(THE BOOK) Chapter 30: Defense department


Defenses (or defense mechanisms, or ego defenses) are psychological processes meant to reduce anxiety.

Originally conceived by Freud as strategies employed by the mind to manage unacceptable impulses, defenses are automatic, unconscious, universal, and essentially inevitable.

To be human is to be defensive.

Our defenses get triggered when we face something painful or frightening, and they rely heavily on denial and distortion to make emotional life manageable.

What have defenses to do with control?

Just this:

The idea of control itself – the idea that we can edit reality to our personal specifications and so avoid all emotional pain — is the mother of all defenses.

Real control is possible and appropriate sometimes.  But we attempt it in so many situations where it’s clearly impossible or inappropriate that it’s hard not to see our controlling as rooted in denial, distortion and self-delusion.

Any defense can be functional or dysfunctional.  It’s functional when it helps us to get our needs met, and dysfunctional when it distorts reality in ways that impair effective functioning.  That’s why so many therapies try to help clients become more aware of the defenses they employ, and make better choices about which ones to utilize and which ones to minimize.

I do the same with my clients.

Hence the next five chapters, which describe the defenses that come up most often in therapy.



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