Discuss the Role of Defence Mechanisms in Freud’s Model of the Mind.

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Discuss the role of Defence Mechanisms in Freud’s model of the mind.

One of the pioneering Freudian assumption which is ‘psychic determinism’ sates that there is always explanation for particular behaviour and the motive of this behaviour can be found in the mind. In continue to this statement Sigmund Freud in his further work, evaluated almost entire variety of human behaviour and the role of the mind as its central coordinator. Following this he proposed a novel framework of the mind with its own control self-system commonly called defence mechanism. In Freud’s view these mechanisms operate within mental processes and are developed by individual against internal or external events which may affect itself autonomy or security. These, later in Freudian work named ego’s attempts, were further described and outlined by Freud’s daughter Anna and her proposed list of defence mechanism is as follows: repression, regression, reaction-formation, isolation, undoing, projection, introjection, turning against the self, reversal into opposite and sublimation (A. Freud 1938)

Given the above, the purpose of this work is to assess the role of defence mechanisms in Freud’s model of the mind. Above all, Freud’s understanding of the mind ultimately rests on the assumptions he made regarding the unconscious mind and the degree to which repression acts as a central defence mechanism. As such, this essay will begin by outlining the two accepted Freudian models of the mind; topographical and structural. Following this, critical assessment will be offered in relation to the Freudian repression and its influence on mental processes, along with the practical implications of this outlook.

The topographical model of Freud’s model of the mind centres on three distinct, yet sometimes interdependent mental processes. Freud described these three states of mind as being; conscious; preconscious and unconscious (Sandler et al. 1997). The conscious mind is responsible for the mental information that human beings are aware of at any specific time. Therefore, the individual is always aware of the presence of the conscious mind. Thus, the conscious mind is responsible the general perceptions made by human beings on a level at which the individual is aware. Furthermore, below the conscious level resides the pre-conscious mind. Freud (1920) argued that the pre-conscious mind is not as preponderant for the individual as the conscious mind. However, the thoughts, feelings and in particular memories which reside at the pre-conscious level are in a constant state of readiness. As such, Freud (1920) proposed that memories contained at the pre-conscious level can at any time be propelled to the higher level of consciousness. Thus, Freud considered the conscious and pre-conscious states of mind to be heavily based on interaction with one another. Finally, whereas the conscious mind contains memories which are readily available and the pre-conscious mind memories which can very easily be recalled, the lowest unconscious level of the mind harbours memories and feelings of which the individual is not aware in any way. Thus, Freud argued that in the unconscious mind lay the emotions, desires and urges which have accumulated over a long period of time (Sandler et al. 1997). Given this, the unconscious component of the topographical model suggests contains the largest stores of information and memory, thus far more than the two higher levels. Therefore, by far the largest deposit of the psyche resides at the unconscious level. Freud (1920) argued that if these unconscious memories remained in a dormant state then the impact on the two higher levels would be slight, even unnoticeable. However, if the memories harboured at the unconscious level break through into the pre-conscious and conscious levels, the impact can be protracted and lasting. Thus, memories, desires and urges contained in the unconscious mind can have an enormously destabilising...
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