Do defense mechanisms promote bad health?

 Defense mechanism is the way adapted by ego which is directed towards protecting against anxiety. They are used for protecting the mind from difficult thoughts and feelings which cannot be contained by the mind. The defense mechanism applied is considered to protect the entry of undesirable impulses and thoughts into the mind. Defense mechanisms keep self image through the use of unconscious psychological strategies. These psychological strategies incorporate many entities which enable the mind to cope with reality. There are various defenses which are applied by healthy individuals. There are times when ego defense may be pathological. This occurs when the mal-adaptive behavior is affected as a result of the use of ego defense. There are times when some situation can not be accommodated in the mind. At this time, the mind has to take refuge from the situation (Hogan, et al, 1997) In protecting the mind from such situations, ego defense mechanisms come in to play. The anxiety within the mind is protected by the use of ego defense. Social sanctions can also be protected through the use of ego defense mechanisms.

The imposition of an external threat to the ego may lead to the defense mechanism coming in to play to protect the mind.  The id impulses may conflict with one another in which case the ego defense mechanisms may occur. These mechanisms are defined in Freud psychology theory. A healthy psychological environment is normally required to avoid the use of defense mechanisms.   Defense mechanisms are normally applied to reduce anxiety which is brought about by various factors; external threat created to the ego, conflicting id impulses, conflict between superego beliefs and values and id impulses. Freud came up with a model which tries to define the structure of the mind. The pleasure principle is the basis for id impulses. According to Freud, instinctual impulses form up the id. The instinctual impulses takes up some characteristics such as sexual and aggregation. These are very crucial in our bodies since they perform various functions in our lives (Freud, 1997). The drive that enables us to live is the sex drive while the one which checks on our safety and protection is the aggregation drive. These drives are responsible for motivating actions.

There are various processes involved in the ego; unconscious primary process and the conscious secondary process. In unconscious primary process, thoughts are organized haphazardly paving way for shift in feelings while contradictions exist without conflict. As a result of this, the rise of condensation occurs (Paulhus, Friedlander, Hayes, 2009). On the other case, there is setting of clear boundaries while thoughts are organized coherently. This constitutes the conscious secondary process in which cognitions do arise.

Reality of life and superego are the most crucial parameters for proper functioning in an individual. In the process of growing, an individual nurtures what is to be done and what is not to be done. This learned principles in the process of growing forms the superego. There are some times when contradicting issues come to play in an individual’s life which leads to anxiety, for the desire to marry someone whose background conflicts with the mandate of ones society.  In this case, anxiety mounts followed by certain feelings of shame (Vaillant, 1999). The condition may be too severe such that the defensive mechanism comes in to play. The individual has to be protected from the situation by employing defense over the overwhelming anxiety.

Incase of anxiety, an individual has to settle the danger or the threat by involving ego defense mechanism which makes the mind to adapt to normal life. Anxiety brings about tension which calls for some defensive mechanism to protect an individual from the danger or threat posed. Defense mechanisms translate id impulses into forms which are acceptable.

The concept of defense mechanism was first developed by Freud. His concepts were conceptualized by his daughter Anna. Anna devised ten defense mechanisms; projection, denial, reaction formation, repression, suppression, denial, sublimation, rationalization, regression, intellectualization. There are other addictions contributed by other researchers; identification, withdrawal, compensation, dissociation, fantasy and undoing. The pros and cons of defense mechanism can be discussed by considering each of these mechanisms.
There are occasions when the mind is involved in swaying away emotions from dangerous situation to a safe situation. This forms the displacement defense mechanism. Displacement defense theory involves shifting of impulses which are either aggressive or sexual to situations which are more acceptable. The defense mechanism provides emotional substitute to the impulses. The displacement defense mechanism may occur in a prose, for instance a lady teacher may quarrel with his husband in which she might not be in a position to reiterate to him, while at school the teacher may displace her anger to the student who might end bullying the younger students (American Psychiatric Assocation, 1994). This relates how displacement defense mechanism applies. There are times when the displacement on oneself resulting to suicide or depression.

Denial defense mechanism is mostly employed in solving emotional conflict. Reduction of anxiety is achieved by denying aspects of external reality. In this case, an individual ends up rejecting some situations which are painful despite of having concrete evidence of their involvement. There are various applications of the denial defense mechanism in which case the subject may consider transference, simple denial or minimization. This mechanism does not involve learning and coping with reality thus being undertaken by immature mind. The denial defense mechanism may be employed in serious situation such as dying or death (Vaillant, 1992). For instance, a parent may deny the involvement of his/her child in murder cases. The habit of denial dominates in many people who want to minimize the severity of their actions. The pros of denial it minimizes the actions of severity. The cons of denial are that denial leads to delaying crucial health matters such as surgeries. Most patients deny the presence of diseases fearing some emergencies to be done on them. This is disadvantageous in that the diseases may become come critical posing some dangers on the patient’s survival.

Projection defense mechanism involves perception accorded towards unwanted thoughts. Anxiety is normally reduced here by letting the ego unaware. It normally projects ones undesirable actions to somebody actions. The undesirable action may include undesirable thoughts and feelings.  There are also some situations when psychological projection to animals or objects occurs. The projection relates the undesirable thoughts of oneself to another person (Cramer, 1999). In this case, the blame is relied on another person. The subject may project a certain quality to the object in which case might be dangerous if the object is not aware.

There are defense mechanisms which involves criteria of combining thoughts to the unconscious while protecting consciousness alert of the dangerous thoughts. These defense mechanisms are referred to as suppression or repression defense mechanism. The distinction between these two is their conscious state. Suppression involves a conscious process while on the other hand repression is an unconscious process. Suppression is considered to be managed while repression is considered to be detrimental. The repression defense mechanism is unconscious and thus the subject end up being repressed by showing some symptoms. Traumatic events are normally repressed leading to distorted outcomes. Repression involves considering between what is bad and good. This forms the issue of ego and superego (Havenesian, et al, 2009). There are various types of repression; primary repression, secondary repression and abnormal repression. Primary repression enables infants to define what is bad and good. When a child identifies some sort of anxiety because of some desires, then the secondary repression comes to play. Suppression involves unpleasant actions. It suppresses the occurrence of other events until one event is solved.

In addition, intellectualization defense mechanism involves reasoning to barricade conflict which may arise due to unconscious conflict. This defense mechanism normally emphasizes on the intellectual aspect of a situation. This enables an individual to distance from the situation provoking anxiety. Intellectualization defense mechanism replaces completely stressful events (Plutchik, Kellernam, 1979). This defense mechanism protects individuals from anxiety by separating oneself from events which might be stressful or painful.

In conclusion, there are several approaches in which one can cope with threats or dangers; taking charge of situation. The other main approach include; denial, repression and running away from situation. There are various defense mechanism involved in escaping from situation; withdrawal, denial, projection, suppression/repression. In taking charge of situation, one may involve various defense mechanism such as; sublimation, compensation, rationalization and undoing.


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