on defenses – passage from “Co-Creating Change”

Defenses alter the way we feel by altering the way we see or interpret reality, but they do not change reality itself. For instance, an adolescent girl uses denial when she has unprotected sex. She tries to change her internal state of anxiety rather than face external reality: she could get pregnant. Denial avoids her anxiety internally, but it creates a new problem externally. Defenses distort our perception of reality, resulting in pathological functioning (Haan 1977). Defenses also ward off unacceptable thoughts, impulses, and wishes (S. Freud 1894/ 1958). For example, if you ask a woman what she feels toward her boyfriend for hitting her, she might answer, “I think it was an immature thing he did.” She intellectualizes to ward off the anger she cannot accept.

Jon, Frederickson. Co-Creating Change: Effective Dynamic Therapy Techniques (p. 79). Seven Leaves Press. Kindle Edition.

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