PSY101 Introduction to Psychology Assignment Solution Fall 2012

“Defense Mechanisms ”
Part 1
You are supposed to read the following situations in detail to pick out the followings:
• Recognition of the specific defense mechanism (1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1)
• Explanation/description of the defense mechanism particularly with reference to
given examples (1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1)

Examples Name of the Defense Mechanism being demonstrated in scenario


  1. 1.      You fail to recall mistreatment by your mother when you were young.
  1. 2.      A twenty one years old displays a temper tantrum


  1. 3.      A woman who actually hates her father and considers him as un-trust worthy person does not accept her view consciously. And instead of expression of dislike or hatred, she is excessively loving and caring towards him, thus reversing her true attitude.


  1. 4.      During an exam you want to copy answers from the neighbor’s paper. The anxiety created by the desire to cheat leads you to say to the examiner,

“you better put empty seats between people during this exam, as some kids are cheating.” This way you blame your unacceptable impulse on some one else.


  1. 5.      When seen by a family member at an X-rated movie, you created an explanation that you are doing research for a class project.


  1. 6.      A heavy smoker in your family died because of lung cancer. A friend asks you if you are going to quit smoking and you reply, “No, smoking is not at all problematic for me, see I am perfectly all right!”


  1. 7.      Your instructor tells you to redo your paper; you can’t aggress toward your instructor, so you transfer your anger and yell at your younger sister.


  1. 8.      You are very angry; you go out and chop wood ending up with a useful mound of woods for fire.





i. Repression: Blocking unpleasant/ unacceptable thoughts by pushing them into the
unconscious e.g. forgetting events of the painful childhood.
ii. Regression: Reverting back to a stage that was satisfying e.g. a boss showing temper tantrums
like a child; or acting like a baby.
iii. Displacement: Redirecting the expression of unwanted desires or impulses to a substitute
rather than the actual target e.g. beating children when a wife cannot express anger toward
iv. Rationalization: In order to justify one’s behavior, one develops a socially acceptable
explanation or reasoning e.g. going for a second marriage saying that the first wife was
v. Denial: Refusing to acknowledge or accept anxiety provoking thoughts or impulses e.g. being a
heavy smoker but saying ‘I am an occasional smoker’.
vi. Projection: Attributing unwanted thoughts and impulses to others e.g. a person takes bribe and
blames the organization for paying him not enough salary.
vii. Sublimation: Converting unwanted impulses into socially approved thoughts, feelings and
actions e.g. disliking the in-laws but behaving in a very friendly manner, or becoming a
stamp collector to overcome the impulse to steal

Part 2

All of us use these defense mechanisms and most of the times we use these mechanisms unconsciously. You are supposed to recognize and mention any two defense mechanisms that you usually use/experience in your life. Also state two situations and specify how these defense mechanisms protected you from anxiety, providing you ease. (2+2)

Just an Idea:

Examples of Defenses Mechanisms


There are a large number of defense mechanisms; the main ones are summarized below.


* Identification with the Aggressor


A focus on negative or feared traits. I.e. if you are afraid of someone, you can practically conquer that fear by becoming more like them.

An extreme example of this is the Stockholm Syndrome where hostages identify with the terrorists. E.g. Patty Hearst and the Symbionese Liberation Army.  Patty was abused and raped by her captors, yet she joined their movement and even took part in one of their bank robberies.  At her trial she was acquitted because she was a victim suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.


* Repression


This was the first defense mechanism that Freud discovered, and arguably the most important. Repression is an unconscious mechanism employed by the ego to keep disturbing or threatening thoughts from becoming conscious.  Thoughts that are often repressed are those that would result in feeling of guilt from the superego.  For example, in the Oedipus complex aggressive thoughts about the same sex parents are repressed.


* Projection


This involves individuals attributing their own thoughts, feeling and motives to another person. Thoughts most commonly projected onto another are ones that would cause guilt such as aggressive and sexual fantasies or thoughts.  For instance, you might hate someone, but your superego tells you that such hatred is unacceptable.  You can ‘solve’ the problem by believing that they hate you.


* Displacement


Displacement is the redirection of an impulse (usually aggression) onto a substitute target.  If the impulse, the desire, is okay with you, but the person you direct that desire towards is too threatening, you can displace to someone or something that can serve as a symbolic substitute. Someone who feels uncomfortable with their sexual desire for a real person may substitute a fetish.  Someone who is frustrated by his or her superiors may go home and kick the dog, beat up a family member, or engage in cross-burnings.


* Sublimation


This is similar to displacement, but takes place when we manage to displace our emotions into a constructive rather than destructive activity.  This might for example be artistic – many great artists and musicians have had unhappy lives and have used the medium of art of music to express themselves.  Sport is another example of putting our emotions (e.g. aggression) into something constructive.

Sublimation for Freud was the cornerstone of civilized life, arts and science are all sublimated sexuality. (NB. this is a value laden concept, based on the aspirations of a European society at the end of the 1800 century).


* Denial


Denial involves blocking external events from awareness.  If some situation is just too much to handle, the person just refuses to experience it.  As you might imagine, this is a primitive and dangerous defense – no one disregards reality and gets away with it for long! It can operate by itself or, more commonly, in combination with other, more subtle mechanisms that support it.  For example, smokers may refuse to admit to themselves that smoking is bad for their health.


* Regression


This is a movement back in psychological time when one is faced with stress.  When we are troubled or frightened, our behaviors often become more childish or primitive.  A child may begin to suck their thumb again or wet the bed when they need to spend some time in the hospital. Teenagers may giggle uncontrollably when introduced into a social situation involving the opposite sex.


* Rationalization


Rationalization is the cognitive distortion of “the facts” to make an event or an impulse less threatening.  We do it often enough on a fairly conscious level when we provide ourselves with excuses.  But for many people, with sensitive egos, making excuses comes so easy that they never are truly aware of it.  In other words, many of us are quite prepared to believe our lies.


* Reaction formation


This is where a person goes beyond denial and behaves in the opposite way to which he or she thinks or feels.  By using the reaction formation the id is satisfied while keeping the ego in ignorance of the true motives.  Conscious feelings are the opposite of the unconscious. Love – hate.  Shame – disgust and moralizing are reaction formation against sexuality.

Usually a reaction formation is marked by showiness and compulsiveness.  For example, Freud claimed that men who are prejudice against homosexuals are making a defense against their own homosexual feelings by adopting a harsh anti-homosexual attitude which helps convince them of their heterosexuality.  Other examples include:

* The dutiful daughter who loves her mother is reacting to her Oedipus hatred of her mother.

* Anal fixation usually leads to meanness, but occasionally a person will react against this (unconsciously) leading to over-generosity.