5 common defence mechanisms you might not have heard of

Defence mechanisms are our mind’s way of protecting us against difficult emotions. I’m sure we’ve all heard of humour as a defence mechanism, or being in denial, or repressed memories - all of these are famous examples of defence mechanisms.


But outside of those, there are actually loads of them. I’ve given a basic outline of 5 but even that is a small selection, and I find that looking at them and researching them can offer fascinating insight into ourselves and the emotions we try to avoid processing!


The vast majority of defence mechanisms are unconscious processes, meaning that we do them without any conscious awareness of doing so. That means that recognising these behaviours in ourselves can be a big step, but also only part of the work that needs to be done. We also need to reflect on why we have these defence mechanisms - what emotions are they in response to? Why do we display particular defence mechanisms over others?

  1. Displacement:transferring difficult emotions from one target to another, less threatening target.

  2. Intellectualisation: distancing yourself from your problems by adopting a clinical, objective view of them.

  3. Regression: returning to old behaviours that brought you comfort in your early years.

  4. Reaction formation: reducing anxiety by adopting behaviours or beliefs contrary to your own.

  5. Sublimation: taking your emotions and using them to contribute to something beneficial or productive.

Some great reflective work can come from exploring defence mechanisms, it’s an area of study I’d highly recommend. Before understanding your defence mechanisms, it would be helpful to understand what your belief systems are. Again, belief systems are unconscious processes. These can have a negative impact in your current world if you are unaware of them. So, before thinking about your defence mechanisms, finding out the root causes of those behaviours will help build your own self-awareness. My Rewiring Limiting Belief Systems online course offers you a self-lead exploration over 4 weeks of what your belief systems look like, and how to heal them. To find out more information, click the link below:




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