Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Ego Defense Mechanisms and FRIENDS TV Show

Sigmund and Anna (his daughter) Freud identified several ego defense mechanisms in human behavior. Some have trouble memorizing, so I thought it would be great to at least have a good laugh by incorporating this with my favorite TV show, FRIENDS!

Just to note: You never take away a client's defense. You build them up so they drop the defense behavior; so that defense is no longer needed.

Also, behavior fundamentals states that you must always have a replacement behavior. Choose this behavior with your client to get the desired behavior, as opposed to having another unhealthy behavior replace the original unwanted behavior.

Thanks to Unfloopy's LiveJournal and e4.com for the Friends photos!
You can find a list at  Psyche Page Defense Mechanism Summary

Defenses - our behavior to protect us from pain.

Displacement -- Displacing one feeling for another. Chandler is a pro at this, always displacing his fears with humor! Here we have him trying to say good bye to Rachel, but instead, he emits a fart joke!

Sublimation --  Like displacement, but a healthy redirection of emotion. There are numerous heartbreaks but here we've got Monica allowing Phoebe to help her get over Monica through counsel with a trusting friend and relaxation.

Projection --  Projection is the act of taking something of ourselves and placing it outside of us, onto others; sometimes we project positive and sometimes negative aspects of ourselves. Sometimes we project things we don't want to acknowledge about ourselves, and so we turn it around and put it on others. The problem with projecting negative aspects of ourselves is that we still suffer under them. This is the main defense mechanism of paranoid and anti-social personalities.
When Winona Ryder guest stars as Rachel's old sorority sister, she has repressed her long love for Rachel and, instead, denies they even kissed. She projects her homosexuality onto Rachel by rejecting her and saying that she won't contact her ever again because, "You've gotten kind of weird." She later confesses her hidden love after Rachel gives her one last good bye kiss!

Rationalization --  Rationalization is making up a "logical" argument to avoid guilt. My favorite is Rachel and Chandler stealing their neighbor's delicious cheesecake!

Intellectualization --  Related to rationalization, intellectualization involves removing the emotion from emotional experiences, and discussing painful events in detached, uncaring, sterile ways. Someone who intellectualizes becomes very distant from their feelings, and when asked to describe their feelings may find it difficult. They may understand all the words that describe feelings, but have no idea what they really feel.

A good example is when Rachel dates Bruce Willis and tries to get to know him. He intellectualizes past painful relationships, without emotion. When he finally realizes his pain, of course, he can't stop crying, which effectively, ends their relationship!

Repression/Suppression  --  Repression is often thought of as the parent of all defenses. Repression involves putting painful thoughts and memories out of our minds and forgetting them. All defenses do this to some extent. Traditionally, repression is unconsciously "forgetting," that is, forgetting and not even realizing that you are doing it. You have no conscious memory or knowledge of that which is repressed. Suppression is when you consciously forget something, or make the choice to avoid thinking about it.

The problem with repression is that the memory, feeling, or insight repressed doesn't go away. It continues to effect us because our unconscious gives it a life of its own. It becomes all the more powerful because we repress it, and it can effect our decisions, reactions, etc… in ways that we don't see but others may.

Rachel teaches Joey to sail, and ends up turning into her father. She suppressed all those memories that she didn't even realize it when she snapped at Joey, "Greens don't quit!"

Fantasy --  Fantasy can be a good or a pathological defense. Fantasizing involves creating an inner world when the real world becomes too painful, difficult, or stressful. Phoebe fantasizes that her mom's spirit is trapped inside a cat.

Denial --  Denial is the simplest defense to understand. It is simply the refusal to acknowledge what has, is, or will happen. There are so many examples, but one is Ross's denial of how uncomfortable he is about the thought of Joey and Rachel being together. He even invites them to a double date. "I'm okay with it." He keeps saying over and over, even though, clearly, he is in denial!

Withdrawal --  Withdrawal is a more severe form of defense. It entails removing yourself from events, stimuli, interactions, etc… that could remind you of painful thoughts and feelings. Withdrawal inevitably leads to strong feelings of loneliness and alienation, however, which generally means you feel more pain.

Reaction-Formation --  This is one of the most difficult defenses for some people to understand. When we have a reaction that is too painful or threatening to feel (such as intense hate for someone with power over us), we turn it into the opposite (intense liking for that person). That way, we aren't threatened by the feeling, or even the awareness of the feeling. Like denial and repression, you can begin to do this automatically and as a result never know what your true feelings are.

Rachel ends up kissing and falling for a co-worker she hated when she returned from her maternity leave.

Introjection - turning the outward in. So taking on personality and habits of others onto yourself to cope with more difficult issues. One example is Monica wearing Richard's clothes and smoking his cigars after their break up.


  1. i love this show! && im NUMBER ONE to commentt !!!!!!!!

  2. this is a very clever way to help people to grasp the meaning's of these clinical terms. I love this and it would be awesome if you could do with this ALL the questions on the LMSW and LCSW exams. I know It would be a shoe-in to pass for me! :D
    Thank you for this.

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