Becoming Aware of Defence Mechanisms

So you have decided one or more of your behaviours is a problem, not a preference – now what?

We need to become aware of our defence mechanisms…


What are Defence Mechanisms?

There are a number of definitions including –

  • “a mental process initiated unconsciously to avoid experiencing conflict or anxiety” ~ Google
  • “A defence mechanism is an unconscious psychological mechanism that reduces anxiety arising from unacceptable or potentially harmful stimuli. Sigmund Freud was one of the first proponents of this construct.” ~ Wikipedia
  • “…a group of mental processes that enables the mind to reach compromise solutions to conflicts that it is unable to resolve” ~ Encyclopeadia Brittanica
  • Psychology: an unconscious process, as denial, that protects an individual from unacceptable or painful ideas or impulses” ~
  • “an automatic way of behaving or thinking by which you protect yourself from something, especially from feeling unpleasant emotions” ~ Cambridge Dictionary

Now we know what a defence mechanism is, let’s look at the different types of defence mechanisms.


Types of Defence Mechanisms

Defence mechanisms or reactions can allow us to avoid a situation in the short-term. Initially they can alleviate pain, however since defence mechanisms don’t resolve problems, they can hurt in the long-term.

Becoming aware of defence mechanisms is the first step to transforming them. Some types of defence mechanisms indicated in Changing for Good include –

  • Denial – pretending something doesn’t exist, not admitting you have a problem.
  • Rationalisation – having “good excuses“, justifications or explanations for behaviours.
  • Intellectualisation – uses abstract analysis of behaviours to avoids emotional reactions to and painful awareness of his or her problem.
  • Turning Outward: Projection and Displacement (i.e. “the best defence is a good defence.”) – when we feel we are unable or afraid to display our true feelings, we might redirect them against someone or something else.
  • Turning Inward: Internalisation – turning our feelings inward, believing that we created the problem. By failing to express negative feelings appropriately, the result can be self-blame, self-accusation, low self-esteem and sometimes depression.


Over to You…

Do you recognise any of these defence mechanisms? If so, which one?


Feel free to share any comments or questions below. If you are ready to reclaim your courage and take the next step towards discovering your courage and leading a life you love, why not join our Toolkit?


Reference –

Prochaska, J., Norcross, J., & DiClemente, C. (2010). Changing for Good: A Revolutionary Six-Stage Program for Overcoming Bad Habits and Moving Your Life Positively Forward. New York, USA: Harper Collins Publishers.



  • Anis

    Reply Reply June 25, 2017


    I love your writing. I just found this amazing video about Defence Mechanism and I needed to share with you. Hope you ll like it :))

    • Jane

      Reply Reply June 25, 2017

      Thanks Anis – did you create the video?

      Warm wishes, Jane

  • Amanda

    Reply Reply May 29, 2017

    Yes, I see I have rationalized or intellectualised issues , and also projected my hurt feelings for one situation onto another person. this has caused much pain and grief.

    • Jane

      Reply Reply May 30, 2017

      You are not alone Amanda that is for sure. I hesitate to use the word all (i.e. we have all done it), however I know I can relate.

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