When people think of defenses these days, they think of two things: lawyers and the military. Defense mechanisms are often used pejorative to describe how someone reacts when confronted with a challenging circumstance. In clinical Psychology Melbourne, however, defense mechanisms are used as an essential component in the diagnosis and treatment of mental health problems.
There are many types of defense mechanisms that people use to protect themselves from harm or from feeling vulnerable. This article defines some defenses, examines how they are used, and describes the factors that contribute to whether they are healthy or unhealthy.
Defense mechanisms can be characterized as being either primary or secondary. Primary defenses are unconscious, automatic reactions to perceived threats. They include denial, displacement, altruism, projection, and regression. Secondary defenses of this type include intellectualization, rationalization, and reaction formation.
Once we’ve identified a defense that someone is using, it can be helpful to look at how the situation might have occurred. Historians and sociologists are most likely to be aware of how an event could have played out and whether there were alternative ways it could have been resolved. If a person does not want to feel vulnerable or do something unpleasant, they may fall back on the most effective defense – rationalization.
For any defense mechanism to work correctly, it must be employed in response to real danger or threat. Psychological disorders are characterized by several unhealthy defenses that do not work in situations where no threat exists. Therefore, an effective and healthy defense mechanism can be seen as deployed when needed and not otherwise.
The fact that a person has to use a defense mechanism does not mean that the situation is any less unsafe; it just means that this person will have more incredible difficulty defending against it.
People can suffer from emotional and mental problems when defense mechanisms fail to work or are used in excess. Defense mechanisms are sometimes interrelated, such as when displacement results in projection.
Defense mechanisms can also be either adaptive or maladaptive. A maladaptive defense mechanism creates long-term emotional and mental problems because it is not working correctly; a healthy defense mechanism helps a person to cope with a real threat effectively.
Defense mechanisms are usually unconscious behaviors that allow us to avoid feeling too vulnerable in certain situations. Many different forms of defense mechanisms can be found in people, both healthy and unhealthy. The following is a list of some common defense mechanisms.
The healthy use of secondary defenses is essential because they help us to avoid becoming overwhelmed by the emotional intensity and distress that are part of any real problem. Secondary defenses allow us to keep our emotional reactions and behavior in check, which helps prevent serious damage to our mental processes.
An example would be a parent who does not want their child to suffer distress regarding a failing relationship; the parent might offer reassurance or explain the failure that makes it more normal or less threatening.