Defense Mechanisms

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As a counselor at a therapeutic foster care agency, the teens that I work with amaze me every day. They have all been through some extremely tough and trying situations and they have all in their own way managed to survive and overcome their own situation. Some lost their primary care giver and had no other family members to live with. Some have been abused; sexually, physically, emotionally or a combination of any or all and neglected by those who are "supposed" to be there for you, their own flesh and blood. Something that I couldn't even conceive. Some of their situations began at an early age and they have been in and out of foster homes all of their lives. Others had parents that for whatever reasons ran into some problems, but are getting themselves together and they will go back home. Something that all the teens have in common, no matter the circumstance, is that they have utilized defense mechanisms to cope with their situation.

Defense mechanisms are unconscious strategies that protect the ego, or "I", that are used to distort reality and relieve anxiety and guilt. People often utilize defense mechanisms to protect themselves from being consciously aware of a thought or feeling which they cannot tolerate and to cope with life and unavoidable stress. There are several different types of defense mechanisms. Some of the most commonly used defense mechanisms are repression, which is forgetting painful or dangerous thoughts; denial, refusing to admit the unpleasant reality; rationalization, justifying or substituting socially acceptable reasons; projection, transferring unacceptable motives or impulses to others and regression, which is responding to a threatening situation in a way that you would at an earlier age. The defense mechanism that I found the most interesting and one of the one's that I see the most of working with my clients is displacement. Displacement is substituting a less threatening object for the original object of...
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