Defense mechanisms are unconscious psychological strategies that help us to cope with reality whilst also preserving our self esteem. Normal, healthy people use them regularly. However, some unhealthy defenses include:
1. Acting out: This is directly expressing an unconscious impulse without realising what is driving the behaviour.
2. Fantasy: This is retreating to a fantasy world to escape, or resolve, conflicts we are battling with.
3. Idealization: This is unconsciously choosing to see another person as being more ideal or perfect than they really are.
4. Passive aggression: This is expressing our anger indirectly, for example, through being late or doing something that “inadvertently” destroys another’s plans.
5. Projection: This is attributing our own unacknowledged, and unacceptable, thoughts and emotions onto someone else.
6. Somatization: This is translating negative thoughts and feelings into physical symptoms. For example, suffering from migraines when you’re dealing with a difficult relationship.
7. Denial: This is refusing to accept reality because it is too painful or threatening.
8. Regression: This is temporarily reverting to an earlier stage of development to avoid handling problems and concerns in a more appropriate and adult way.
9. Distortion: This is totally reshaping your picture of reality so it’s now consistent with your internal needs.
10. Splitting: This is a primitive defence where the negative and positive aspects are split off – and there’s no integration of these parts at all. For example, the person may view others as being either completely good or completely evil, rather than a mixture of good and bad traits.
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