Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Human Defense Mechanisms

Defense mechanisms are unconscious psychological reactions used to cope or protect oneself and reduce anxiety.  Our main defense mechanisms are denial, displacement, intellectualization, projection, rationalization, reaction formation, regression, repression/suppression, sublimation, compensation, dissociation, fantasy, identification, undoing and withdrawal.  Defense mechanisms can be helpful and healthy if used properly.  However, if used improperly to prevent individuals from realizing their true thoughts and feelings.

Denial is one of the most identifiable defense mechanisms.  There are 3 ways people present denial:
1.  Simple denial-denial of reality and unpleasant facts all together.
2.  Minimization-Admit fact but deny seriousness.
3.  Projection-Admit both fact and seriousness but deny responsibility.

There are different types of denial as well:
1. Denial of fact.
2. Denial of responsibility.
3. Denial of impact.
4. Denial of awareness.
5. Denial of cycle.
6. Denial of denial.

Denial may be your body's way of telling you that you are stressed, in emotional conflict, having painful thoughts, etc.  If you don't move past denial, you may develop harmful behaviors towards yourself or others.  If you think you may be in denial, ask yourself what you fear, think about what may happen if you don't take action, allow yourself to express your fears and emotions, try to identify irrational beliefs about your situation, journal, open up to a confidante, or maybe find a support group.  If these steps don't work consider talking to a mental health professional.

If you know someone who is in denial, be there for them.  If you pressure them to deal with it, it could end up in an angry confrontation. Instead, let them know you will stick by them when they decide they are ready to deal with their feelings and emotions.