You often use many coping strategies without being aware that you are actually using them.  Defense mechanisms are coping strategies that help you protect yourself from hard and emotional feelings.  You may possibly be able to recognize some of the common defense mechanisms listed below.  Notice that they all involve quite a bit of mental juggling.  By twisting and changing the reality of a situation even a little bit in your mind, the situation or scenario you have just created when compared wth the original circumstances becomes much easier to mentally accept.  Fooling yourself in this way makes it possible for you to put off dealing with the actual problems and emotions the situation causes.

Common Defense Mechanisms:

Denial - Refusing to recognize an emotion or problem 

  • Example:  Your parents are getting divorced, but you still are acting as though nothing is wrong.  When friends express their concerns for you and your future, you laugh it off and tell them that your parents' divorce does not really bother you at all.

Compensation - Making up for weakness in one area by excelling in another area

  • Example:  You are currently failing two classes in school.  However, you compensate for this weakness in academic performance with strong musical performance by becoming the lead saxophone player in the school band.

Rationalization - Making excuses for actions or feelings

  • Example:  You are working in a convenience store.  When no one is watching you , you take some magazines and put in your pocket.  You steal it because you figure that it is a very large store and they can afford it/ they are not going to lose a significant money as a result of your theft.

Reaction Formation - Behaving in a way opposite to the way you feel

  • Example:  You feel very guilty for bullying and harassing this kid at your school.  However, you cover up your internal feelings by bragging to your friends about your bad actions as though you were proud of doing so although you are probably feeling appalled of your own actions inside.

Projection - Putting your own faults onto another person

  • Example:  At your after-school job you do not manage to complete your tasks appropriately and efficiently so you get fired for your "laziness".  When you get fired, you shove the blame onto your boss, saying that she did not take the appropriate time to explain the tasks clearly to you so that you understood.

Regression - Returning to immature behaviors to express emotions

  • Example:  You are ver angry at your brother for reading your personal diary which you consider your private property.  You scream at him and your parents, run back into your bedroom, and sulk for a long period of time.