Common Defense Mechanisms
 
repression
Keeping distressing thoughts and feelings buried in the unconscious
A traumatized soldier has no recollection of the details of a close brush with death.
projection
Attributing one's own thoughts, feelings, or motives to another
A woman who dislikes her boss thinks she like her boss but feels that the boss doesn't like her.
denial
Protecting oneself from unpleasant reality by refusing to perceive or face it
A smoker concludes that the evidence linking cigarette use to health problems is scientifically worthless.
displacement
Diverting emotional feelings (usually anger) from their original source to a substitute target
After parental scolding, a young girl takes her anger out on her little brother.
identification
Bolstering self-esteem by forming an imaginary or real alliance with some person or group.
An insecure young man joins a fraternity to boost his self-esteem.
reaction formation
Behaving in a way that is exactly the opposite of one's true feelings
A parent who unconsciously resents a child spoils the child with outlandish gifts.
regression
A reversion to immature patterns of behavior
An adult has a temper tantrum when he doesn't get his way.
rationalization
Creating false but plausible excuses to justify unacceptable behavior.
A student watches TV instead of studying, saying that "additional study wouldn't do any good anyway."
compensation
Covering up felt weaknesses by emphasizing some desirable characteristic, or making up for frustration in one area by over-gratification in another
A dangerously overweight woman goes on eating binges when she feels neglected by her husband.
undoing
Atoning for or trying to magically dispel unacceptable desires or acts. A teenager who feels guilty about masturbation ritually touches door knobs a prescribed number of times following each occurrence of the act.