10 Common Defense Mechanisms | Tony Robbins

What do you do when you’re angry or upset? You probably get defensive.

If you’ve never heard the term “defense mechanisms psychology,” you’re not alone. But you’ve no doubt experienced it at some point. It’s an unconscious reaction to how you’re feeling, and it can include both verbal and physical elements.

There are eight defense mechanisms:

1) Denial. This is among the most common defense mechanisms. Your mind simply refuses to believe that something has happened.

2) Repression. If you have experienced a traumatic event, your mind can hold back or repress the memories of it.

3) Displacement. If you’re displacing your emotions, you are pointing them toward a situation or a person that isn’t the original target. In short, you’re lashing out. If you are angry about a situation at work and then bark at your roommate because they left the light on – that’s displacement psychology at work.

4) Projection. The projection defense mechanism involves seeing your own faults and insecurities in others, not yourself. A common example is a cheating partner accusing their non-cheating spouse of infidelity.

5) Reaction formation. You feel one thing, but you act another way, often because you view what you feel as unacceptable.

6) Regression. You don’t want to deal with a problem at all, so you shrink away from it – and sometimes shrink all the way down into an almost childlike state. You might revert to screaming or slamming a door when you’re angry.

7) Rationalization. You’ve behaved badly, and you’re explaining that bad behavior as if it were a logical reaction. At times you may even blame other people for the way you reacted, as if they “made you do it.”

8) Sublimation. You turn your negative thoughts and feelings into something positive: a bad day at work turns into a great evening at the gym, or a fight with your partner leads you to paint a gorgeous picture. But if you turn to sublimation instead of trying to solve your problems, it just becomes another way to avoid them.

Everyone experiences these defense mechanisms from time to time, but if you don’t take control of your negative emotions, you will eventually do harm to yourself and your relationships. To better understand defense mechanisms psychology, study your reactions when you are angry and upset and strive to do better from there. Reshaping your everyday expectations and mindset will help you become a happier, less reactive person.

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Tony Robbins is a #1 New York Times best-selling author, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. For more than 37 years, millions of people have enjoyed the warmth, humor and dynamic presentation of Mr. Robbins’ corporate and personal development events. As the nation’s #1 life and business strategist, he¹s called upon to consult and coach some of the world¹s finest athletes, entertainers, Fortune 500 CEOs, and even presidents of nations.