Defense Mechanisms

Defense Mechanisms

When we face emotional discomfort, we resort to a variety of defense mechanisms to minimize or avoid the pain. These mechanisms were divided into four categories by the brilliant George Vaillant a distinguished Harvard professor whom I had the honor of meeting early in my career when I was working at the Institute of Psychiatry in London.

Vaillant divides defense mechanisms into four categories; Pathological, Immature, Neurotic and Mature. These mechanisms control the narrative especially when under emotional duress. I show how these are used for better or for worse in my upcoming book Facing Up: The Art and Science of Redemption.

Being truly rational is a lot of work and requires some understanding of logic and statistics. Rather than being rational, we’re rationalizers, justifying whatever we want to justify by being selective and using the binary brain to create false dichotomies that make us feel we’re being rational.

Some defense mechanisms: denial, projection, delusion, acting out, fantasy, wishful thinking, passive-aggressiveness, somatization, intellectualization, reaction formation, repression, avoidance, etc. etc.

Some adaptive defense mechanisms: Can you think of any??? (Hint; There are about 20)