Short List of Common Psychological Defenses (denials, barriers, etc.)

Sunday, September 9, 2007


Compensation - Person increases effort in one area to make up for a perceived or real inadequacy in some other area. Example: President of a volunteer organization who has never advanced very far up the hierarchy in his or her profession but who has had the desire to do so.

Conversion - Emotional difficulty is expressed physically. Example: A headache that keeps me away from a class that I dislike.

Displacement - Directing feelings about one object or subject toward another “safer” one. Example: After failing an exam, going home and kicking the dog, attacking your roommate, younger brother, etc.

Fantasy - Daydreaming or imagining situations so as to avoid thinking objectively about reality. Example: A student majoring in Business, dreaming about the day when she is an important executive with a lot of status, money, and decisions to make.

Identification - Individual patterns his own behavior and values after another’s and gets involved vicariously with that person. Example: the eager subordinate who takes on the speech, mannerisms, and viewpoints of the boss.

Negativism - Unconscious tearing down or condemnation of a subject or object in an active or passive way. Example: The student who, after being refused admission to the college of first choice, finds much wrong with that institution.

Projection - Seeing our own unwanted feelings and traits in others. Example: A person who wants to block the success of others, sees others as being out to get (or bock) her or him.

Rationalization - Finding superficially “rational” justifications for undesirable behavior, values, motivations, or statements. Example: Cheeting on my taxes because “everybody does it”.

Reaction - Formation Having the opposite feelings, values, attitudes, and behaviors – opposite to those unacceptable ones which I unconsciously have. Example: Exaggerated praise of the boss who unconsciously fear.

Regression - Person returns to an earlier stage of development in the face of anxiety. Example: After getting promoted to an ew job which is too challenging, the manager begins doing the work of her subordinates, or the work of her past position.

Fixation - Stuck on one behavior that is obviously not going to help with the problem being faced. Example: Running football plays that depend upon an expert quarterback, even though our expert quarterback is no longer with us.

Resignation - Not being involved with the environment. Breaking emotional contact. Boredom- apathy. Example: Having failed in achieving my goal of an “A” average, I no longer care about school.

Withdrawal - Avoiding the area of frustration by physically and/or psychologically removing myself. Example: I’m having problems with my roommate. So, I find ways not to spend much time in the room and, when in his company, I keep myself busy with things that don’t involve him.

Aggression - Taking and/or attacking someone else’s “psychological space”(and/or physical attack) as a means of protecting myself. Example: I dislike the music that you like. So, I hide your tapes, tell you that you are to play your music (instead of negotiating a solution), or play my music more than I ordinarily would.

Submissiveness - Giving up my “psychological and/or physical space” as a means of protecting myself. Example: I dislike your music. So, I say nothing and allow you to play your music whenever you want to and/ or, I always let you play your music, even when I want to play my own.

Extreme Behavior - Behaviors which are excessive for the situation. Examples: I am easily persuaded or I never can be persuaded. “Hot temper” or never gets angry. Perceiving things in simplistic terms: black/white, good/bad, right/wrong, etc.


*Rules of thumb: Defensive behavior is any behavior that attempts to overcome a barrier (threat) to a goal. The goal can be conscious or unconscious and is most often unconscious. Overcoming a barrier is often a denial of reality (rather than confronting the reality as a means of deciding what to do about it). Realities are what make barriers (threats) to goals. One’s perception must be seen as one’s reality. However, distorted perceptions are denials.

Sunday, September 9, 2007
Link copied!