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Freuds Defense Essay, Research Paper
According to Sigmund Freud’s structural theory of the mind, the id, the ego
and the superego function in different levels of consciousness. There is a constant
movement of memories and impulses from one level to another. The id is the
unconscious storage area of our drives, which are constantly active. Ruled by the
pleasure principle, the id demands immediate satisfaction of all its urges, regard-
less of what undesirable effects may be caused. The ego operates mainly in cons-
cious and preconscious levels. The ego also contains unconscious elements, both
the ego and the superego evolved from the id. Ruled by the reality principle, the
ego takes care of the id s urges as soon as the adequate situation is found. Inapp-
ropriate desires are not satisfied but they are repressed. Only partially conscious,
the superego serves as a censor on the ego functions and causes the individual’s
guilty feelings and fear of punishment to appear. Fear arises in response to an
actual danger which may cause anxiety.
Anxiety is a State of intense apprehension, uncertainty, and fear resulting
from the anticipation of a threatening event or situation, often to a degree that
the normal physical and psychological functioning of the affected individual is
disrupted. In other words, it is a feeling of dread or a panic attack. Some of the
symptoms of anxiety may be palpitations, dry mouth, dilatation of the pupils,
shortness of breath, sweating, abdominal symptoms, tightness in the throat,
trembling and dizziness. The psychological symptoms also include irritability,
difficulty with concentration, and restlessness, release of forbidden impulses or
memories looking for gratification are felt as threatening and provoke anxiety.
The same is true in relation to deeply buried traumatic experiences that haunt the
ego, demanding further attention.
Freud also identified the defense mechanisms. These are unconscious
psychic processes that provide the ego with relief from the state of psychic
conflict between the intruding id, the superego and the powerful influences
coming from external reality. The major defense mechanisms are for our protect-
tion. Let’s say you are angry with a professor, because he is very critical of you.
Here’s how the various defenses might hide or transform that anger:
The first defense mechanism I will address is repression. This is the with-
Drawl from consciousness of an unwanted idea, affect, or desire by pushing it
Into the unconscious part of the mind. You revert to an old, usually immature
behavior to ventilate your feeling. The student may upset the class or say some-
thing like, “Let’s shoot spitballs at people.
In denial, the student will completely reject the thought or feeling. “I’m not
angry with him!” There is a refusal to recognize a situation.
With suppression you are vaguely aware of the thought or feeling, but try to
hide it. “I’m going to try to be nice to him.”
If you conform to a reaction formation, you will turn the feeling into its
opposite. “I think he’s really great!”
If you use displacement, you redirect your feelings to another target. “I hate
that secretary, its her not him.
Projection is when you think someone else has your thought or feeling.
“That professor hates me. or That student hates the professor.”
Rationalization is giving a reasonable explanation for an event. You come
up with various explanations to justify the situation (while denying your feelings).
“He’s so critical because he’s trying to help us do our best.”
Isolation of affect is when you “think” the feeling but don’t really feel it.
“I guess I’m angry with him, sort of.”
When undoing you try to reverse or undo your feeling by doing something
that indicates the opposite feeling. It may be an “apology” for the feeling you find
unacceptable within yourself. “I think I’ll give that professor an apple.”
While many of Freud’s ideas concerning personality have been criticized
and largely dismissed, his concept of defense mechanisms is still helpful to many
psychologists. They are used to defend against anxiety and to maintain self-
esteem. The use of defense mechanisms can indicate problem areas for a person,
as a defense mechanism gives some relief from anxiety producing thoughts and
actions at the expense of distorting the real world.
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