For healthy relationships we must become more and more aware of ourselves, how we relate in both our strengths and shortcomings. If we step back and try to observe our own interactions, we want to avoid over-engaging in DEFENSE MECHANISMS.

Denial: claiming/believing that what is true to be actually false.
Displacement: redirecting emotions to a substitute target.
Intellectualization: taking an objective viewpoint.
Projection: attributing uncomfortable feelings to others.
Rationalization: creating false but credible justifications.
Reaction Formation: overacting in the opposite way to the fear.
Regression: going back to acting as a child.
Repression: pushing uncomfortable thoughts into the subconscious.
Sublimation: redirecting ‘wrong’ urges into socially acceptable actions.

Ego defenses are numerous, and range from the most primitive (repression) to the most evolved (sublimation.) By primitive, I want to communicate that they are the earliest we acquire developmentally, not the least useful or most unhealthy. And it is important to remember that all defenses are useful, and that the ego is trying to cope with any given problem.

As we focus on personal growth, we function with a clearer sense of reality and use constructive relational skills. Defense mechanisms are natural, but they should not comprise a large part of our interactions with others.

Author's Bio: 

Written by Marta Hatter, LCSW. An excerpt from Marta's blog @