Sigmund Freud

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Sigmund Schlomo Freud is universally recognized as the “father” of psychology. He originated the concept of psychoanalysis, which is a clinical method of treating psychopathology. He was born on May 6, 1856 and died on September 23, 1939.

His parents were of Galician Jewish ethnicity. He received an M.D. in 1881 at the University of Vienna. In 1885 he was appointed a docent in neuropathology and a professor. As a native Austrian, he set up his practice in Vienna in 1886. He left there to escape the Nazis. He died in exile in Great Britain in 1939.

As a psychiatrist Freud developed several techniques that enhanced the therapeutic process of psychoanalysis. The basic technique was the use of dialogue between a patient and a psychoanalyst.

Among the various techniques are the uses of free association, transference, formulating the Oedipus Complex, analysis of dreams, the existence of libido, erotic attachments, the primacy of the death wish, the sources of compulsion, hate, and aggression, the psychic structure of the ID, the Ego, and the Super-ego.

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Perhaps Freud is best known for his list of common defense mechanisms. Their primary purpose was to protect the human ego from shame and pain. His list is comprised of twelve (12) basic defense mechanisms. They are: COMPENSATION, DENIAL, DISPLACEMENT, REDENTIFICATION, INTROJECTION, PROJECTION, RATIONALIZATION, REACTION FORMATION, REGRESSION, REPRESSION, RITUAL AND UNDOING AND SUBLIMATION.

For the purpose of this article I will be selective and focus only on four (4) of the twelve (12) defense mechanisms. Also, it is important to recognize that several of the twelve overlap.

Also, my understanding of these defenses is based on my Cognitive approach to Clinical Psychology. I am not Freudian, but rather of the views of Victor Frankl, Carl Rogers and William Glasser. They would be considered humanistic psychologists.

Another clarification. The purpose of a defense mechanism is primarily the same as a protective vest (used by police), sunglasses (to protect the eyes,) hats, coats (to protect us from the weather,) flu shots (to protect us from illness,) on and on. The ego, our ego, is who we are. It is our self. It is fragile-our self-esteem. Above all: Insecurity. To protect, we develop defenses.

The first one is COMPENSATION. It is the process whereby a person makes up for a lack or deficiency in his self-esteem-known or unknown, aware of or not aware of-a lack in his sense of self-worth. There is always a compulsive drive in its fulfillment.

A person with a weak ego is always in a competitive behavior. With everyone.

Unfortunately the drive is often hurtful and mean. Constantly ridiculing and minimizing the skills of others. What is the source of such actions? It often stems from the influence of a father/mother or a grandparent. Or by being deprived of a positive influence. Living up to the pressure by compensation is very effective defensive measure to protect the self-esteem.

This compulsive nature is often accompanied by another word-compulsive/abusiveness. Activities that have a comparative edge to them, such as sports, business, theater, education, etc. This attitude often affects the offspring of the compulsive driven parent. He/she often pushes the kid to achieve where his participation was mediocre.

The next defense is DISPLACEMENT. Another name for it is “transference.” The person with a weak self-esteem will accuse another person with having their own repugnant feeling. The other person is accused of being hateful, or angry, or self-serving or maladaptive. It has a boomerang effect.

One writer calls it “a crooked anger,” or “dumping” on another. Usually a competitive energy. Or someone dependent upon you for financial support or under your so-called power. The classic example is the father who comes home angry at his boss and takes it out on his wife and children.

The third defense is PROJECTION. It is similar to transference. It is the attributing to others of your own negative feelings. Your inferiority is reflected by attacking another race, belief system or seeing members of the opposite sex as merely pawns for personal use. When referring to the male species, it is known as misogyny.

Racial prejudice is a blight on any nation or person. Color or creeds are easy targets for projection.

The fourth defense is RATIONALIZATION. I recently read a most provocative definition of it. “It is justifying and excusing your misdeeds or mistakes with reasons that are circumstantial at best and unfounded at worst.” It has all the benefits of being rational and logical. People that are prone to engage in this action usually excuse their own poor behavior as due to being misunderstood, prejudice on their part or being just plain liars. It is a common indictment.

Rationalization is often referred to as “sour grapes.” There is an element in this DEFENSE that is close to the defense of DENIAL. It is closing your eyes to the truth.

The tragedy of this defense is that it encourages the users to blame the biases, lies and conspiracies of others for any failures they have. Alibis are their stock in trade, accusers. Anger is their commodity. They are dangerous, abusers and out for success at any cost.

Amen. Selah. So be it.

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