Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Defense Mechanism #3: Overcompensation

One of my most used defense mechanisms is overcompensation. As a little girl, I was shy and clumsy. I was inferior in sports and I seldom participate in class discussions. As a means to deal with my feelings of inferiority, I decided that I could instead work harder in areas I am good at. It was during that period when I started to study harder. The outcome was: I got good grades, the teachers noticed me, and I felt better overall about myself.

Overcompensation is what we do whenever we feel we are lacking in some areas. Instead of dealing directly with the poor areas, we focus more on the areas we are skilled at and try to work harder for them. By excelling in those areas, we somewhat feel that we are able to make up for our poor qualities. If you encounter a person who works overboard, then it is possible that he/she is overcompensating.

To me, this defense mechanism is a great way to feel better about yourself. I dislike the idea of focusing on ones negative side for personal development. It's more important to focus on the good qualities rather than the negative qualities. People have different skills and talents. If one performs poorly on a certain skill, it's not the end of the world.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Defense Mechanism #2: Displacement

Have you ever encountered a loved one getting angry at you for no reason at all? When this happens, you know that he/she is only taking out his/her frustrations on you. In fact, you may have also taken out your frustrations on someone else during your bad days. In psychology, this behavior is a form of defense mechanism labelled as displacement.

Displacement is the transfer of impulses from a desired target to a more convenient and non-threatening subject. So when the boss gets angry at you, instead of shouting back at him (You don't want to do that, right?), you shout at your spouse, child, best friend, pet, or whoever is available when you get home. Displacement does not only refer to negative actions but also to positive ones. Say, if you feel very happy after learning about your passing in an exam, you immediately hug the person next to you when the real target (your close friend or loved one) is not available at the moment. 

Displacement, especially when dealing with negative impulses, saves us from negative consequences. You are able to apply your frustrations to a safer target and vent out your emotions. Personally though, when I was about to vent out my negative emotions to an innocent loved one, I try to control myself. After all, I don't want to hurt a person who has no faults at all. To me, although this defense mechanism has its own advantages, the best thing to do is to deal with the real cause of problem in a healthier and more productive way. Of course, not every situations has an easy remedy. So you might as well find a nonliving object as a target of your defense mechanism.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Defense Mechanism #1: Sublimation

We, as human beings, have urges. We desire to eat, sleep, drink, talk, or walk, and it is just natural to satisfy these desires. But sometimes, we come up with an urge so negative (such as kicking someone) that we are caught in between satisfying them or acting according to good social standards. After all, what sets us apart from animals is the ability to act morally despite the negative urges we feel.

When we encounter such urges, we don't immediately act upon them. Instead, we think about how to channel these energies based on our moral standards. When we fail to achieve our desires in a healthy way, it often leads to guilt. However, there is a way that our ego deals with negative desires and turn them into positive ones: by channeling these urges into socially acceptable means, a process called sublimation.

In fact, this defense mechanism is the most mature and useful type among all. For instance, if a person has some sexual urges, he could positively channel these energies through painting rather than going to brothels. Another example, if a person has a strong aggressive energy, she could channel it through sports instead of hurting other people.

The concept of sublimation is indeed a useful concept when dealing with delinquents. Instead of trying to stop him from becoming aggressive, psychologists could help him channel his aggression into something socially acceptable.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Psychology 101: Defense Mechanisms

What is a defense mechanism? As the term implies, these are strategies (could be thoughts or actions) that are used to "defend" ourselves from the harsh reality. We use defense mechanism to deal with situations that are undesirable or unacceptable for us. Defense mechanisms could be healthy or unhealthy. It is perfectly normal to employ such strategies because sometimes, viewing realities as they are might cause us extreme anxiety. However, some people rely too much on defense mechanisms to a very unhealthy extent. Too much defense mechanism might influence a person's life negatively.

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