Saturday, February 6, 2010

Psychology Class- Part 9 of 12

In Parts 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 I talked about an interesting interaction between the emotions and reason. Next week I will post another "Reflection on Learning" that details the results of letting emotions lead one down the wrong path. But before I can do that, I need to provide extra info that needs its own post. The contents of this post were not submitted in my class, it is just to bring you up to speed, so that you won't be lost next week.

In the third week of class we discussed Defense Mechanisms. Some of you might already be familiar with the term and what it is, but for those who aren't...
The concept of Defense Mechanisms originated with the Psychoanalytic Perspective (See Part 1
). The Psychoanalytic perspective relies heavily on the idea that the actions of the mind and their following behaviors are divided into two (more actually, but for the purposes of this post, we'll stick with two): those that are conscious and those that are subconscious.

A Defense Mechanism is one of those subconscious behaviors that is the result of a subconscious action of the mind. Many people are uncomfortable with something about themselves (for whatever reason- valid or invalid). Other people aren't even aware of something that they know is odd. Many of these same people subconsciously attempt to mask what they are aware of or not aware of. This "masking" is done in an effort to protect themselves from what they think might cause them extra pain or leave them in a position that is not in control.

The use of a Defense Mechanism tends to be a very "short-sighted" behavior. The majority of what is being masked by a Defense Mechanism is something that the person knows is either bad or not normal. Typically, the longer a person uses a Defense Mechanism to hide the issue, the harder it is to confront. The confrontation of the issue normally leads to being able to reconcile oneself to it or, if it is reparable, to repair it.

The most familiar of the Defense Mechanisms is the one called Denial. Have you ever said or thought, "That person is in denial about..."? If so, you just recognized the use of a Defense Mechanism. The most likely statement that the person just stated before you made that discernment is "No, I'm not!" or "No, I didn't!" Denial can be used to mask just about anything.

Another one that a lot of people use, but don't really recognize is called Projection. This takes place when a person accuses someone else of being or doing whatever the first person is trying to hide. Any statement that can be interpreted, "I know you are, but what am I?" is most likely Projection. People do tend to recognize the usage of this one when they are the ones being projected onto, but its more difficult when they are not. Is it possible to project projection? Oh, yeah. Just read this paragraph again with the assumption that I am trying to hide something...anything. :)

A lot of people like to use humor as a way to hide their insecurities- I do this quite often. This one is not as easy to spot. This mechanism is disguised as normal joking. But I have noticed that it may be present if a person tells an uncomfortable number of jokes about a single topic or if they take the jokes so far that they are no longer funny. That's not a guarantee but is a possibility. Humor can also take the opposite side. People who are uncomfortable or insecure about something may shy away from even the slightest use of humor about that topic. I see this one all the time. Heck, I even used it for a while. When someone told a joke about a certain topic, I would feel quite uncomfortable, leave or explain "why that's not funny". Of course, there are topics that shouldn't be joked about, but those are not what I'm talking about here.

Rationalization is another favorite of people- especially the intellectual types- like me. :) If we have done something or behave a certain way that we know is not acceptable, then we try every way that we can to make an argument for its acceptability. This one is used a lot and accused a lot in philosophical, religious, political and scientific debates and discussions. When someone accuses another of it without providing evidence, you need to consider that it may be an ad-hominem attack that doubles as the usage of Projection.  We do have to be careful of trying to identify this one in someone else, though. Not every rationalization is a defense mechanism trying to mask something that is unacceptable; it may just be that we are trying to project rationalization onto someone else because we are uncomfortable with the implications of our own conclusion (emotions sneak up again).

The first three mechanisms I named because I will discuss them next week. The fourth was because of its obvious implications for apologists. There are many more and the idea of defense mechanisms can go pretty deep; if you want to do more research into this topic, check out Wikipedia's article to get started.

For easier navigation in this series:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9
Part 10
Part 11
Part 12

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