Defense Mechanisms: How your ‘ego’ strikes a balance between your ‘id’ and ‘super-ego’


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Id, “I want Chocolate”.

Super-ego, “You are on a diet”.

Ego, “Eat a small bar of chocolate”.

Just in case you are not aware of id, ego and super-ego, here is a quick intro of these three parts of our psychic apparatus as conceptualized by Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) who had developed some of the most influential theories in modern psychology and psychoanalysis.

ID represents the person's desires, impulses, instincts, etc, has no contact with reality and works according to the pleasure principle always seeking pleasure and avoiding pain.

EGO represents the rational reasoning of a person. It abides by the reality principle and tries to keep impulses within the norms of society. 

Sigmund Freud
SUPEREGO represents our morals and values. 
Now how does this ego try to resolve the conflicts of id and super-ego? Freud suggested that ego adopts some defense mechanisms for this purpose. Check out some defense mechanisms below and see which mechanism works for you:

REPRESSION:Pushing unacceptable or disturbing impulses /thoughts out of awareness back into the unconscious mind.
Example: Not remembering a traumatic incident in which one had witnessed a crime

RATIONALIZATION: Justifying a disturbing or unacceptable thought or feeling by making up a logical reason for the same.
Example: Justifying cheating in exam saying that everyone else cheats

DISPLACEMENT:  Shifting unacceptable feelings from one object to another.
Example: A man can’t take his anger out on his boss so he goes home and kicks his dog.
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SUBLIMATION: Replacing unacceptable impulses with socially acceptable ones.  
Example: Aggressive boy instead of bullying others puts his aggression in the game of boxing.


PROJECTION: Attributing personal shortcomings, faults, and problems onto someone else.  
Example: A girl accusing her boyfriend of cheating on her because she herself has felt like cheating on him.

REACTION FORMULA: Acting in exactly the opposite way to one’s unacceptable motives.  
Example: A man who fears his sexual urges becomes a religious zealot.

DENIAL: Refusing to acknowledge that there is a problem.  
Example:  A man won’t acknowledge that he is HIV positive even after a diagnosis by his doctor.
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REGRESSION: Acting in a way which is not typical of one’s age in the face of stress.  
Example: A woman seeking console from her mother every time she and her husband have a big argument.


HUMOR: Not taking oneself too seriously and accepting ones’ shortcomings in a socially acceptable way.  
Example: A man making fun of himself admitting how stupidly he behaved last night after being drunk.

IDENTIFICATION: Taking on the characteristics of someone viewed successful.
Example: Adopting the dressing style and mannerism of a famous cine star.

After learning about id, ego and super-ego along with their reconciliatory tactics, you may decide which defense mechanisms works for you. You may also contemplate whether your personality is mainly governed by ‘ego’ or is it your ‘id’ or ‘super-ego’ which has the final say in your life- matters?

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