Reactive Training: Believing in the antagonistic

Reactive Training: Believing in the antagonistic

According to psychoanalysis, when instincts and personal drives produce anguish by putting pressure on the I, it can try to counteract this aggravating impulse by concentrating on its opposite.


  • 1 What is Reactive Training?
  • 2 "No love" and its reactive formations
  • 3 Reactive formations in compulsive personality
  • 4 Masculinity and its reactive formations
  • 5 Pernicious overprotection and its reactive formations

What is Reactive Training?

Reactive training is the Exaggerated expression of ideas and emotions opposed to the beliefs and feelings that are being repressed. It represents a defense mechanism by which an instinct or drive is hidden from consciousness by its opposite; philanthropy and generosity could mask selfishness, for example.

They are somewhat irrational adaptations to anguish, the danger, the threats or the emotions that could end up in displeasure, because they would destabilize the reality of the person, that way it maintains its psychic “balance”, when it does not derive in psychopathologies. This concept has its genesis in psychoanalysis.

"Whenever there is an exaggerated and rigid conformism to a group of rules, it is quite certain that this attitude is a reactive formation, and that behind the person's conformism mask is really driven by rebellion and antagonism". Calvin S. Hall

Find more information here: Freud Personality Theory: Me, Superyo and It

The "no love" and its reactive formations

When resentment towards someone creates a lot of anguish, the self can facilitate the outflow of love in order to mask hostility, replacing hate with love. Nevertheless, Feelings of hostility continue to exist in the form of affection. It is when relationships become toxic, because this process is unconscious.

“In the air, among the fireflies, the females make signs to the machitos of their same species, which fly over them, which answer to the wink and go down to copulate. But some learn the signals of males of another species, who do not doubt the password, go down for romance and find death. ” Hugo Finkelstein

How to differentiate "true" love from a driving force that is only a reactive formation? How can you distinguish between a simple cathexis towards an object and a cathexis product of a reactive formation? It can be identified through exaggeration in manifestations, reactive love demands, demands, condemns, is excessive, seems forced and is lavish. It is a simulation and its falsehood can be easily revealed.

A distinctive feature of this yoic defense is compulsivity, can not fail to express the opposite of what you really feel, that kind of love lacks flexibility and is highly demanding, unable to adapt to situations of change, natural in life, as is done when you have genuine emotions; It has to be underway, as if stopping, or having some failure to show that "love" was going to collapse, because otherwise the lack of love and all that it implies could come to light.

Reactive formations in compulsive personality

When this self-defense is used excessively, it can lead to a generalized anxiety disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder, among others. The characteristic symptoms of exaggerated use of reactive formations, they usually consume a lot of energy and time with occupations that serve deceptive objectives, making an inflexible and compulsive personality.

Anna Freud, affirmed that: “The person who develops reactive formations modifies the structure of his I as if the danger were always present, in this way it originates characteristic features that are not completely effective for the subject, in an attempt to substitute behaviors, thoughts or feelings that are unacceptable to him, by other diametrically opposed ”.

Against archaic object catexias, they can manifest, for example: high ideals of generosity, meekness and virtue; but often, it is not real values ​​that motivate such aspirations. Chastity and purity can hide strong sexual desires. Compassion and mercy can try to hide faults or faults.

Masculinity and its reactive formations

The manifestation of those prejudices that many men have to affirm their masculinity is an example of reactive formations. Those who try to look like strong and tough guys in any circumstance, because they were taught that: "men do not cry," nor should they be tender, much less sensitive, even if they so wish, that men may not like flowers and so many stereotypes of that class that abound in the collective, many believe that these characteristics are exclusively feminine, when it is a human capacity that does not distinguish gender; it is rather a sociocultural situation imposed on many men, so you don't doubt your masculinity.

This generates many conflicts in some, since having those tendencies that collectively consider “feminine” can try to repress their emotions, their feelings and authentic impulses. By overusing this type of defense and along with other more archaic ones, among them repression could generate a lot of conflict in the man, as he is constantly trying to repress what he feels authentically and by nature. I reiterate that the ability to be empathetic, to be able to cry when necessary, to be sensitive, are qualities and abilities that do not depend on gender.

Pernicious overprotection and its reactive formations

Melanie Klein affirmed around the reactive formations that “respond to the need to maintain a dissociation between the bond of love and the aggressive bond established with the object, reinforcing the first and keeping the second under control. Although as a mechanism it is based on a divalent relationship (dissociation) evolutionarily corresponds to achievements of the depressive stage. It is a concern for the damage done to the object and fear of not being able to repair it ”.

Sometimes these formations satisfy an original desire and are used as a defense. A mother who has a resentment towards her children, may be too intrusive, controlling or overprotective, under the justification that "she cares too much for them and that she does it for her safety and her good", but that overprotection is in a punishment for the child, because the mother could be excessively permissive, access to the whims of the children, which affects their biopsychosocial health.

Allowing the excessive use of mobile devices, bright screens late at night with programs not suitable for them, the consumption of food without nutritional contributions and sugary drinks in excess, access to not take their medication when required because: "He did not want to take the medicine," to do everything for them and not allow them to collaborate in certain tasks that can be done according to their stage of development, among many other examples, it causes unhealthy habits, demanding and dependent people to develop, instead of training them to be healthy and self-sufficient people.


Reactive formations arise from surpassedBy means of them, it seeks to transform a feeling, an unacceptable idea or socially frowned on its opposite, in order to make it more acceptable, so that they have an implicit regulatory function, like all yoic defenses. However, facing problems and dangers or threats, through this mechanism excessively personality can become compulsive and uncompromising, which can diminish the physical and emotional health of the person; reason why it is suggested to start a psychotherapeutic process so that the person can enjoy greater well-being.

The inflexible and too rigid personality is not advisable for the biopsychosocial development of the individual. With the help of the psychotherapist, the person can be aware of these processes. A flexible posture towards life, allows you to embrace your own changes with greater openness and perhaps true joy.

It may interest you: Stages of Freud's psychosexual development

Bibliographic references

  • Finkelstein, H. (1985). The book of no love. Spain: Galerna editions.
  • 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.
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