Freud once said, “life is not easy!”.
Well it has never been easy. Everyday there are conflicts in us. Conflicts that appear as voices in our head. One voice tells us to follow our instinct, but another says not to follow, and another voice giving good argument, then another voice remind us about the consequences and so on. Actually, what are these voices?
Sigmund Freud the founding father of psychoanalysis categorized structure of psyche or personality by three. First is the id, the biology, the primordial side of personality that require instant fulfillment. Second, the superego, the moral, religious, and social standard that internalized within us. We recognize superego as voice that tells us not to do this, or not to do that, this is right and this is wrong. Third is the ego, us, the one who deals with reality.
When there is an internal conflict between id, super ego, and ego, or from external threat anxiety arise. The feeling that follows anxiety like embarrassment, guilt, shame, and insecurity is not pleasant. When anxiety is too overwhelming we develop defense mechanism to protect ego from suffering. To put it another way, defense mechanism is the expression of pain or something awful.
Anna Freud, the daughter of Sigmund Freud described ten defense mechanisms used by the ego. Well since it is not a psychology class, I am not going to explain it all, I just highlight the most common defense mechanism that I am sure we all have: denial, rationalization, displacement, and repression/suppression.
Denial is used when we are not able to face the reality and we somehow deny to accept the reality. Say, you are gay. The id in you cannot hide your behavior and preferences while your superego wont let you go because it against moral, religious and social standard. Then the ego suffers. You deny the reality and you kick anyone who thinks you are gay out of your circle.
Rationalization happens when you are trying to use logical explanation to avoid the true reality. For example, your teacher bully you in front of the class, since you couldn’t defend yourself, you try to explain to everyone that bullying is part of the lesson and you don’t mind helping the teacher to get students understand the lesson rather than admitted that you were bullied.
Displacement involves taking out the reality you couldn’t bear to another object that is less threatening. Say you didn’t perform well at the office. Since you couldn’t channel the anger, you come home express your anger toward your family by yelling and hurting them.
Repression and suppression is the act to keep out the reality from our consciousness. For example, you don’t have good childhood memories and you try to get rid of that memory from your head. Maybe you are able to bury all the bad memories, but later, you might have difficulty to form relationship.
Any normal person would use defense mechanisms if needed. It is our way to shield ego from threat. But defense mechanism is only a temporary tool. We can’t solely rely on it against all problems. Sooner or later we have to deal with reality. Overly use defense mechanism against problems will not fix the problem. If we keep avoid the problem with defense mechanism, It might lead to major mental illness or depression.
People have to be careful if they are too good with defense mechanism. People who is afraid to get hurt and not be able to face the truth must have developed a good defense mechanism. On the contrary, people who is strong enough to suffer pain and able to cope the situation, usually the one who use limited defense mechanism.