What Is an Example of Repression Defense Mechanism?

Reviewed on 2/11/2021

A defense mechanism is a way to escape from unpleasant thoughts, events, or actions.
A defense mechanism is a way to escape from unpleasant thoughts, events, or actions.

Repression or dis-associative amnesia involves pushing the unpleasant thoughts, feelings, and impulses deep into the unconscious part of the mind. In other words, the person completely forgets the act and the circumstances surrounding it. Repression is thought to give rise to anxiety, which starts when a forbidden impulse threatens to enter the conscious mind.

Some of the examples of the repression defense mechanism include:

  • A child, who faced abuse by a parent, later has no memory of the events but has trouble forming relationships.
  • A woman who experienced painful labor but continues to have children (and each time the level of pain is surprising).
  • An optimist remembers the past with a rosy glow and repeats mistakes.
  • A man got a spider bite in childhood and may develop intense spider phobia but doesn’t recollect the incidence.
  • A person tends to spank others while greeting others (the repressed idea of violence toward the other person).

There are two stages of repression:

  • Primary repression: It is the process of determining what is self, what is other, what is right, and what is wrong. Once done, the child can differentiate between desires, fears, self, and mother/other.
  • Secondary repression: This starts when the child realizes that acting on some desires may bring anxiety. For example, a child who is denied their mother’s breast feels threatened with punishment.

What is a defense mechanism?

A defense mechanism is a way to escape from unpleasant thoughts, events, or actions. These psychological coping strategies may help people to remove threats or unwanted feelings, such as guilt or shame. The concept of defense mechanism was first proposed by Dr. Sigmund Freud and has evolved over time. Defense mechanisms are not under a person’s conscious control, and they use them without realizing that they are implementing any strategy. These psychological strategies protect the person from anxiety arising from unacceptable thoughts or feelings.

The different types of defense mechanism include:

  • Denial: In this defense mechanism, the person consciously refuses to accept that painful facts exist. For example, smokers may refuse to admit to themselves that smoking is bad for their health.
  • Projection: In this defense mechanism, the person attributes their unacceptable thoughts, feelings, and motives to another person. For example, a person dislikes an individual, but instead of accepting that they dislike them, they blame another person for disliking that individual.
  • Displacement: In this, the person may direct their strong emotions and frustrations toward an object or person. For example, getting angry at the child or dog after having a bad day at work.
  • Regression: This defense involves returning to the earlier developmental stages when one faces stress or trauma. Some children may act as if they are younger again when they experience a sudden trauma or loss. Moreover, they may even wet the bed or suck their thumb.
  • Rationalization: It is a substitution of a safe and reasonable explanation. For example, people who might be angry at coworkers for not completing work on time may be ignoring the fact that they were late for work.
  • Sublimation: In this, the person may direct strong emotions and frustrations into something constructive or socially acceptable. For example, sports are an ideal way to turn our aggression into something useful.
  • Reaction formation: People who use this defense mechanism may identify how they feel, but they choose to behave differently from their instincts. For example, a mother who bears an unwanted child may feel guilty for not wanting the child. So, she reacts by becoming overprotective to convince the child and herself that she is a good mother.

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References
Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia. Defense mechanism. Encyclopedia Britannica. January 31, 2020. https://www.britannica.com/topic/defense-mechanism

McLeod S. Defense Mechanisms. Simply Psychology. https://simplypsychology.org/defense-mechanisms.html

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