The self defense mechanisms, unconscious strategies

The self defense mechanisms, unconscious strategies

Humans have the most developed brain system on Earth, and any other known species. Our brain directs both our physical and psychological processes and, most of them do so completely automatically and unconsciously.

The so-called "Self Defense Mechanisms" are strategies that we use without realizing it, whose function is to preserve our self-image and intimacy. They're like a control mechanism against stimuli that the psyche itself is able to suppress. These mechanisms are the unconscious forms that the human being has so that the circumstances of frustration and conflict prevail “repressed”, thus reducing the anxiety and aggressiveness that can produce us.

The defense mechanisms were first described by Sigmund Freud, but it was his daughter Anna Freud who deepened them by making a first classification.

According to psychology, defense mechanisms can be classified according to four criteria: Narcissistic, neurotic, mature and immature.


  • 1 Narcissistic Mechanisms
  • 2 Neurotic Mechanisms
  • 3 immature mechanisms
  • 4 Mature Mechanisms

Narcissistic Mechanisms

  • Projection: It consists of assigning to another person, repressed impulses or own errors. Thus, the individual does not identify them as their own and if they do not see them reflected in other people.
  • Negation: It's about denying or directly confirming a reality that is obvious.
  • Distortion: It is the fact of attributing exaggerated or distorted qualities to oneself or others, but which are real to us.

Neurotic Mechanisms

  • Control: It is the need to avoid any environmental and / or personal change at all costs.
  • Affective isolation: It is a dissociation between the cognitive or rational elements, and the emotional ones.
  • Rationalization: It consists of offering explanations (supposedly rational) to justify oneself.
  • Dissociation: It is the symptomatology where unacceptable elements are eliminated from self-image or denied by our conscience.
  • Reactive Training: It is about the substitution of behaviors, thoughts or feelings that are unacceptable, with totally opposite ones.
  • Repression: It consists in expelling from the conscience thoughts and desires that do not please us and cause us pain.
  • Intellectualization: It is the disconnection of emotions from reason or intellect.

Immature Mechanisms

  • Regression: It is about fleeing from reality by going back in time, returning to habits that have already been overcome that cause us safety and satisfaction, because of conflicts that we believe we cannot overcome.
  • Hypochondriais: It is the display of fantasies about the idea of ​​having contracted a disease without any real basis.
  • Fantasy: It consists of the idealized mental construction of a person or situation that serves to compensate for an opposite reality.
  • Somatization: It is the expression through a physiological response (pain, disease), of something that hurts us emotionally.
  • Aggressive passive behavior: It's about showing aggressiveness in a covert or hidden way.
  • Impulsive behavior: This mechanism prevents the person from stopping to reflect on the aspects and motivations of their behavior.

Mature Mechanisms

  • Sublimation: It is the channeling of desires towards another different activity.
  • Suppression: Here the person intentionally avoids facing or thinking about problems, desires or experiences that make him feel unwell.
  • Asceticism: It is the voluntary withdrawal of situations that produce joy.
  • Humor: It's about using sarcasm and irony in dealing with problems.

Defense mechanisms are strategies to curb the discomfort of certain experiences and the feelings associated with them.. In some cases, even these defensive ego strategies serve to guarantee survival. For example, how can a two or three year old boy who has lost his mother face his emotions? If that child were not able to interrupt his emotional pain through some kind of defense mechanism, he would probably enter a depressive risk situation.

Our brain seems to have developed various ways to protect our body from what seems too painful or unacceptable to us. It is like when we stop breathing when passing through a manure, or when we plug our ears before a loud noise, or close our eyes suddenly avoiding a strong flash of light. In the same way, we protect our emotionality in various ways from the unpleasant, such as when we do not want to recognize any aspect of ourselves that dislikes or breaks the selfconcept that we had created.

But due to the automation of these defense mechanisms, it is difficult to abandon the habit of their use, although as a counterpart they generate imbalance in certain maturational aspects. It is similar to the saying: "eyes that do not see heart that does not feel." The question is, at what price?

Here you have an interesting video about Cognitive Distortions that will surely be very revealing: