Ego-Defense Mechanism

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Anxiety’s main psychodynamic roles are to assist the person in avoiding conscious detection of undesirable innate urges and allowing only indirect impulse fulfillment. Defense of the ego

Mechanisms aid in the execution of these duties as well as the protection of the individual from excessive worry.

By preventing the impulse from manifesting itself in conscious conduct.

By distorting it to the point that the original intensity is significantly diminished or redirected.

They are self-deceptive because they act on an unconscious level, distorting one’s perspective of reality to make worry less frightening to the person and protecting the ego.

The ego strives to maintain its dominance over the id and super ego. Conflicts between the id and the superego cause anxiety, which is a danger to the ego. The danger or worry felt by the ego is a warning to engage unconscious protective mechanisms to keep primal emotions linked with disputes in control. Defense mechanisms or coping methods are examples of protective processes.


“In classical psychoanalytic theory, a defense mechanism in which unacceptable sexual or aggressive drives are unconsciously channeled into socially acceptable modes of expression and redirected into new, learned behaviors, which indirectly provide some satisfaction for the original drives. For example, an exhibitionistic impulse may gain a new outlet in choreography; a voyeuristic urge may lead to scientific research; and a dangerously aggressive drive may be expressed with impunity on the football field. As well as allowing for substitute satisfactions, such outlets are posited to protect individuals from the anxiety induced by the original drive.”

Sublimation, according to Freud, is an ego defence that allows an individual to adaptively channel impulses so that they can be expressed through socially acceptable ideas or behaviours. Because it permits the ego to modify the objective or object (or both) of impulses without impeding their expression, sublimation is seen to be the only healthy, constructive technique against undesirable impulses.


In classical psychoanalytic theory and other forms of depth psychology, the basic defense mechanism excludes painful experiences and unacceptable impulses from consciousness. Repression operates on an unconscious level as a protection against anxiety produced by objectionable sexual wishes, feelings of hostility, and ego-threatening experiences and memories of all kinds. It also comes into play in many other forms of defense, as in denial, in which individuals avoid unpleasant realities by first trying to repress them and then negating them when repression fails.

The fundamental ego defence, according to Freud, is suppression. Repression, also known as selective forgetting, prevents the manifestation of unconscious sexual and violent urges so that they are not brought to cognitive consciousness, at least as long as the individual finds them disagreeable. As a result, no tension decrease is allowed.


In psychoanalytic and psychodynamic theories, the process by which one attributes one’s own individual positive or negative characteristics, affects, and impulses to another person or group. This is often a defense mechanism in which unpleasant or unacceptable impulses, stressors, ideas, affects, or responsibilities are attributed to others. For example, the defense mechanism of projection enables a person conflicted over expressing anger to change “I hate him” to “He hates me.” Such defensive patterns are often used to justify prejudice or evade responsibility; in more severe cases, they may develop into paranoid delusions in which, for example, an individual who blames others for his or her problems may come to believe that those others are plotting against him or her. In classical psychoanalytic theory, projection permits the individual to avoid seeing his or her own faults, but modern usage has largely abandoned the requirement that the projected trait remain unknown in the self.

In terms of theoretical relevance, projection is second only to suppression as a protective mechanism. It’s the process of unintentionally blaming others or the environment for one’s own undesirable urges, attitudes, and behaviours. As a result, projection allows us to blame someone or something else for our own failings.


The transfer of feelings or behavior from their original object to another person or thing. In psychoanalytic theory, displacement is considered to be a defense mechanism in which the individual discharges tensions associated with, for example, hostility and fear by taking them out on a less threatening target. Thus, an angry child might break a toy or yell at a sibling instead of attacking the father; a frustrated employee might criticize his or her spouse instead of the boss; or a person who fears his or her own hostile impulses might transfer that fear to knives, guns, or other objects that might be used as a weapon

When seen particularly as a protection mechanism (as opposed to the more generic definition of the term defined previously in this chapter), displacement occurs when an innate impulse is redirected from a more dangerous person or item to a less dangerous one. Instead of swearing at his lecturer, a student enraged by his professor swears at his roommate. Alternatively, a youngster who has been punished by her parents may strike her younger sister, kick her dog, or shatter her toys.


An ego defense in which apparently logical reasons are given to justify unacceptable behavior that is motivated by unconscious instinctual impulses. In psychoanalytic theory, such behavior is considered to be a defense mechanism. Examples are “Doesn’t everybody cheat?” or “You have to spank children to toughen them up.” Rationalizations are used to defend against feelings of guilt, maintain self-respect, and protect oneself from criticism. In psychotherapy, rationalization is considered counterproductive to deep exploration and confrontation of the client’s thoughts and feelings and their effect on behavior.

Another way the ego tries to deal with irritation and worry is to distort reality in order to safeguard self-esteem. Rationalization is “fallacious thinking” in which illogical conduct is misrepresented in order to make it look rational and hence justifiable to oneself and others. The magic of rationalisation may be used to justify one’s mistakes, bad judgements, and failures.


Denoting a situation in which the individual reverts to immature behavior or to an earlier stage of psychosexual development when threatened with overwhelming external problems or internal conflicts.

Regression is yet another prevalent defensive strategy for dealing with worry. It entails returning to a simpler and more childish stage of psychosexual development or a way of expression. It’s a technique for reducing tension by returning to a simpler time in one’s life.

Reaction Formation:

In psychoanalytic theory, a defense mechanism in which unacceptable or threatening unconscious impulses are denied and are replaced in consciousness with their opposite. For example, to conceal an unconscious prejudice, an individual may preach tolerance; to deny feelings of rejection, a mother may be overindulgent toward her child. Through the symbolic relationship between the unconscious wish and its opposite, the outward behavior provides a disguised outlet for the tendencies it seems to oppose.

By actively expressing its opposite, the ego may sometimes restrict or protect against the expression of a forbidden urge. Reaction formation is the term for this. It works in two stages as a defence mechanism: first, the undesirable urge is suppressed, then the opposite is expressed on a conscious level.



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Areej Mirza

Areej Mirza

Psychologist | Writer | Counsellor | Life Coach | Entrepreneur