What are Defence Mechanisms Pt 2
Primary Defence Mechanisms
Primary reality distortion defences provide basic protection by not allowing the individual to perceive or feel threatening information. Repression is the first line of defence and a cornerstone of psychoanalytic theory. Unacceptable experiences, such as severe trauma or potentially embarrassing impulses, are excluded entirely from awareness. As with other defence mechanisms, repression itself is an unconscious process, and distinct from the conscious act of suppression. Repression not only prevents awareness, but retains buried experiences in their, largely, infantile mode and with their original intensity.Â It may also lead to a confounding “catch 22” situation since it is as if a person would need to know the nature of the repressed material in order to decide whether to allow it entry into conscious awareness. Repression is the most fundamental line of defence and other defence mechanisms are only enlisted when it begins to fail.
Two additional primary reality distortion defences are denial and isolation.Â Denial involves the blocking from awareness of accurate perception of an unacceptable event, such as when justified criticism or valid signs of partner infidelity are constantly disregarded. In isolation, the emotional component of an unacceptable experience is blocked. Thus, an individual may coldly relate a traumatic event, intellectualise, or even engage in “black” humour. Both such defences may, of course, be adaptive, particularly in times of crisis. Facts may then be faced at a gentler pace and coping resources mobilised accordingly.