Sunday, April 8, 2012

Defense Mechanism #4: Reaction Formation

What people show you may not be exactly what they feel. It is a common behavior for people to show the opposite of how they feel because of the fear of getting criticized. We are very complex creatures. We don't just hide what we feel. We show the opposite in order to make sure our feelings our safely concealed. This behavior is a defense mechanism called reaction formation.

We are very aware of this human nature and this could be clearly seen by the adage: "The more you hate, the more you love." Do you have a coworker who is extremely kind to you and treats you as a very special person for unknown reasons? Or perhaps you know someone who wants to pick a fight with you constantly? Maybe these unknown reasons are due to their defense mechanism.

Reaction formation could also be seen among media, political, or religious personalities showing an extreme stance on a certain issue. One example would be a person showing extreme hatred toward homosexuals, but is secretly a homosexual himself.

Reaction formation in an extreme form is unhealthy. It could be either a conscious or unconscious effort. A psychotic behavior could in fact be rooted by a reaction formation and thus should be addressed by the professional.
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