+
4 Tutorials that teach Psychological Defenses
Take your pick:
Psychological Defenses

Psychological Defenses

Rating:
Rating
(0)
Description:

This lesson will explain how psychological defense mechanisms are utilized in different situations.

(more)
See More
Try a College Course Free

Sophia’s self-paced online courses are a great way to save time and money as you earn credits eligible for transfer to over 2,000 colleges and universities.*

Begin Free Trial
No credit card required

25 Sophia partners guarantee credit transfer.

221 Institutions have accepted or given pre-approval for credit transfer.

* The American Council on Education's College Credit Recommendation Service (ACE Credit®) has evaluated and recommended college credit for 20 of Sophia’s online courses. More than 2,000 colleges and universities consider ACE CREDIT recommendations in determining the applicability to their course and degree programs.

Tutorial

What's Covered

This lesson is going to cover defense mechanisms by examining:

  1. Unconscious Defense Mechanisms
  2. Conscious Defense

1. Unconscious Defense Mechanisms

When faced with stress, anxiety, or other harmful things, the human brain is not defenseless. There are different ways that it protects itself from harm. One of the first ways that psychologists identified the brain protecting itself is defense mechanisms. Defense mechanisms are unconscious, learned patterns of protection from anxiety and stress that are developed over time by the brain. In other words, these defense mechanisms allow a person not to think about or deal with things that are mentally or emotionally harmful, particularly to your sense of self. This theory was developed by Sigmund Freud.

Term to Know

    • Defense Mechanisms
    • Unconscious learned patterns of protecting oneself from anxiety.

This type of defense is intended to protect a person from things that negatively affect mental health until the brain is better able to deal with the it or to dismiss completely if it is unnecessary to deal with. This type of defense does have the potential to be unhealthy.

Types of defense mechanisms can include:

  • Denial- refusing to accept something that's unpleasant. Instead of facing a problem, a person would essentially ignore anything that's bothering them or causing stress and anxiety.
  • Compensation- countering some weakness or perceived threat to yourself, by emphasizing a strength that you have, instead to reinforce your sense of self and self-worth.

ExampleSomebody might say that a person is not necessarily as good or intelligent in a certain area, and that person may reply with something like: “I'm a really great basketball player.” This would emphasize something that you are really are good at.

  • Intellectualization- where a person takes a situation, and separates it from its emotional component.

ExampleIf a history teacher says that Hitler was a great leader, and you might look at this in a very intellectual sense, detaching Hitler from the emotional component of all the terrible things that he's done to other people.

  • Rationalization- is justifying a bad choice with logic or rationale. Its is backing something up, by giving some kind of reason. This reason doesn't necessarily justify a course of action, but in the individual’s mind, it does.
  • Projection- where a person sees the negative things, feelings, or abilities they have in other people.
  • Sublimation-where a person channels unacceptable energies or desires into acceptable activities.

Example Instead of talking about something, you might be allowed to sing about it.

These are the defense mechanisms that Freud named. There are other psychological defense mechanisms that others have found. These include things like passive aggression, humor, and even altruism.


2. Conscience Defense

You can also consciously learn about ways to protect yourself over time. Someone can find situations, people, and work that are healthy and acceptable to a person's sense of themselves, and reinforce positive psychological ideas.

However, some people can find themselves in negative situations so often, they can think that those situations are unavoidable. In other words, they learn, in a negative way, how to defend themselves. They can come to accept those situations as being true and unavoidable. This is what is called learned helplessness. Learned helplessness is when a person learns, over time, that they're unable to overcome or escape certain obstacles.

IN CONTEXT
A good example of this is what we call battered person syndrome. A person learns in an abusive relationship to stay in that relationship even though common sense, from outside of that situation, would tell the person to get out. Another example is when a child thinks that they aren't good in a particular subject at school because they have consistent reinforcement from someone like a parent or teacher telling them they can't succeed. Eventually the child might come to accept it, and will not try to get any better at that subject.

Term to Know

    • Learned Helplessness
    • When a person learns over time that they are unable to overcome or escape certain obstacles and learns to accept them.

Learned helplessness is very closely related to depression, where a person experiences feelings of helplessness and a lack of hope. They have decreased energy and activity levels, less pleasure, less desire to eat, etc. Recurring thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, like in depression, can help to perpetuate this cycle in a person. Learned helplessness can help to explain why many cases of depression actually do occur, and is one of the root causes of depression.

Terms to Know

    • Depression
    • A mood disorder marked by low affect or emotion and reduced activity, lack of enjoyment in activities, and feelings of loneliness and hopelessness.
    • Hope
    • The feeling that things will get better and that a person isn't helpless.

Treatment for learned helplessness, and depression as a result, involves helping people to understand their own abilities, and that they aren't necessarily helpless. Basically they are taught to create feelings of hope which allows them to overcome feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.

ExampleFinding things they are good at and reinforcing those kinds of things.


Summary

Sigmund Freud described unconscious defense mechanisms which are learned patterns of protection from negative stressors. They include: denial, compensation, intellectualization, rationalization, projection, and sublimation. Since Freud identified these, others mechanisms have been described by different people and include: passive aggression, humor, and altruism. There are also conscious defenses used for protecting the self, such as finding positive situations to be involved in. People can also develop negative conscious defenses such as learned helplessness.

Source: This work is adapted from Sophia Author Erick Taggart

Key Terms

Defense Mechanisms
Unconscious learned patterns of protecting oneself from anxiety.


Learned Helplessness
When a person learns over time that they are unable to overcome or escape certain obstacles and learns to accept them.


Depression
A mood disorder marked by low affect or emotion and reduced activity, lack of enjoyment in activities, and feelings of loneliness and hopelessness.


Hope

The feeling that things will get better and that a person isn't helpless.

TERMS TO KNOW
  • Defense Mechanisms

    Unconscious learned patterns of protecting oneself from anxiety.

  • Learned Helplessness

    When a person learns over time that they are unable to overcome or escape certain obstacles and learns to accept them.

  • Depression

    A mood disorder marked by low affect or emotion and reduced activity, lack of enjoyment in activities, and feelings of loneliness and hopelessness.

  • Hope

    The feeling that things will get better and that a person isn't helpless.