Anxiety in whatever form it takes is something that any individual seeks to avoid, which is why the study of defense mechanisms in relation to psychoanalysis has been an ongoing project for more than a century.
Having extensive studied of their work, psychoanalyst Patrick Mahony is aware that both Sigmund Freud and his daughter Anna looked at this component intently. Freud pinpointed one’s ego as the place where those defense mechanisms take place, which manifest themselves in forms such as shame, guilt or embarrassment.
Of course, that only scratches the surface of potential considerations, since Patrick Mahony and other psychoanalysts know that no specific number exists. However, five that remain relevant are:
- Repression simply means blocking out the cause of the anxiety, which relegates it to the unconscious. This is the classic instance of a person being in denial.
- Projection is refusing to acknowledge unacceptable beliefs and instead accusing others of that character flaw.
- In reaction formation, an exaggerated fear results in doing the opposite of what the unconscious wants.
- Sublimation usually takes the form of someone adapting their anxiety or flaws in a positive manner to avoid a negative situation.
- Regression is simply reverting back to a time before the anxiety took hold, which can be related to children’s uncertainties about growing up.
As noted, a defense mechanism can be positive, but Patrick Mahony and others in the field know that in itself might be perceived as a defense mechanism.