After suffering some…(trying to find a nice word to replace the mother of F words)…screwed-up shit from some people, I decided to do up this post on Ego Defences, to find out why they do such things in the first place.
What is Ego Defense
To start of with, ego defenses are simply mechanisms used to defend the ego and reduce feelings of anxiety. The Ego itself is a person’s self esteem or self importance (quoted from Oxford Dictionary). Well, in my module we learnt two other things called Super-Ego and Id.
Id: the part of the mind in which innate instinctive impulses and primary processes are manifest.
SuperEgo: the part of a person’s mind that acts as a self-critical conscience, reflecting social standards learned from parents and teachers.
I like to think of the Ego as some sort of a ‘mediator’ between the Superego and Id; the defense mechanism comes in when the Ego is unable to make both the Superego and Id happy. Rather casual way of putting it but…if it works and people understand…it works =D
So what are some Ego Defenses?
Some of the Ego Defense mechanisms which I learnt in my Consumer Behaviour module (didn’t know it was a field of Psychology itself until my partner told me =x) include: Aggression, Rationalization, Regression, Withdrawal, Projection, Daydreaming, Intellectualization and Repression.
Representing our need to stay alive and stave off threats to our existence, power and prosperity, aggression is basically using anger and violence to make one feel better. That includes punching walls, kicking tables and chairs, slapping others; any acts of violence =] a.k.a taking one’s anger out on other things. In fact, because of this, Aggression is a rather common response to frustration.
I like to call this ‘feeding oneself fake information’ because that is literally what one does in this case. Rationalization occurs when someone gives him(her)self a fake, usually logical or rational, reason as opposed to the actual reason. I have come across this fairly often in my life, dealing with parents who tell themselves: I’m doing it for the good of my child so that he or she will have a better life in the future, when in reality they simply want the child to live a life that they themselves wanted and did not get to live, regardless of the child’s own wishes.
Stemming from the word ‘regress’, Regression is about returning to a previous stage of development. It normally includes things like sitting at one corner, crying one’s eyes out until they are bloodshot after hearing some bad news or throwing a tantrum when one does not get one’s way. Admittedly I’m guilty of this…if you’re wondering which example…I can safely say both. Coming from a family background where I wasn’t properly emotionally nurtured, even at the age of 20 I am still acting like a kid: throwing tantrums. Of course, I’m learning to curb this bad habit of mine under the care of my new boyfriend and his family.
Also known as ‘Avoidance’, is the tendency to avoid anything unfamiliar: from people, to situations and places. It could be due to a phobia, anxiety over anticipated critical evaluation, or a conditioned avoidant response. Naturally if you had a fear of cockroaches, you would run off or freeze when you see it. I was conditioned to avoid crying. Cause, I would be labelled weak by my own parent and get scolded instead for crying even when it’s not my fault. Talk about epic win.
My worst nightmare. I have an acquaintance who LOVES using projection on me to the point that I nearly used Aggression (punching a hole through my laptop screen). Basically it is placing unacceptable impulses in yourself onto someone else. I’m always the ‘someone else’ and it does get very annoying. An example on the internet is: When you lose an argument, you say ‘You are just stupid’ to the other person. For my personal experience, that acquaintance of mine projects her/his own screwed up family problems onto mine until I get so agitated to the point of totally cutting off contact with that person. Otherwise I might just end up puking blood in the end.
Oh, this was the ego defense used on me that motivated me to type this blog post.
Daydreaming is a temporary escape from daily reality by forming mental pictures, usually in spontaneous, brief episodes, of other experiences. I believe most of us are guilty of this when we were still in school attending lessons or lectures =D especially if we have a boring lesson; a voice that’s either so soothing which lulls us to sleep or a voice that’s so droning that it bores us to sleep. I like to daydream, to escape from the harsh realities of the world. But of course, something somewhere always drags me back down. Amusingly it’s an internal force and not external most of the time; about say 99.9999999999999% of the time ^^ (i made that figure up =D)
I sure as hell know quite a number of people who do this. Intellectualization is simply avoiding unacceptable emotions by focusing on the intellectual aspects. One example could be focusing on the details of the funeral as opposed to the sadness and grief. For me? I actually once asked my boyfriend about whether tears could be used for DNA testing to identify someone while I was tearing halfway through. I didn’t know back then that it was an ego defense until recently.
This is pulling something in your conscious mind into the unconscious. It could have been something really traumatic that one pushes the memory so far back into the unconscious mind, for example sexual abuse as a kid. It is also fairly common among rape or any sexually abuse victims. The incidents cause just that much anxiety and are just that traumatic to them. I wouldn’t wish those kind of torture even upon my worst enemy.
Are Ego-Defenses healthy or unhealthy?
The answer to that is both, actually. Without these ego defenses, it could lead to problems in our lives. Imagine our Id (primal instincts) taking over completely and we end up going on a killing spree. Now that, would be problematic.
However, if used wrongly, such as at the wrong time or overusing it, it could be equally destructive as well.
Compare it with sugar. Without sugar, our body is unable to function; too much of it and we fall sick with conditions like diabetes.