Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Psychological Defense Mechanism: PROJECTION!

Have you ever known a person who has a strong dislike one of his friends and believes that his friend hates him instead? 

(Well, take your time and think about this for a while...)

Now the question is: Have you ever felt this way before?

Ok, no worries... No one will blame you for what you've felt before; it's just normal. This was only "Projection" which is one of the defense mechanisms according to the Freudian Psychoanalitic Theory (an unconscious psychological strategy which helps us to cope with the reality and maintain self-image)

Today I wanted to write about this subject as I always found it as one of the most interesting subjects of Psychology. 

"A Psychology degree was the only thing I have ever wanted to have as it was a perfect fit and very intellectually fulfilling for me. So, I am so happy I could be able to achieve one of my biggest goals in my life. However, I must confess that studying Psychology was quite challenging as it makes you to face the things inside that you were not aware of before, which have been in the unconscious part since the very early stage of your life.
If you are already a Psychology student... Welcome to an unusual journey to face the reality which might be a biting experience will last for a lifetime.. And once you step into the world of Psychology there's no turning back."
G. Nur Bilek

Let's go back to understand the nature of our defence mechanisms: A good news is normally a healty person use different defence mechanisms throughout life. It only becomes pathological when we use them persistently and our physical and/or mental health is adversely affected.

So, the question is: WHY do we use a defense mechanism? Well, the answer is very simple:

a) According to Freudian approach we all have Id, Ego and, Superego, the parts that make up a person's personality. Really, I don't wanna use psychological jargon when speaking to people who may not be familiar with psychological terms. So, let me make it clear for you. In a nutshell,

  • The id seeks to fulfill all needs and impulses, obeys the pleasure principle: "Pleasure is good and – nothing else matters" while...
  • The superego tries to get the ego to act in an idealistic and moral manner.
  • And suddenly our ego arises and tries to cope with the conflicting demands of the id and the superego.

Freud's Iceberg Freud explained these concepts by comparing the human mind to a cleverly illustrated iceberg which has three parts.

Are you curious about how Freud called these concepts in his own language? Here are the original versions of the id, ego, and the superego.

The id (in German)
The ego (in German)
Überich -over I-         
The superego (in German)

Well, let's try to understand this. Superego is the component of the personality composed of our internalized behaviours that we have acquired from our parents and society while id represents our impulses, a selfish, childish, and pleasure-oriented part of the personality with no ability to delay gratification. Superego is our moral standards which tries to suppress the urges of the id and tries to make the ego behave morally, rahter than realistically. The id is without valuesethics and logic. Can you imagine the possible conflicts between the id and the superego?

So, what does ego do? Ego is the rational part that meditates immediate impulses of the id and the pressure from the superego. It delays immediate gratification till an appropriate time.

1.     Conscious: The visible part of the iceberg is the conscious part which is small. This is the part of the mind that hold what you are aware of.

2.     Preconscious: This is the ordinary memory. Though things stored here aren't in the conscious they can be readily brought in the conscious.

3.     Unconscious: Most of the contents of the unconscious are unacceptable or unpleasant, such as feelings of pain, anxiety, or conflict. According to Freud, the unconscious continues to influence our behavior and experience, even though we are unaware of these underlying influences.

b) Ego is the moderator between the id and superego which seeks compromises to pacify both. What happens when the ego cannot cope with the demands of the id and the superego? According to Freud anxiety, an unpleasant inner state that people avoid, arises and it acts as a signal for us that things are not going right!


The word "Ego" comes from εγώ in Greek which means "I"

So let's go back to the example of the two friends above. I want to illustriate if for you! (Why I gave this example is a very close friend of mine is terribly annoyed by her colleague's (Mrs X) bahaviors towards her. Mrs X have a tendency to wear whatever my friend wears, and...

You feel actually jelaous of your X friend. (this feeling's source is id)
Then your superego says that you have a value, "jealousy" is a "bad", immature feeling to be resisted.
Your ego tries to cope with what the id feels and what the superego thinks. If it cannot... Projection may happen! And you believe that X friend is jealous of you...

What is PROJECTION? If a person has uncomfortable thoughts or feelings they may project it onto other people. In other words, projection is attributing your own unacceptable impulses to someone else. The impulses are still judged unacceptable but they belong to someone else, not you :)

Well, think about it again... Have you ever felt this way? No, you didn't? According to Freaudian Theory you probably did it many times which you have never been aware of as it happens in the unconscious part of your mind, somewhere deep, very deep and outside of your awareness...

Racism is bad, right? This is what we are taught and socially unacceptable. If you have racist ideas while believing racism is socially undesirable you may feel that a friend is racist, projecting your own racism onto the other person.

* Projection can take a range of forms. Do you wonder how projection influences our decision making or purchasing decisions? Or it's better to ask "Did you have any difficulty when shopping for winter clothing in June?" Well, I think I can hear what you say :) Yes, always! We have a tendency to assume that our mental state will will remain consistent in the future, even though we are aware of winter will come soon!

* Psychological projection can be very important in interpersonal relationships, especially before attributing thoughts or ideas to someone else. Maybe it's better to try to analyze our own thoughts and beliefs before attributing a bad thought to others. Maybe the thoughts we dislike is seen in ourself.

Do you have friends who does not trust anyone in his/her life? (Hope this is not a very close friend or boyfriend/girlfriend or supouse!) It's highly recommended to be on the safe side. There's a possibility of s/he does trust himself/herself and all s/he does it attributing what s/he feels to the other people around.

* An unfaithful husband may suspect his wife of infidelity.

* A chronically liar friend may suspect you of lying him/her.

Before judging people's thought towards us or the world, I think it's better to seek out more reliable sources on what someone else thinking. I know that's not easy, sometimes seems impossible, but studying psychology's taught us to trust in psychology science, hasn't it?

Well, I know I wanna talk too much when it's psychology as it seems to me an endless ocean and there's still an ocean left.

Finally, I'd be very happy if you share your thoughts, ideas and experiences with me!

"We are effectively cognitive icebergs with most of our 'thoughts' occurring below the water line."  
S. Freud

With my very best wishes,

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Bu konu ile ilgili çok güzel bir söz vardır:
" İnsanlar kendi namusları kadar başkalarının namuslarından şüphelenirler"