Home Psychology Defense Mechanisms: How Does Your Ego React When Threatened?

Defense Mechanisms: How Does Your Ego React When Threatened?

In our daily lives, we all encounter situations in which we feel anxious, sad, and uncomfortable, but we do not want these situations to last long. We don’t allow ourselves to feel. At that moment, we want to reduce anxiety and focus on more favorable conditions. This is where Defense Mechanisms come into play.

What are Defense Mechanisms? How did it arise?

The starting point of this theory is based on the personality theory of Sigmund Freud. This theory has three known elements: Id, Ego, and Superego. Let’s take a closer look at these concepts first.

  • Id: The source of psychological energy derived from instinctive needs and drives are automatic behaviors and basic needs. The pleasure principle guides it.
  • Ego: The ego is the conscious mediator between the inner person and the outer reality. It helps satisfy the Id’s demands in a balanced and realistic way.
  • Superego: It contains morals and rules inherited from parents and society. According to some definitions, it is also referred to as conscience. It acts as a controller.

According to Sigmund Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis, conflicts between the Id and the Superego cause anxiety. Defense mechanisms emerge as a natural reaction of the ego to be protected from the stress arising from the person’s inner conflicts and the instinct to preserve his social image. The ego activates its defense mechanisms when it cannot establish balance. They are not created consciously but occur unconsciously. Maybe the defense mechanism we made when we were younger, or perhaps a negative experience, acts as a shield for us.

Why do we use Defense Mechanisms?

It is seen that individuals use their defense mechanisms as a tool to cope with their daily problems. The individual tries to protect his threatened self in this way. Although defense mechanisms can have both positive and negative consequences, they can lead to adverse effects in the long run. When the person cannot reach the solutions that he sees as the definitive solution, he may experience more complex situations in his inner world.

It should not be forgotten that every healthy individual has defense mechanisms. We all unconsciously use Defense Mechanisms in our daily lives. This condition can only reach the level of disorder when it is taken to the extreme.

Types of Defense Mechanisms

Although there are a wide variety of defense mechanisms, in this article, we will cover the primary defense mechanisms that are most frequently used.

Please do not deny it.

Denial is a state of not accepting situations, feelings, and thoughts that are unmanageable and anxiety-inducing. The person does not want to change the situation and tends to ignore it. “No, that can’t be!” Pollyannaism, a well-known term, is one of its most easily recognizable features.

Example: An addicted individual does not accept that he is addicted, someone who knows acts as if he does not know to avoid confrontation, etc.


Suppression is trying to forget situations, feelings, and thoughts that cannot be dealt with by the individual, unpleasant or anxiety-provoking, pushing them into the subconscious and ignoring them.

Example: Forgetting details of events etc.


It is when people attribute their feelings, thoughts, and wishes to another person.

Example: A cheating person accuses their spouse of cheating on their spouse, a student who gets a low score on the exam attributes their failure to the difficulty of the exam or the teacher, etc.

Change of direction

In cases where the reaction is not shown to the original target, we call it changing direction when it is directed to another situation or person. Changing direction is moving the response to a place with nothing to do with the object, condition, or person involved.

Example: Someone angry at his mother shouts at his brother, etc.

Finding excuses

It is the state of linking the cause to the action instead of linking the move to the reason. It is one of the most commonly used defense mechanisms. It responds to the inability to face or soften the frustration caused by unfulfilled wishes.

Example: Defending that the person in front of him behaves like this because he deserves it, even though he knows that insulting is wrong, etc.


It is to show a humorous approach to soften the feelings and thoughts of disturbing situations. It is one of the most frequently used.

Example: Trying to laugh about a situation where the person is sad or making a joke about it, etc.