Sublimation, a socially acceptable defense mechanism

Sublimation, a socially acceptable defense mechanism

The defense mechanisms of I in psychoanalysis they provide the facility to develop strategies to face the conflict between the three psychic instances: the I, the it and the surpassed; between what is "wanted" and what "must be done", they have the function of using the psychological energy that arises from the intrapsychic conflict in other more practical, positive, objective and effective activities of the self such as: science, sports, art and religion, among others.

Notably when a defense acquires a lot of dominion over the I, partially reduces or disables your ability to be flexible and adapt to the changes of life, with the physical and psychological consequences that this entails.

What is sublimation within psychoanalysis?

Sublimation occurs when redirect repressed motives and feelings in the direction of socially accepted and valued channels or objects, so it depends a lot on the sociocultural context of the particular person, as well as other factors. With it, libido reaches satisfaction, since it is about the subject's relationship with pleasure directly.

It is a psychoanalytic term that describes the unconscious process of the id, through which the libido is de-sexualized and channeled into other activities.. ”Genovard Roselló

By using sublimation as a defense, The psychological energy that could be used in more effective and convenient activities for the self is linked. Sigmund Freud said that: "sublimation produces the very satisfaction of the drive."

When he I cannot reduce feelings and emotions, by rational means, and cannot tolerate intrapsychic conflict, the self could be invaded by anguish. Sometimes, the result is a nervous breakdown and anxiety crisis, so it is suggested that they take psychotherapy so they can learn strategies to manage them properly and work with those conflicts. The person uses the tools available to protect themselves, Sigmund Freud said in this regard, that sublimation it serves as a socially acceptable exhaust valve, and that comes from the excess of sexual energy and aggressiveness, mainly:

When the childish self is too weak to integrate and synthesize all the demands made on it.”

The most archaic personality defenses such as repression and denial, among others, persist when the I cannot develop properly, since a large part of their energy is consumed by these mechanisms, thus creating a vicious circle; from that position, defenses cannot be abandoned because the I results or is perceived insufficient to face a situation adaptively. It distinguishes itself from the primitive defense mechanisms, because in them that drive is not channeled or focused on objectives that can help the person to have relief in his anguish or conflicts in convenient ways.

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And the most general formula I give them of sublimation is as follows:She exalts an object (...) to the dignity of the 'Thing'" Jacques Lacan

The self is forced to grow and mature constantly with the experiences of life, every problem and challenge, they represent an opportunity to extract the best of them and learn, however difficult it is and when it does that way, it indicates a healthy Development of I. For what is important, provide children with a series of experiences that match their ability to adapt to the environment.

They can be assigned, even to the smallest, tasks at home according to their abilities and their stage of development, this makes them grow as collaborative, constructive people, and contributes to the good formation of habits. Doing everything for them incapacitates them to perform activities autonomously. Freud said, around this that:At no time can the dangers and risks be so great as to incapacitate the child, or so weak not to serve as a stimulus. ”

Melanie Klein, affirmed that: “sublimation is a tendency to repair and restore the good object, previously damaged by destructive drives" Using this yoic defense, stress, anxiety, and the threats, dangers and challenges that life imposes every day can be tackled in healthy ways.


The defenses of the self act as protective armor, when one acquires a lot of influence and dominates the self, it reduces its flexibility and adaptability to face the challenges of daily living. During childhood, the risks and demands of existence, it is advisable that they be small, and include more complex challenges throughout the years of growth, according to their stages of development, as well as the I will have more possibilities to use more adaptable and convenient defense mechanisms such as sublimation, provided that it is focused on positive activities, where the person can channel their drives and instincts to other elements or activities that are more convenient for their development and that are they consider more acceptable in their social context. So that It represents a “mature” mechanism, which channels the energy produced in ways that contribute to the balance and development of the person.

Libidinal desires and aggressiveness even produce energy, which can be used to fulfill other objectives such as concentrating on some sport, on the development of the intellect, on academic, scientific, religious and artistic activities, to name a few. You can develop planning protocols using sublimation to achieve well-being and health, when they are adequately focused on the growth of the individual in some aspect.

Therefore, it represents an instrument that denotes progress and an “adequate” personality development; using this defense of the self, you can face in healthy ways the stress, the anxiety, the anguish, the frustrations, as well as the threats, dangers and the challenges that life imposes every day.

Bibliographic references

  • Rosselló, C.G. (1980). Dictionary of Psychology. Barcelona: CHOOSE.
  • Bleichmar, N. M .; Lieberman, C. and Cols. (1989). Psychoanalysis after Freud. Mexico: Eleia Editores.
  • Hall, Calvin, S. (1990). Compendium of Freudian psychology. Mexico: Paidós.
  • Morris, Charles, G. (2001). Introduction to Psychology. Mexico: Pearson Education.