Common Defense Mechanisms & Relationships

Common defense mechanisms are thoughts that the human mind uses to safeguard against unwanted situations, unpleasant actions, and awkward behaviors. The term was first introduced by the famous psychologist Sigmund Freud. The psychoanalytic theory believes that a tact is a tool that the ego uses as protection against anxiety. The defense mechanism is a barrier that stops unwanted thoughts from entering the conscious mind. 

Why Do People Use Defense Mechanisms?

According to Freud’s definition of personality, the ego has a vital role. The ego creates a balance between the id and the superego

  • The id: This is a personality factor that wants to fulfill wants and needs in total ignorance of social, moral, and ethical norms. 
  • The superego: This is the personality that abides by social, religious, and ethical norms. It filters the human needs to fit within moral values and ethics. 

Freud believed that defense mechanisms help the ego from the conflicts caused by the clash of the id & superego. Failure to deal with demands and desires initiates a feeling of unrest called anxiety. It is a state of mind and signals to the ego that things are not going in the desired direction. The ego then sets in place a defense mechanism to relieve the feelings of anxiety.

Examples of Common Defense Mechanisms


Displacement is the behavior of throwing anger at a person who is not responsible for the reason behind her anger. It is a matter of diversion of anger essentially to a weaker side. For example, you have spent a depressing day in the office and back at home showing all the bitterness at home. 

Anger is an emotion that represents losing your patience. Displacement, however, is an emotion where senses work to find a less threatening person to bull shit. It is a common defense mechanism. 


Denial is refusing to accept reality. It is due to an avoidance attitude. People shut off their minds to perceive external facts. It is not a healthy attitude, but it overcomes in case of extreme depression. There are various reasons behind such an attitude including past trauma.


That is like an irrational approach to seeing the things around you. Some sad memories or painful life events are the reason behind them. The mind uses this mechanism to stay away from bitterness. The feelings can reverse by a rational approach and seeing things in their true spectrum.


Sublimation is a defense mechanism that guides showing acceptable behaviors against unacceptable attitudes. It is a way to exercise control over anger and bitter emotions. It is a sign of maturity and keeping composed. Some people have this control because of an emotionally strong personality. Others can learn to improve under counseling by a Psychologist.


 It is a defense mechanism that appears in owning the bad qualities of others. For example, if you dislike a person, you start thinking that the person does not like you. The projection reduces anxiety because you show anger toward others but think of yourself as the cause of an issue. 

A feeling of fear or threat pushes the person to revert to an earlier stage of development. This mechanism is common in youngsters. If experience anything unwanted, they start feeling and acting like the kids, in acute cases wetting their beds and even sucking their thumbs.


People sometimes invent their facts to explain the situation. It gives them satisfaction and comfort to remain happy within the state of mind they are stuck in. For example, if you are not comfortable with a colleague, you assume he is not a good worker. The supposition is surely against the fact but still occurs in some people.

Do Certain Types Flare Up in Certain Circumstances? 

Common defense mechanisms do not work at par all the time. It always depends upon the situation, personality traits, and the given circumstances. These are facts of the particular event that ignites a specific mechanism in a certain situation. There never is a rule of thumb. 

Are People Aware of What They Do? 

Honestly speaking that in most cases, the answer is NO. People react in a normal way to what they think is usual. They do not plan and pose in a situation in a certain way. People are not aware that they are in the grip of defense mechanisms.

They think of themselves as normal feeling others behaving awkwardly. The sad side of the story is that a person in the state of mind of defense mechanism issue thinks of himself as suffering from an issue.  

Why do the Defense Mechanisms Cause Problems in Relationships?

Defense mechanisms are factors that push the person away in isolation. It is a sort of breakup from the people around, and the society as a whole in extreme cases. A person in escape is never comfortable communicating and interacting with relations in a usual way. Defense mechanisms do cause hindrances in the relationship

How Can People Prevent Them? 

There are ways to prevent the defense mechanism. Some are listed below.

  • Take a therapy
  • Take responsibility
  • Improve your self-awareness
  • Breaks the Ways you live

Photo by Keenan Constance from Pexels

Urza Omar
  • Urza Omar
  • The writer has a proven track as a mentor, motivational trainer, blogger, and social activist. She is the founder of a blog intended for avid readers.