Sigmund Freud (1894, 1896) noted several defence mechanisms throughout his work and his Daughter Anna, (1936) went on to develop and elaborate on these adding ten of her own.
In psychology, especially in psychodynamic theory, defence mechanisms are something we use to protect or defend ourselves. This could be a way we behave or think to distance ourselves from the full awareness of troublesome thoughts, feelings and behaviours. Most defence mechanisms are relatively unconscious and all of us use them occasionally.
However, prolonged use of them is damaging because using such defences in the long term can distort reality and fabricate experience. This can lead to a change in the behaviour of the individual and develop behaviour problems in the long run. Defence mechanisms are often learned behaviour that we learn during our childhood, but as adults, we can choose to change these and learn new behaviours and new defence mechanisms that can be more of an advantage in our lives.
“The conflict that occurs between a person’s wishes and external reality is dealt with by the use of defence mechanisms”. (Hough, Pg.85, 2014)
As there are a number of defence mechanisms, I am going to look at a few that I can relate to myself. Denial is a defence mechanism I realise that I have used a lot in my past. This I believe was used to protect myself from seeing the reality of what was really happening at that time.
Looking back and gaining awareness and understanding through the counselling process and personal therapy, I realise that I was in a controlled and abusive marriage. I dealt with this by projecting this onto other couples that was splitting up to make my relationship look better but was failing to recognize and accept my own issues. I found this beneficial to myself at the time as it was relieving the negative feeling I had but I was also avoiding things about myself that I knew I had to change.
“It’s a way of contributing our own faults to others”. (Hough, Pg.87,2014)
This led to me minimising my own problems and maximising other people difficulties leading to avoidance of the reality of my situation.
Recently working with a client, I realised when she talked about the relationship with her husband, she was being controlled and abused. I found she used denial and avoidance which was unconsciously used as a defence mechanism as she didn’t realise she was doing it. Exploring this with her I became aware that this assisted in concealing her failures which she was not prepared to admit to others, thus postponing facing the problem. I found her unconscious was coming into the conscious through the counselling process, as she started