The person who really spent a lot of time defining defenses was Anna Freud. Of Freud’s children, Anna was the one who also became a psychoanalyst. I think she sacrificed her life for her father. She never got married, never had a family, and she wrote extensively on defenses. In fact, there are orders of defenses. We have lower order and higher order defenses. Some of the basic ones are ‘repression’.
When you deal with defense mechanisms, you have to recognize that they’re all unconscious. If you’re consciously doing it, it’s no longer a defense. Repression, there are thoughts and feelings you don’t want to have, don’t want to come to the surface, you repress those, again unconsciously. Similar, but dealing with external influences, is ‘denial’. You wanna deny things around you that are occurring. That’s another defense. And there are many of them.
One of the more interesting ones is ‘projection’. That’s where you take certain thoughts and feelings of your own and you put them on somebody else. One of the classics is ‘paranoia’. That is the belief in psychoanalysis that paranoia is a projection. In other words, if I was a paranoid person, and I’m not, that I am taking those unwanted traits of my own, my own untrustworthiness, and I’m placing them on the other person. I’m afraid they’re doing wrong. Paranoia is really a projection.
Another great defense is ‘displacement’. We’ll all identify with this one. You are at work, your boss picks on you for something, and you come home and you pick on your wife, who turns around and yells at the kid, who turns around and kicks the dog. It’s a great one. That’s displacement. ~ Rafael Sharón, NCPsyA, SCPsyA, Psychoanalyst in Princeton NJ