Learning Center Articles

Ego Defense Mechanism

Ego Defense Mechanism

Definition

Example

Compensation

Covering up a real or perceived weakness by emphasizing a trait one considers more desirable

Individuals with poor family lives may direct their energy into excelling above and beyond what is required at work.

Denial

Refusing to acknowledge the existence of a real situation or the feelings associated with it

An alcoholic can’t stop drinking and doesn’t acknowledge that they have a problem

Displacement

The transfer of feelings from one target to another that is considered less threatening or that is neutral

An employee who is angry with their boss but expresses their emotions to their partner

Identification

An attempt to increase self-worth by acquiring certain attributes and characteristics of an individual one admires

A girl dresses like her friends, as much because she desires to be like them

Intellectualization

An attempt to avoid expressing actual emotions associated with a stressful situation by using the intellectual processes of logic, reasoning, and analysis

Jane’s partner job transfers him to another city and they hide the anxiety from their kids explaining the benefits associated with the move.

Introjection

Integrating the beliefs and values of another individual into one’s ego structure

“boys don’t cry”

Isolation

Separating a thought or memory from the feeling, tone, or emotion associated with it

A person with a particularly stressful job may use isolation to separate their work life from their family life, avoiding the stress affecting their relationships.

Projection

Attributing feelings or impulses unacceptable to one’s self to another person

A boy who has a secret attraction to a girl he likes, tells his friends that, “she is in love with me”

Rationalization

Attempting to make excuses or formulate logical reasons to justify unacceptable feelings or behaviors

I drink because it’s the only way I can deal with my bad job.

Reaction formation

Preventing unacceptable or undesirable thoughts or behaviors from being expressed by exaggerating opposite thoughts or types of behaviors

An individual attends medical school although they don’t want to be a doctor to please their parents

Regression

Responding to stress by retreating to an earlier level of development and the comfort measures associated with that level of functioning

A ten-year-old is in the hospital to get his tonsils removed and begins sucking his thumb like he did when he was a toddler

Repression

Involuntarily blocking unpleasant feelings and experiences from one’s awareness

An adult who was sexually abused as a child tries to block the memory of the experience.

Sublimation

Rechanneling of drives or impulses that are personally or socially unacceptable into constructive activities

After years of alcohol addiction, John joins an alcohol anonymous group and helps spread awareness of alcohol addiction.

Suppression

The voluntary blocking of unpleasant feelings and experiences from one’s awareness

“I don’t have money for the bills, but I will deal with tomorrow”

Undoing

Symbolically negating or canceling out an experience that one finds intolerable

Mary yells at her colleagues at school about a late turned-in assignment but buys coffee for them