Human Behavior: The Psychology of Defense Mechanisms
Human behavior is as diverse as it is complex. Everyday life is filled with stimuli whose perceptions lead people to conscious or unconscious reactions. Often, positive stimuli reflect in equally positive actions that significantly improve the attitude to life. But conflicts also belong to everyday human life, the processing of which demands everything from a functioning mental state.
So-called defense mechanisms , which always act as a stabilizer, act when the human being is confronted with the negative reality. The following article explains the concept of the defense mechanism and gives illustrative examples of everyday life.
The concept of the defense mechanism
Originally, the concept of the defense mechanism comes from the Freudian doctrine of psychoanalysis . A defense mechanism is then any psychic process that attempts to mentally manage or compensate for conflict-laden psychic tendencies in order to achieve a subsequent conflict-free mental state. Often, but not exclusively, defense mechanisms are subconscious .
Defense mechanisms to avoid danger
The human psyche draws on a variety of different defense mechanisms, which are not only conceptually different, but cause different recognizable human behavior. The main task of defense mechanisms is the health of the mental health. Through a continuous learning process, humans are able to recognize and avoid dangers. Only in this way can an adaptation to reality succeed in successfully mastering the tasks of everyday life.
The functioning of defense mechanisms
Some of the most important defense mechanisms of human behavior appear in many everyday situations, but are not perceived by the unconscious process as a defensive behavior:
The repression is one of the main defense mechanisms . As undesirable perceived content displaces the human thereby from his consciousness. This process costs so-called displacement energy. The greater the resistance to the displacement, the higher the consumption of the displacement energy. The defense is successful when there is a relative balance between energy expenditure and displacement. On the other hand, a defense is considered unsuccessful if wishes are displaced without a real renunciation.
Behind everyday statements such as “I have completely repressed this” can be this conscious or unconscious defense mechanism stuck. All contents that do not fit into the reality of a person are simply suppressed, so that these contents are hardly ever consciously perceived. Even more thorough are complete denials, ignoring all content that does not fit into a person’s world view. Repressions, for example, are regularly seen in depression .
A relatively complicated defense mechanism for humans is justification. Justifying behaviors occur after a decision is made irretrievably. The central element of justification is to shirk the responsibility for making a decision. This applies in everyday life, for example, the groundless rejection of an important appointment and the subsequent inner conflict to justify the rejection by an argument.
Another common defense mechanism is devaluation. The aim is to reinterpret an originally desirable content into a content that is perceived as being worthless or meaningless. The cancellation of a planned holiday trip can be devalued, for example, by the fact that the destination to hot temperatures are awarded and the cancellation is therefore no longer perceived as bad. Devaluations of caregivers can also be used as silent defenses to increase self-esteem. If devaluations are clearly stated, the limit to the so-called bullying is reached.
Affective isolation describes a fading out of emotional reactions. At the same time, the reasons for a particular human behavior are rationalized and reduced to necessity. For example, parents hijack their child, possibly blocking out anger or remorse, and streamline their actions by saying that slapping has not harmed a child.
A contrast to the emotional isolation mentioned above is the dramatization dar. Own acts or the actions or feelings of other people are described overly emotional. Dramatization often becomes recognizable through the use of superlatives and repetitions to add even more weight to emotional excess.
Everyday examples of the defense mechanism of dramatization are situations in which exaggerated descriptions of actions or states become clear. These can be simple statements, such as: “The weather is catastrophic today. Absolutely catastrophic! “, But also exaggerated reactions to the actions of others such as:” That Mr. Mustermann still ordered a second glass of beer appalled me. “As motivation is behind dramatizations usually the fear of not being paid enough or not enough.
Unilateral defense mechanisms can make you ill
In addition to the defense mechanisms mentioned above, there are a variety of other human behaviors that serve the protection of mental integrity. Some evoke a certain behavior, others even manifest themselves in physically or mentally noticeable impairments (eg somatization). Basically, every person uses the psychic maneuvers of the defense to maintain his world view and not least his mental and mental state. Defense mechanisms are therefore not despicable conscious or unconscious actions, but important parts of human existence.
However, if defense mechanisms take up too much of life, or if the repertoire is limited to a few, stereotypically used defense mechanisms, mental or physical strain can result. This can be the case, for example, when defense mechanisms are used unilaterally and at high frequency, consciously or unconsciously, and change from a protective measure into a state of stress.
The consequences vary and depend on the basic mental stability of the individual. The defense mechanism of displacement, that is, the shifting of emotions and impulses from dangerous to non-hazardous areas, can promote the development of fears (phobias). In addition, depression, delusional states and constraints are recognizable symptoms of failed defensive behavior.
Defense mechanisms help to recognize fears
Anyone who is aware of the existence of defense mechanisms can benefit from this knowledge. Since defense mechanisms are usually directly related to fear or anxiety, a psychologically stable person can use these circumstances constructively, if he accepts fears, develops the ability to control his escape behavior and from this drives the development of the personality. Foresight or the control of everyday situations then become tools that are essential for further development.
In order to transform defense mechanisms into positive human behaviors, humans must overcome the fear of anxiety and confront and master fearful situations as far as is within the responsibility for the integrity of the body and mind.