Research Paper on Freudian Defense Mechanisms

Published: 2023-01-29
Research Paper on Freudian Defense Mechanisms
Type of paper:  Literature review
Categories:  Psychology
Pages: 6
Wordcount: 1476 words
13 min read


Psychology defines defense mechanisms in different ways. Defense mechanisms, in most cases, refer to the normal ways or habitual of dealing with negative emotions, frustration, and even fear in some circumstances(Cherry,2019, July). A defense mechanism may also be referred to as an unconscious psychological mechanism that reduces anxiety arising from unacceptable or potentially harmful stimuli(Epstein, 2014). Defense mechanisms have a long history which mainly revolves around a person by the name of Sigmud Freud. Many people viewed him as the most significant contributor to human psychology due to his different perspectives and ideas about defense mechanisms. He mainly saw defense mechanisms as a tool that helped people or individuals become protected from various situations such as negative emotions as well as anxiety(Freud, 2018). The main aim of this research is to apply the different defense mechanisms from Freud's theory and relate them to our thoughts and behavior as well as describing a number of Freudian defense mechanisms while at the same time applying them to our behavior. One is also supposed to state the reason why they engage in the different defense mechanisms, how the mechanisms developed, why some defense mechanisms are preferred to others or whether someone is always aware of their defense mechanisms or they ask others to point them out for them. Finally, one is supposed to state whether a person can live without defense mechanisms, the good and bad consequences of the mechanisms as well as state whether there are positive and negative defense mechanisms.

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This topic concerning the defense mechanisms is important because it shows us the different defense mechanisms that are present in our day to day life and the various methods that we can use to handle them as they may not react the same way in different people(Epstein, 2014). This topic is also essential as it shows how the various defenses mechanisms help protect people's sense of self as well as protect people from painful emotions. Different theories are developed by researchers that relate to Freud's theory. They include compensation, humor, affiliation, passive aggression, fantasy, aiming out as well as acting out and aim inhibition.

Freudian Defense Mechanisms


This defense mechanism refers to where people are in a condition of refusal to admit that something has occurred. It is a common mechanism as most of the people are shy to reveal the truth and therefore, the move away from accepting the truth(Zanarini, 2018). Denial is seen in different circumstances such as where people reject facts or reality while in some cases, people accept the reality but in turn place, theirs blames on other people, conditions, or even outside forces.


This defense mechanism allowed different people to convert unacceptable behaviors or impulses to more acceptable forms which are permitted (Epstein, 2014). This method shows how a person affected with anger can turn into Karate lessons where one can express their feelings through this platform.

Repression and Suppression

This is a type of defense mechanism where people aim at making sure that critical information or messages are kept out of our conscious awareness(Freud, 2018). Repression is mainly done by performing suppression, which is consciously forcing or keeping unwanted information from our awareness. This defense mechanism, however, may have difficulties as some information may stay refreshing as years go on when one faces similar situations.


This is a defense mechanism where people express their feelings, emotions, or even frustrations to other people who are less threatening or also who did not cause the original harm(Zanarini, 2018). In most cases, the frustrations are directed towards other objects or people who do not pose threats such as the family or even our closest friends.


This defense mechanism mainly refers to where people abandon the current methods or strategies that they are using and go back to the behaviors that they were used to earlier in the development(Epstein, 2014). Individuals tend to embark the old ways they were using, and this may cause negative results at the end.

Reaction Formation

This is a defense mechanism that mainly utilizes the idea of behaving in the opposite manner or behavior towards the one that one faces(Zanarini, 2018). A good example may be a circumstance where you treat a person whom you dislike in a friendlier manner so as not to show the current feelings.


This is where people commonly take their negative or unacceptable qualities and gives them to other people so that they may blame them instead(Freud, 2018). Therefore the expression of desire is allowed to operate and thus reducing anxiety.


In most circumstances rationalization is used as a defense mechanism where people tend to use logical manner to explain on an unacceptable behavior while in the real sense they avoid the main reason for the occurrence of the behavior(Freud, 2018).


This defense mechanism helps mostly where individuals want to think about the intellectual parts of a problem rather than concentrating on the stressful aspects of situations(Cherry,2019, July). This may mainly apply in situations such as illnesses or accidents where individuals tend to concentrate more on the healing process rather than the current pains they are experiencing.

Why People Engage in Defense Mechanisms

People tend to use the available defense mechanisms due to different reasons. One of the main reasons is to keep away unpleasant feelings or protection. Feelings such as anxiety or anger may be avoided if defense mechanisms are applied, and such negative emotions may also be avoided in the future if appropriate mechanisms are put in place(Zanarini, 2018). Defense mechanisms may also be used as a way of making pleasant or good things feel better for an individual. This may be because individuals tend to react according to the situations that occur, and therefore, the individual needs to feel better than he was before. Our superegos may also become too demanding tending us to use defense mechanisms.

How Defense Mechanisms Develop

Defense mechanisms develop in stages throughout the life of an individual. These defense mechanisms, in most cases, form a hierarchy which ranges from the least complex to the most sophisticated defense mechanism in the hierarchy(Freud, 2018). The defense mechanisms which are located at the lowest level of the hierarchy are seen to appear in the early stages of life while the complex defense mechanisms follow later at the earlier stages of life.

Why Certain Defense Mechanisms Over Are Preferred to Others

Certain defense mechanisms may be preferred than others because they can attend or solve different issues than others. For example, for a person who is frequently faced with anger, he may prefer a defense mechanism that attends to anger rather than the one which solves anxiety. Therefore different defense mechanisms may be preferred as they offer the right solutions to various issues.

Are There Positive as Well as Negative Defense Mechanisms?

There are positive as well as negative defense mechanisms. Defense mechanisms such as projection, rationalization, and intellectualization may be used positively to impact different issues such as confidence, courage, or even love(Freud, 2018). However, the same defense mechanisms may be negative when they are used to increase anxiety or stress. Denial is also an excellent example of a negative mechanism.

Can Defense Mechanisms Have Both Good and Bad Consequences?

Yeah, this statement is absolutely true. This may apply, as shown in the above example where projection may bring both good and bad consequences(Cherry,2019, July). Projection may have good consequences when it instills in people feelings such as love and confidence. The same projection may also instill hatred; anxiety, and stress, which may bring negative consequences such as breakups in relationships.

Is It Possible for a Person to Live Without Defense Mechanisms?

It is absolutely not possible for a person to live without defense mechanisms. This is because each reacts differently when faced with different circumstances, and he must apply the defense mechanisms that are available to him to solve or handle the situation. This shows that everyone needs defense mechanisms to handle feelings, such as anger and anxiety.


In conclusion, there are a variety of defense mechanisms, according to Freud. They are all used to tackle or solve different issues and therefore, important in the day to day life. Other researchers have come up with other defense mechanisms which may be used to add different information to that discussed by Freud. Therefore it is important for us to consider all the mechanisms properly and evaluate them according to our needs.


Cherry, K. (2019, July). Common Defense Mechanisms People Use to Cope with Anxiety. Retrieved from

Epstein, S. (2014). Coping and Defense Mechanisms. Cognitive-Experiential Theory, 138-161. doi:10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780199927555.003.0007

Zanarini, M. C. (2018). Defense Mechanisms over Time. Oxford Clinical Psychology. doi:10.1093/med-psych/9780195370607.003.0018

Freud, A. (2018). The Mechanisms of Defense. The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defence, 42-53. doi:10.4324/9780429481550-4

Defense Mechanisms. (n.d.). SpringerReference. doi:10.1007/springerreference_179951

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Research Paper on Freudian Defense Mechanisms. (2023, Jan 29). Retrieved from

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