All people use defense mechanisms, whether they be consciously or unconsciously. Anxiety may arise from an intense situation or even past experience. It is then the ego’s job to displace anxiety so as to protect the rest of the mind. Through defense mechanisms such as sublimation, repression, fantasy, compulsive fun-seeking, and negativism, the ego eliminates anxiety caused by surroundings which in effect tries to prevent insanity.
Fantasy is a device used to thwart reality. It involved the imagination of a fantasy life for the individual to crawl into, in essence, to escape reality. It is needed to be utilized by everyone in order to maintain sanity. If the mind were exposed to the realities of live with all it’s anxieties at every minute and every second, the person would become completely insane. Fantasy raises self-esteem, brings down anxiety, and often involves the vision of a success-based life. However, if a person lives only in fantasy and never in reality, they become essentially psychotic. This person has no comprehension of reality and therefore cannot function in it. Fantasy can only function sparingly, allowing conscience control.
Repression is the most unconscious form of defense mechanism. It takes harmful memories or experiences and places them in the unconscious. This way, the conscious does not have access to them and they cannot be remembered often, if at all. However, the downfall is that if these images are resurfaced, the person can be heavily damaged. Reliving the experience or memories further increases the damage originally caused by them. Ways to reach these memories include dream analysis, free association, and simply psychoanalysis.
Sublimation is the only truly positive defense mechanism. It takes negative energy and utilizes it into something positive. For example, a person has a fetish with guns and is a violent person. Through sublimation, they will either join a police squad or work as a bouncer in a bad part of town. In the end, society benefits. However, sometimes the negative energy will emerge in this positive action. A policeman could fatally wound a petty thief, or a bouncer will break both legs on a pushy adolescent. Despite these downfalls, it is the most effective form of harnessing inappropriate of harmful energy into benefitting society.
Compulsive fun-seekers are essentially just that. They look for things to amuse them like t.v. and video games to spend their time with, other than accomplishing something productive like homework or a project. It is used to again thwart reality by focusing on something enjoyable. However, because they are only having fun, nothing productive is getting done. With students, bad grades could be a result or even being dropped from a class. Reality then hits the person in the face.
Negativism is the act of expecting a situation to turn out bad, so as to prevent being let-down. A person will not expect much to come out of a situation so therefore they will risk getting hurt. It is also an attitude of resistance to suggestion, in an attempt to keep the power in a group. The power is kept by demolishing their ideas by being negative about it. However, the negative person eventually puts themselves where they lose more power. So, they only temporarily win power. Because the person does not expect anything good to come out of a situation, they are never satisfied. Thus, anxiety retains instead of being thwarted.
Defense mechanisms are used to redistribute anxiety into another form that is more manageable. It is utilized by the ego, that distorts, denies, or rejects reality. It is a very normal and necessary function of the human psyche in functioning correctly or well within a society. Although defense mechanisms are mandatory, they no not completely destroy anxiety and can have lasting repercussions. Fantasizing may leave the individual free from comprehending reality while sublimation could, in some cases, be only another channel for negative energy. Repressing a memory does not mean it cannot be resurfaced, and compulsive fun-seekers do not accomplish anything productive because they live in a world of pastime. Being negative makes the individual a social outcast and irreproachable with anything positive. Although defense mechanisms transfer anxiety for a period of time, they are not permanant and can cause further anxiety with their constant use.