Defense Mechanisms

I'm sure you've heard of the term EGO but it's not necessarily what you think it is...  we use the word Ego in layman's terms to describe a person's pride in themselves...  such as "He has a big ego."... 




You get the idea...

 But in Psychology this is not what the EGO refers to at all.  The ego is actually the part of the psyche that mediates between our DRIVES (what we want, need and desire) and what is acceptable and safe to pursue. 

For example...   Our drives might tell us we want to eat that chocolate bar that our coworker left on the counter at the office but our ego does the job of controlling that impulse because it would be unacceptable to steal another person's treat for our own benefit.  The ego steps in with a reality check and persuades us to make the "right choice".   We delay our gratification and decide to buy our own chocolate bar later or decide to eat the healthy lunch we brought and forego the chocolate all together.  In that case we are displacing our current desire and fantasizing about the chocolate bar we will have later or we are repressing our desire for chocolate for lunch and sublimating with a more socially acceptable option of eating a healthy and nutritious substitution.  

For some reason people judge when you eat chocolate for lunch??  Makes perfect sense to me :)

The EGO is the part of our psyche responsible for REASON and COMMON SENSE.

What's wrong with wanting Chocolate for Lunch?

Have you ever had a friend with whom you could just be yourself?  I remember one year when I was in high school, my friend came over with a birthday cake for me.  It was nothing fancy...just one of the mcCain cakes in the foil trays that really are just yummy and have zero health benefits... and for some reason we both decided it would be fun to eat it with our face!  No forks!  No plates!  We just ate it right out of the container.  We were being silly and it was fun.   That's the kind of friend I'm talking about.  One who doesn't judge you for wanting chocolate for dinner...

Perhaps the reason why the ego has been associated with PRIDE is because it is related to our sense of self-esteem ... for when our inner world (our passions, desires and drives) are met with acceptance from our outer world (peers, parents, society)...we feel good!   We feel accepted and our self-esteem grows. 


Denial is not just a river in Egypt...

It is actually one of the most common Ego Defense Mechanisms that we use.

When things are just too painful to accept (that our dream soul mate just really isn't that into us for example) we can use DENIAL to protect us from that harsh reality.  Another example would be the alcoholic who doesn't want to admit that they have a drinking problem and will claim that they are doing a great job managing work and home life to prove that there is no problem...

Regression & Acting Out

Sometimes an event will be so hurtful that it causes us to regress back to our inner child - our 3 year old self comes out and throws a hissy fit....   We are so thrown by the incompatibility of what we want and what is really available to us that we literally revert back to childhood for a moment.  This includes throwing objects, damaging property or self-injury when a person inflicts pain or phsyical violence because they cannot tolerate the emotional pain.

Dissociation and Compartmentalization

This occurs when we literally dissociate from what is going on or tuck it away out of mind so that we don't have to deal with the reality of the situation or the outside world (i.e., we stick our head in the sand or under the covers to avoid facing reality) or we tuck the issue away and carry on as if nothing is wrong.  Both are means of HIDING to escape.



This is a fascinating one!  When we have thoughts that we are uncomfortable with we may use projection to take the pain of having those thoughts away.  For example, a person who has thoughts of cheating on their partner may accuse the partner of cheating or flirting.

Reaction Formation

This defense occurs when we display the EXACT OPPOSITE of what we really feel...  When we are faced with uncomfortable feelings (such as "You don't love me") for example, we may present the opposite - ("I don't love you")....

Imagine acting and feeling EXACTLY CONTRARY TO HOW YOU REALLY FEEL?!  And this can be completely unconscious to the person in that they don't even know that this is what they are doing!  It is the psyche's means of protecting them from the hurtful feelings.

Get Real:

I have given just a few examples here of how the mind is a tricky fellow in the face of risky feelings.  Could it be possible that the person you despise actually reflects aspects of your own self that you do not want to admit to?  Could you be projecting, substituting or repressing your truths?  Could you be unconscious to the ways in which your mind tries to protect your heart?  And Could it be wrong?!!

Get real by talking to a supportive friend or therapist... by questioning what is the reality of a situation and by digging deep into your own fears and desires.  What is it that you REALLY WANT?  What holds you back?  What would you do if there was no fear and no risk of judgement? 

Try to take an OBJECTIVE view of your life and view it from a witness perspective.  What is really going on?  What is the true story?  How is your ego holding you back from what you want and how is it protecting you?  What is the truth?

Want to chat about this with me?  Let's do dinner!  I know a really good chocolate shop....  :) 

Life is too short to be anything but happy.

Namaste :)




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