Psychological Defence Mechanisms – Why They Can Be Unhelpful
What are Psychological Defence Mechanisms?
Psychological defence mechanisms are something that everybody has, and for a lot of people, they’re in use every day. They exist to protect you mentally, but sometimes they’re not that helpful.
One of the most obvious examples would be denial. Denial is something that a smoker experiences when they say, “I can quit any time, I just choose not to.” It stops them from having to acknowledge the fact that they are addicted, so they feel better about smoking. Other examples of denial are when somebody struggles to accept that a loved one has passed away. They may talk about just thinking their loved one is going to walk into the room.
Other examples of psychological defence mechanisms can be a little more complicated. Regression, for example, is when somebody regresses to a childhood state or starts behaving similarly to how they did as a child. A common example of this would be when a child is going through a stressful time and starts to wet the bed again, when they haven’t in a very long time.
Another psychological defence mechanism is projection. This can have quite a toxic effect on people. Projection is projecting your problems onto others. An example would be somebody blaming their hostility on somebody else, perhaps suggesting that person has anger issues, so that they don’t have to feel guilty for their own behaviour. Sometimes it can be hard to tell when somebody is doing this, and long-term it can cause a lot of damage to relationships and friendships.
Repression is another commonly mentioned one. People can repress traumatic memories if they aren’t mentally able to deal with them. However, usually these memories do eventually come to the surface. When this happens it can be very shocking. A milder example of repression would be when somebody represses their feelings and pretends to be happy. Although I’ve described it as ‘mild’, it can still do a lot of damage in the long run.