defense mechanism

defense mechanism

In psychoanalytic theory, an often unconscious mental process (such as repression) that makes possible compromise solutions to personal problems or conflicts. The compromise generally involves concealing from oneself internal drives or feelings that threaten to lower self-esteem or provoke anxiety. The term was first used by Sigmund Freud in 1894. The major defense mechanisms are repression, the process by which unacceptable desires or impulses are excluded from consciousness; reaction formation, a mental or emotional response that represents the opposite of what one really feels; projection, the attribution of one's own ideas, feelings, or attitudes (especially blame, guilt, or sense of responsibility) to others; regression, reversion to an earlier mental or behavioral level; denial, the refusal to accept the existence of a painful fact; rationalization, the substitution of rational and creditable motives for the true (but threatening) ones; and sublimation, the diversion of an instinctual desire or impulse from its primitive form to a more socially or culturally acceptable form. See also ego; neurosis; psychoanalysis.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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