What are Defence Mechanisms
In keeping with Freud’s dynamic hypothesis, marked differences in the functions of id, ego and superego are conducive to intrapsychic conflict. The three systems tend to vie for goals which are difficult to reconcile. A particular consequence of this is anxiety. Anxiety is thought to be experienced by the ego and it is up to this psychological structure to deal with it. Freud identified three main types of anxiety: objective anxiety acts as a signal to take avoidance or other realistic action (“fight or flight”) against external dangers; regarding internal threats, neurotic anxiety refers to the insistence of id impulses, and moral anxiety to condemnation emanating from the superego, in both cases cueing the deployment of defence mechanisms by unconscious portions of the ego. Thus, defence mechanisms are strategies used by the ego to deal with the demands of the id, superego and external reality, providing protection from anxiety-provoking impulses, feelings, perceptions and conflicts. These may be prevented from reaching consciousness or otherwise disguised in order to reduce anxiety. A useful classification of defence mechanisms differentiates between primary reality distortion defences, secondary reality distortion defences and behaviour-channelling defences.