Emotional Defenses

Defenses are behaviors which help us survive feelings or situations which scare us or make us feel threatened, inadequate, or unable to cope.  When used judiciously, they help us effectively cope with complex, challenging living.  However, when used too quickly, too frequently, or inappropriately, they can distort reality and detach us from actively and productively coping.

Examples of Defenses

  • Avoidance:  Avoidance is an attempt to postpone or escape an aversive event or situation and thereby avoid the anticipated (or unknown) outcome.                                                                                                  
  • Denial:  Denial is a refusal to accept something as reality.  It is an unconscious attempt to protect oneself from something that is hurtful and/or difficult to accept.  It is not necessarily malicious in intent.  Denial is not the same as lying.  Lying is a   deliberate attempt to deceive with an untrue statement.
  • Projection:  Projection is an externalization of wishes that leads to a distortion of reality.  It is attributing qualities, actions, or  characteristics to a person or object where they do not belong, so as not to confront the true reality of a situation.                                                                          
  • Rationalization:  Rationalization is the justification of an attitude, idea,  or action that is unreasonable, illogical, or for which the true motive is not recognized.  It is an effort to distort reality so as to cover-up mistakes,  misjudgments, or failure in order to protect one’s self-esteem.                                                                                             
  • Repression:  Repression is an unconscious exclusion from the  conscious mind of objectionable acts, memories, or ides, so that the conscious mind is not aware  that the objectionable material exists.                
  • Minimization:  Minimization is a lowering of the degree, or a lessening of the impact, or value, of an act, prospect, or influence in order to make it appear less important.

Appropriate use of defenses results in stress reduction, positive thinking, appropriate action after assessment, and personal effectiveness. Overuse or inappropriate use of defenses results in detachment, negativity and cynicism, inappropriate action or non-action, and personal ineffectiveness.


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