution is the key word when dealing with repressed memories.

Sometimes repression can be useful in the short term. We have the ability to bury some thoughts and memories so we don't have to deal with everything consciously at all times. If we did, our neural circuits would eventually be overloaded. However, if this happens it can lead to a host of other problems, such as depression.


Many thoughts, emotions, memories and motives are stored below the level of our awareness in the unconscious mind. An example would be when an alcoholic convinces them self they don't have a problem. They declare they can quit anytime. Let's look at another example of how denial works.

Sherry is in her early 30s and others see her as pleasant and friendly. No one would believe she is unhappy. However, when questioned about her family life, she becomes evasive, opting to discuss other topics. When urged to answer she proclaims adamantly she came from a good home and had a nice childhood.

Actually, as far as she is concerned she is telling the truth. However, her siblings tell quite a different story. Their father was physically abusive. Sherry learned to deal with this problem by acting friendly and pretending negative issues in her life were unimportant. This pattern of denial followed her in to adulthood.

Eventually, Sherry realized she needed professional counseling, not for her denial, but anxiety. She wasn't aware the actual cause of her anxiety was due to her childhood denials. During her counseling the closer she came to the real underlying cause, the more agitated she became. When a breakthrough was finally achieved painful memories resurfaced. Although painful, it was also cleansing and liberating. Her denial was exposed and replaced with healing truth.


This is avoidance of uncomfortable issues or emotions. Those who use suppression tend to be more aware of their inner conflict than those who use repression. They may consciously reason, "I don't have time to deal with this right now. I'll get back to it later." Generally, people who practice suppression always have an excuse for why it's not a good time. Some refer to this as emotional procrastination.


This is popular with those who suffer severe feelings of low self-esteem. It is a means by which to avoid awareness of inferiority and other unconscious conflicts. How do they do this? By excessive use of intellectual vocabulary, thinking, and discussion. They engage themselves in philosophical and academic discussions. They have a tendency to look down on those less intellectual than they think they are. Individuals suffering from low self-esteem work hard to impress others in order to appear more important. For example, they might surround themselves with expensive works of art, and visibly contribute to community organizations. Although these activities seem positive, they are motivated by a self defeating effort to to hide the truth from others. In actuality they often have difficulty making close friends, being afraid they might discover the truth about them.

These are just a short listing of the most obvious forms of defense mechanisms. Some have listed at least 40 different types related to psychological and psychiatric disorders.

Penetrating Defense Mechanisms

Defense mechanisms are usually easier to diagnose in others. We can clearly see when someone else is denying the truth, shifting blame or rationalizing some negative action. However, our vision becomes blurry when we try looking within ourselves. We can say were searching for the truth about ourselves, but we have difficulty being honest about it. Sometimes we need professional help to discover what defense mechanisms we are using. Let's look at some practical steps to identify them.

Be aware of your circumstances and responses. It's often helpful to keep a journal to record events, feelings, and responses. From time to time look over them to see if there is a pattern.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)