Every person copes with difficult situations or threats in life in different ways. Sigmund Freud said that although defense mechanisms prevent apprehension and or guilt in the short run, they drain a person’s energy and actually causes the problems in a person’s life to worsen eventually. People use defense mechanisms every day without even realizing it. Four defense mechanisms include denial, rationalization, repression, and displacement.
Suppose a woman has been in a serious, loving relationship with a man for over two years, when all of a sudden, they start growing apart. He no longer does cute things for her, doesn’t come home at night, and one day when the couple was driving in his car, she found a brasserie in the backseat. Soon after this, the woman starts noticing several other signs of her partner’s infidelity. Instead of confronting the situation or leaving him, she decides not to believe it. The woman tells herself it isn’t true and pushes away every sign. No matter how obvious her partner’s cheating is, she will not accept the truth. This is an example of the defense mechanism denial. Denial is when a person discards the presence of any intimidating impulses, which is exactly what the woman in this example did to the signs and worries in her head of her husband cheating.
Another defense mechanism is rationalization. This is when a person makes excuses or irrational reasons in an effort to make a certain action reasonable. For example, if a teenager only has $200 in their checking account and they already owe $50 to their sister for a purse, the rational thing to do would be to not spend over $100 at the mall. However, this teen decides to spend $130, leaving them $20 left in their checking account. When being yelled at by their mother, the person explains that he desperately needed all of the clothes he bought. Although this may sound like a rational reason, it is highly unlikely that this teen “needed” $130 worth of new clothes.
A very common defense mechanism, displacement, occurs when a person takes an emotional impulse out on someone other than the original target. This occurs quite frequently in everyday life. One example of displacement would be when a student takes out their anger towards their Debate professor on their classmates, friends, family, and other professors. Repression is another example of a defense mechanism. This type of defense mechanism takes place when a person unconsciously drives away threatening impulses out of their conscious. Repression could occur in a person who cannot remember the day a loved one died because they pushed all of those terrible feelings and memories away.
People use defense mechanisms in everyday life to try to prevent unwanted feelings. It is a natural concept however, according to Freud. He believes that as our personalities grow and develop, people struggle to meet their needs and use defense mechanisms to try to disguise these unsatisfied needs. Denial, rationalization, repression, and displacement are four examples of commonly used defense mechanisms.