Friday, May 11, 2007
The origin of defence mechanisms
By Balakrishna Jayasimha
When anxieties due to prevailing insecurities become too overwhelming, it is then the place of the ego to employ defence mechanisms to protect the individual. Feelings of guilt, embarrassment and shame often accompany the feeling of anxiety.
Lately, as my research in behavioural sciences moves me into the thesis stage, I have been asked as to who my subjects are going to be as a part of sampling. Quite a few have jokingly even asked who would be my ‘specimens’.
Upon sheer reflection, I realised how we look for external ‘specimens’ for our own internal insecurities. The best ‘specimen’ is the self and reflecting on the self can help bring to the surface these insecurities, so that the process of healing begins.
Unfortunately, we look at others as ‘specimens’ when the true ‘specimen’ lies within. This is because as a part of the review of literature, I came across how our “defence mechanisms” play an important role in looking to the external to cover for our insecurities rather than to look within.
“Defence mechanisms” are unconscious resources used by the ego to reduce anxiety and for that reason; they are more accurately referred to as the ego defence mechanisms. When anxieties due to prevailing insecurities become too overwhelming, it is then the place of the ego to employ defence mechanisms to protect the individual. Feelings of guilt, embarrassment and shame often accompany the feeling of anxiety.
While there are many types of defence mechanisms, three have been listed that are prevalent and regularly employed by oneself.
The first one is ‘denial’; this is an ego defence mechanism that operates unconsciously, to resolve emotional conflict, and to reduce the anxiety by refusing to perceive the more unpleasant aspects of external reality. The second one is ‘projecting’; attributing to others or to the external environment, one’s own unacceptable or unwanted thoughts, feelings and emotions, is projection, this reduces anxiety in a way that it allows the expression of the impulse or desire without letting the ego recognise it. The third is ‘rationalisation’; this is the process of constructing a logical justification for a decision which may have gone wrong. We may rationalise anything and everything which has not gone according to our expectation.
Do not make an assessment of every situation, appreciate the essence in that situation, when we assess it increases anxiety. Listening without assessing we appreciate what is said, it is also a way, where the ego loses its place in day to day interactions.