According to Sigmund Freud’s theory of personality, I am told, defence mechanisms help the ego cope with anxiety. I’ve always thought of defence mechanisms rather like A A Milne’s poem “The Knight Whose Armour Didn’t Squeak” – people aren’t supposed to know you’re wearing them. I thought it might be quite fun to take a little test to see how much I knew about defence mechanisms – at the very least the case studies might be instructive and I thought I might learn something about anxiety management. There were only two requiring factual recall it seemed, I guessed one and knew the other but I really didn’t think that that part counted for much. With characteristic Promethean hubris, I tried the hardest one and got 80% and a rather niggardly comment ‘Fair”. I didn’t know what ‘reaction formation’ is and I still don’t. So, I knew something about the car, but this is of no value unless I can actually drive it. None of the case studies seemed to me to be anything other than reasonably clear-cut, and life, at least my piece of it, does rather lack the unambiguity the studies presented me with.
All jolly good fun, but it didn’t help me with what I really wanted to know. I have been ‘accused’ – I wonder if that’s the right way to put it – of something called “projection” which I had understood to be a defence mechanism, and was thus hoping that the quiz I took would be helpful. It wasn’t, so I had to go and look it up, because I hate being ignorant (isn’t this ”intellectualisation”?)
Wiki gave me the following.
“Projection is a primitive form of paranoia. Not a tempting opener…It also reduces anxiety by allowing the expression of the undesirable impulses or desires without becoming consciously aware of them; attributing one’s own unacknowledged unacceptable/unwanted thoughts and emotions to another; includes severe prejudice, severe jealousy, hyper vigilance to external danger, and “injustice collecting“. It is shifting one’s unacceptable thoughts, feelings and impulses within oneself on to someone else, such that those same thoughts, feelings, beliefs and motivations are perceived as being possessed by the other.”
I sat down, like the prophet Ezra, appalled. I do hope that any friends who notice this about me, plus examples, might be kind enough to gently point them out. Thank you.