List of Possible Defense Mechanisms

Note: Some defense mechanisms listed may seem acceptable or even desirable. But even they can block your awareness of what is real and needs to be resolved.

Addictions – Dependency upon a substance, behavior, event, person, or something similar in order to escape from unpleasant feelings or realities. Relief is only temporary and pain is deepened in the long run, thus setting up the need to further seek out continued relief.

Avoidance – Won’t go there; mind or body goes elsewhere when undesirable awareness is present.

Blaming – Putting the responsibility on someone else. Scapegoating. “It’s your fault that I…”  or, “If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t have…”

Comparing – “I’m not as bad as you,” or,  “I’m better than you.”

Complying – Submit or adapt. “I’ll do whatever you say.”

Conversion – A mental dilemma converted to a physical symptom such as a person who is financially stressed experiencing lower back pain.  

Defiance – “If you don’t like it, you can go take a hike!” or, “I’ll do whatever I want no matter what you say.”

Denial – Believing something is not, despite evidence to show that it is. Usually, this is obvious to those around, but not the one suffering the denial. “I don’t have a problem,” or “I’m not being abused.”

Delusion – A false belief or deceptive fantasy resistant to reason, fact or confrontation, in spite of evidence.

Dependency – Heavily relying on others to give you what you need and paying the price of self-love and care to get it.

Dishonesty – Lying to yourself and/or others to keep from the truth. Saying what you think others want or expect rather than being genuine, honest and real.

Displacement – Redirecting negative reactions to a safer, more acceptable target. For example, if you’re mad at your spouse you kick the dog.

Dissociation – Cutting off the reality of an unacceptable memory or part of you from your awareness; distancing it far away from you in an attempt to make it be gone. 

Distractions – The mind easily looses focus on the subject at hand and moves to another.

Escapism – Leaving or escaping painful realities by work, sleep, TV, video games, shopping, moving away or getting lost in fixing other people’s problems.

Excessiveness – Talking, withdrawing, working, spending, care-taking, controlling others, etc.

Fantasy Obsession – Constantly day dreaming your life is different than it is rather than taking the responsibility of making change happen.

Filtering – Only hearing what you want to hear or seeing what you want to see or being aware of what you want to be aware of.

Grandiosity – Looking down at others, better than attitude, arrogant, self-centered, rejecting, intolerant, self-righteous, superior.

Harming self – Cutting skin, hitting head on wall, slapping or hitting self, or even suicide atempts  all serve as a way of distracting ones self from inner pain, which may seem so much worse.

Hostility – Attacking, aggression, glaring, disagreeing, sarcasm, judging, arguing, putdowns, impatience, shouting, threatening, swearing, meanness or cruelty.

Intellectualization – Only thinking, not feeling – staying in the head, analyzing, theorizing and questioning. Ex: “I can fix this if I can make sense of it.”

Intimidation – Becoming angry, threatening or glaring to make someone back off.

Joking – Never get serious – always clowning around.

Judging – Form an opinion or jump to conclusions about others that may or may not be true.

Manipulating – Game playing and/or head games. Taking advantage of a person’s weaknesses or vulnerabilities. Avoidance of empathy, negotiation and compromise.

Minimizing – Making something much less serious or significant than it actually is. “It really isn’t that bad,” “It didn’t hurt that much,” or, “He only hit me once.”

Mind-Wandering (sometimes referred to as task-unrelated thought) is the experience of thoughts not remaining on a single topic for a long period of time, particularly when people are not engaged in an attention-demanding task. ~Wikipedia

Moral High Road – Placing yourself in a more holy or godly position, with self-appointed authority to point out other people’s failings rather than focusing on your own.

Narcissism – Because of deep shame, a person will build a desireable image of the self to show the world. S/he falls in love with this image, which he uses to convince others how great he is. Because the narcissist has no real self love, there is no love others. Thus others are used to promote the image, rather than being cherished in a relationship.

Placating – Overly polite, flattering, appeasing, pacifying or phony.

Projection – Projecting your own undesired issues onto another person or institution, such as an unfaithful wife accusing her husband of cheating on her.

Rationalizing –Making excuses for something wrong. Trying to make something reasonable, even if it’s not. A form of self-deception: “My dad had a right to beat me because I deserved it.”

Reaction Formation – In your mind, converting something unacceptable into its opposite. Example: Becoming a perfectionist to compensate for feeling worthless.

Regression – Returning back to an earlier level of maturity such as regressing into a child.

Repression – Pushing away unacceptable realities from conscious awareness.

Rigidity – Unbending, inflexible, narrow minded, seeing the world in terms of black and white. 

Self-Pity – Sullen, poor me, want others to rescue me, playing the victim.

Stubborn – Unyielding, unmoving, difficult to work with or convince.

Stuffing – Pushing unpleasant feelings and information away from awareness. Will not allow self to be aware of undesired realities, would rather stuff them.

Suspicion – Won’t trust or believe anyone.

Suppression – Pushing out of your awareness anything that seems unacceptable, threatening, awful or too hard to deal with.

Switching – Changing to a different person, topic or idea when things get uncomfortable.

Talking Excessively – Talking as a way of keeping the mind busy to divert awareness of feelings/emotions, or meaningful communication.

Wandering Mind – Mind is distracted to irrelevant matters.

Wishful thinking or fantasy – If only thinking or daydreaming instead of facing reality.

Racing or distracted mind – Can be a coping strategy to distract oneself from what seems uncomfortable.

And more…

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