What are Ego Defense Mechanisms

Defense mechanisms are ways that the individual’s ego uses to overcome psychological conflicts. Conflicts are usually the result of a confrontation between the id and the superego of the individual. It usually happens if an id wish is not fulfilled and is censored by the superego.

The id constitutes the biological drives in the human such as the sexual drive. The id seeks immediate fulfillment of its needs and seeks immediate gratification of the drives that the individual has. The id works based on the pleasure principle. This is the structure of the personality that is present at birth.

The ego in contrast to the id works based on the reality principle. It is the structure of the mind that is in contact with the real world.

There is a third structure of the mental apparatus and which is called the superego. It represents the values and norms that we learn from our families and from our society.

It is the conflict between this structure and the id that triggers the conflict which is then resolved using the defense mechnisms.

Another term that I would like to mention here is the psychic energy or libido. According to Freud the source of libido is in the drives of the id. It is mainly a sexual energy according to the theory by Freud. The libido can be transformed to other forms.

One of the mechanisms of defense that is used in conflict resolving uses this transformation of psychic energy and which is called sublimation. It will be mentioned later.

According to the traditional psychoanalytic theory by Freud personality is designed by instincts such as the sexual instinct. All psychic energy or libido is formed from biological processes in the body. All instincts in the body are characterized by a source, pressure, aim and object.

There are 12 main defense mechanisms that some of them is primitive and others are mature mechanisms. The first mechanism that I discuss here in the DENIAL mechanism of defense. It is an immature mechanism which is primitive. It is characterized by the fact that the individual that is adopting this mechanism to resolve the conflict denies or does not admit the existence of an event that is associated with anxiety and pain.

For example, an imminent death of a terminally sick person is denied by the patient. This type of defense mechanism involves distortion of reality and it is therefore primitive or maladaptive defense mechanism.

Reaction formation is the second mechanism which belongs to the neurotic defenses. In this type of defense an impulse is repressed and its opposite is manifested in an exaggerated form. For example, an example of such a defense is when a person hates his brother, instead of saying I hate you, he says I love you.

The other mechanism of defense is called projection. It is a narcissistic mechanism which is manifested as when an impulse of an individual is unacceptable to oneself. Instead, this impulse is ascribed to someone else. An example of such a defense is when a person is a thief so he ascribes this character to other people.

The next mechanism is called displacement. It is characterized by a displacement of the object of the impulse. For example, a person who hates his father may say I hate my brother. The object of hatred has been moved from the authentic object which is the father to the brother.

Identification is another mechanism of defense which is characterized by identifying oneself with a character which is typical of another person. This mechanism is adaptive. Boys learn to identify with their fathers and girls learn to identify with their mothers.

The mechanism of rationalization states that a person which uses this mechanism gives plausible but mistaken arguement about an action that he did in order to conceal the truth. An example of such a mechanism is when a student fails the class and he ascribes his failure to his teacher.

Sublimation is an adaptive mechanism of defense in which id impulse is transformed to creative actions. An example of such a mechanism is when a sexual libido is transformed to creative writing.

Repression is another mechanism which is the main mechanism in Freud theory. It is manifested as expulsion of thoughts from the consciousness to the unconscious mind by forgetting the anxiety that is associated with it.

Regression is another defense mechanism. An example of such a mechanism is when a student has an imminent test, he starts to bite his fingers.

Fixation is another mechanism of defense in which psychological growth is halted at an immature state due to an existing anxiety. An example of which is when a person is dependent on his mother for choosing his purchases.

Intellectualization is also a mechanism, see the details.