Sigmund Freud is perhaps one of the most well-known theorists in regards to the study of the human psyche. Freud’s model of the human psyche is comprised of three core elements: the Id, or the unconscious mind; things out of our awareness.
The Superego, or the subconscious mind, and finally the Ego, which lies between the unconscious and subconscious. In psychoanalysis, an ego defense mechanism is an unconscious personality reaction that the ego uses to protect our conscious mind from threatening feelings or perceptions. Freud proposes that there are nine ego defense mechanisms that act the ego uses in its job as the mediator between the id and the superego. Freud’s ego defense mechanisms are as follows: denial, displacement, projection, rationalization, reaction formation, regression, repression, sublimation, and suppression.
Ego defense seems to occur subconsciously – we are often not aware that we are becoming “defensive”. I believe that we use a complex of many, if not all of Freud’s ego defense mechanisms. Personally, I believe regression and rationalization may be the two defense mechanisms I use most. Regression is defined as “returning to a previous stage of development”. For example, if things do not go my way and continue to do so, it might be followed by bouts of temper tantrums and mood swings. Rationalization is supplying a rational or logical reason as opposed to the real reason.
I have found that I use this “tactic” a lot, and was not aware of it before I had encountered psychology. For instance, I would often try and find explanations for things that bother me or defend myself in situations when things did not pan out as I had planned. If I’m planning to do something but something else comes up, I may try and rationalize the decision by “putting down” the other option – “weather is going to be bad”, “I didn’t really want to do that anyway”, or “I can always go later”. Another example is entertainment – movies, music, or activities; I may not like a certain type of film or genre of music, but when American pop-culture is rife with that type of music or movie, I’ll try and rationalize my association with such things as “everything in moderation” or “it’s fine, as long as I don’t indulge”.
Displacement is another defense mechanism I’ve noticed. If I’m having a bad day or if I’m mad for one reason or another, I notice that I’d often take it out on undeserving people. Often I would use an angry tone or become very hostile with someone if I’d just been in an argument, as my anger has not yet subsided. I think displacement is an unconstructive defense mechanism; there are negative consequences to both parties and no edification, or “bettering” or “understanding” of self takes place. As with everything, “everything in moderation”. I believe ego defense mechanisms are not completely unhealthy, and that using them to deal with some situations can prove to be beneficial in the development of our personality.
However, if one relies primarily on ego defense mechanisms and refuses to deal with circumstances “head on”, they will develop problems later in life. In situations when one is undoubtedly guilty, it is impossible to rationalize or justify their actions or attitudes and hide behind unfounded explanations in an attempt to get off easy.