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How Not To Recognize the Truth:
Ego-defense Mechanisms

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Part 1
Ego-defense mechanisms are known and used by probably all of us. For example: We have a chance of getting a very desirable job. We go through an interview, try our best and in the end we are informed that we didn't succeed and someone else got the job. One possible reaction is to have a think and admit our own imperfection. Or we can say to ourselves that, after all, we never wanted the job that much because it's too far or because the boss is an idiot and they didn't offer any special salary either... so that it doesn’t matter that it didn’t work out.
Such a reaction shows use of a defense mechanism.

So as with any system, including the human organism, to work satisfactorily, the balance of all the system's parts must be ensured. We make use of a wide spectrum of various mechanisms and (re)actions to keep and restore the balance.
Take an example from biology, for instance, maintaining body temperature: Once the temperature is out of tolerated values, our organisms start a number of counteractions (to increase or again reduce the release of heat – goose bumps, capillary contraction, sweating...) the aim of which is to reach the ideal temperature for our bodily functions.

Ego-defense mechanisms have the same purpose – they are to conserve harmony, videlicet on the level of our psyche, precisely the ego. They are specific ways of behaviour and thinking and we use them in cases when our psychological balance is in danger. Ego-defense mechanisms are supposed to protect ourselves, preserve our feelings of self-value in moments of lack of success, failure, guilt, disgrace and the like. Such experiences invoke inner tension or anxiety and thereby complicate the normal functioning of our personality. Defense mechanisms are, in effect, self-delusions, by the help of which we hinder the learning of some, for us unpleasant, facts.

Up to now, about 40 ego-defense mechanisms have been described. All of them have in common that they work on an unconscious level (so we do not realize we are using them) and that they blur or deny reality in a way. They were first brought to our attention by Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis.

Below you can find a summary of several best known and most often used defense mechanisms:

Denial is a simple defence, when people refuse to acknowledge or perceive frustrating facts; they close their eyes to them. An example: a long-term smoker who believes that he or she can never be taken ill with lung cancer because in his or her family nobody ever had it. Full stop.

Rationalization is a very frequently used defense mechanism. It means that you explain something unacceptable or uneasy in an unobjectionable way. So for example child neglect can be put as satisfying the child's natural need for more independence – then I do not pay heed to the child for his or her own good, but in reality I am much more interested in my career or TV serials (but refuse to admit this). 

Defence in perception
Defence in perception has been very well documented. It is a decrease of sensibility toward such information we do not care for. For example after a failure we are less sensitive toward perceiving words which remind us of the failure. So that we don't have to deal with it, we prevent such unpleasant and discomfort causing thoughts from entering our consciousness.

Reaction formation
Reaction formation means that our outward behaviour is a direct opposite to the reactions we are trying to repress. For instance a man who suppresses his strong sexual tendencies becomes a convinced moralist in sex related things.

When displacement is being used, we shift our uneasy emotions to alternative objects that do not relate to the very causes. For example if your boss annoys you, then at home you tell your kid off for something unsubstantial.

There are two ways how intellectualization is explained: A) It means you express some painful feelings by cold, impersonal and intellectual language. For instance you are to say sorry for having said something embarrassing and you put it as "I judge that another way of communication could have been chosen". B) It means you concentrate your intellectual interests in areas of repressed wishes. For example a man who represses his pedophiliac tendencies becomes a scientist who intensively studies this area.

Go on: Projection, compensation, identification, escape to fantasy, regression, fixation, repression, escape, resignation, aggression, self-accusation, super-conformity and conclusion > Part 2

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