Essay on Defence Mechanisms: Way to Cope with Tension


Defence Mechanism is contrary to the adaptive measures. It may not assist an individual to solve his problem in a constructive way. Instead it may impede the constructive activity and become disruptive.

It is a technique adopted by individuals to cope with tension. Stress and anxiety aroused by conflicts. When an individual meets with such a problem, instead of developing and insight to solve it, he may give a totally different explanation for it and escape.

However, psychologists are of the view that a defence mechanism rescues the individual from maladjusted behaviour. However excessive use of such techniques may again lead to maladjustment.


Various types of defence mechanism are as under:

(1) Denial to Reality:

The child turns away from unpleasant sites, refuses to talk of or listen to unpleasant topics, ignores and denies criticism, and thus he protects himself from traumatic situations.

(2) Fantasy:


Fantasies act like safety valves and provide the child some amount of gratification. He imagines himself suffering from some handicap or terrible affliction. To explain away his failure at an examination he imagines a visitation from just fate.

When a child’s desires are frustrated he thus enters a world of imagination.

(3) Repression:

Painful and threatening thoughts are not liked by anyone. We want to exclude from our consciousness disheartening urges, memories and emotions. Repression is the way of forgetting all these.


The man who has seen his best friend’s head blown off may find the experience so terribly painful that he would like to exclude it from his consciousness altogether. The repression screens out stressful experiences from consciousness.

(4) Rationalization:

The irrational behaviour of a person is disapproved by the society he lives in. This causes a stress. The person provides logical and socially acceptable reasons for his past, present and proposed behaviors and justifies them.

Thus he persuades himself and others that his actions were correct. This is rationalization. The young boy who fails in a pre-medical test says a doctor’s life is no life. Grapes are sour, when the fox is unable to reach them.


Sometimes very great personalities have been found to be rationalizing. Hitler regarded it his patriotic duty to exterminate the Jews.

(5) Projection:

We place the blame of our shortcomings, mistakes and misdeeds on others and attribute to others our own thoughts, desires and impulses. The boy who fails in a test says that the teacher has not been teaching properly.

The boy who is punished for fighting protests ‘He hit me first’. Homosexuals with a feeling of guilt others of trying to seduce them, while they remain unaware of their own homosexual inclinations.


(6) Reaction Formation:

Troublesome, urges, emotions, feelings and attitudes are excluded from consciousness by repression. They are also removed from consciousness by thoroughly disguising them by adopting an opposite attitude.

For example, a child becomes an angel when his parents or teachers are unduly intolerant of his aggressive behaviour. This is reaction formation. The child protects himself from a dangerous situation by trying to develop just the opposite behaviour-pattern on the conscious level.

(7) Regression:

A frustrated person returns to an earlier and more serious period of life. For example, the adult adopts the manners of the adolescence or

the adolescent adopts the behaviour-patterns of childhood to protect himself from painful realities of the present life. Returning to the protected existence of one’s childhood or some other earlier period is regression.

A person goes back to the old habits of adjustment such as weeping, crying or other emotional displays which worked in the past well, but which are hardly adequate for solving the problems at the present.

(8) Compensation:

When we meet a failure in on activity we have a painful feeling of inferiority which is counter-balanced if we enter into some other sphere of activity in which we can find success.

The child who is physically unattractive fails to get social esteem and in order to counter-balance this painful feeling he develops charming manners and learns to be an interesting conversationalist. Thus, he tries to get social approval through compensation.

(9) Sublimation:

Most of the defense mechanisms discussed above are ways to get temporary relief and when such defense mechanisms become fixed features of a person’s behaviour they cause a serious harm to his development.

The least harmful of all defense mechanisms is sublimation through which urges potential; harmful to the person are given a socially acceptable expression. For example, aggressive impulses are potentially harmful.

But when a young aggressive boy is given military training and is deployed in a useful profession as a military man, his aggressive urges are sublimated.

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