Freud's Theory Of Defense Mechanism Essay

2902 words - 12 pages

Psychoanalytic ego psychology is distinguished by the priority that it assigns to the ego's management of instinct-derivatives. Ego psychology had its foundations in Freud's writings of the 1920s, but first became a distinctive approach to psychoanalysis in the 1930s. In Inhibitions, Symptoms, and Anxiety, Freud (1926a) listed ten manners by which the ego defends itself against dangerous thoughts: regression, reaction-formation, isolation, undoing, repression, introjection or identification, projection, turning against the self, reversal, and sublimation or displacement of instinctual aims. To this list of defenses, Anna Freud (1966) added identification with the aggressor (pp. 116-120). The list has since continued to grow.For Freud, das Ich, "the I, " was a metaphor that signified the part of the mind with which a person consciously identifies. In a loose sense, it was Freud's way of discussing the self. More technically, however, he defined the ego as the part of the mind that performs rational thinking, the type of thought that he considered a "secondary process." Freud's (1923a, 1940b) concept of the ego did not include the defense mechanisms that Anna Freud (1966) attributed to it. Freud (1926a) explained:Symptom-formation…has two assets: one, hidden from view, brings about the alteration in the id in virtue of which the ego is removed from danger; the other, presented openly, shows what has been created in place of the instinctual process that has been affected-namely, the substitutive formation. It would, however, be more correct to ascribe to the defensive process what we have just said about symptom-formation and to use the latter term as synonymous with substitute-formation. (p. 145)In this formulation, defense consists of (1) unconscious stimulus barriers, such as repression, that enlarge the dynamic unconscious repressed and so remove the ego from danger, and (2) the substitution of a fantasy for the repressed that manifests the repressed in symbolic fashion. The stimulus barriers are ego functions, and they alone are truly defensive. The substitute-formations are not ego functions; they are products of unconscious symbol-formation. Freud (1926a) explained them as pathological symptoms to which the ego makes an accommodation:It is…only natural that the ego should try to prevent symptoms from remaining isolated in one way or another, and to incorporate them into its organization…. The ego now proceeds to behave as though it recognized that the symptom had come to stay and that the only thing to do was to accept the situation in good part and draw as much advantage from it as possible. It makes an adaptation to the symptom-to this piece of the internal world which is alien to it-just as it normally does to the real external world. (pp. 98-99)Freud's (1926a) notion of defense mechanisms as "a kind of frontier-station with a mixed garrison" (p. 99) reflects the complexity of their origin. Every so-called defense...

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