Defence mechanisms (British spelling; Defense mechanisms in American English) are set procedures in animals which are used to avoid danger or alleviate physical or psychological stresses.
In psychoanalytic theory, a defence mechanism is an unconscious way to protect one's personality from unpleasant thoughts which may otherwise cause anxiety. This can work well in small doses. However, a defence mechanism can also lead to a neurosis if it causes a person to adopt ineffectual or inappropriate coping strategies.
Examples of defence mechanisms include:
* Displacement. Redirecting emotion from a 'dangerous' object to a 'safe' object. For example, punching a cushion when angry at your partner
* Introjection. Internalising the values or characteristics of another person, usually someone who is significant to the individual in some way. For example, adopting the ideals of a charismatic leader in order to deal with feelings of one's own inadequacy.
* Projection. The opposite of introjection. Attributing one's own emotions or desires to an external object or person. For example, saying others hate you when it is you who hates the others.
* Rationalization. Inventing a logical reason to justify an already taken emotional action. For example, becoming drunk and then after-the-fact saying that it was need to "take the edge off."
* Reaction formation. Converting an uncomfortable feeling into its opposite. For example, turning hate into love.
* Regression. Behaviour reverting to a previous age.
* Repression. Moving thoughts unacceptable to the Ego into the unconscious, where they cannot be easily accessed.
* Sublimation. A 'healthy' form of displacement. For example, playing sports to relieve stress or anger.
* Transference.Either positive or negative - transfering feelings created by previous experiences from their source on to someone else.
* Denial. Insisting something did not occur. Unconscious suppression of reality or of feelings which are not acceptable to the Superego/Ego censorship.
Many animals have developed physical defences which act, as evolutionary characteristics in a similar way to psychological defences.
Grazing animals often feed in herds. When a predator attacks, the animals scatter in different directions which confuses the predator and allows the animals to escape. Some animals never venture too far from their home in underground dens or thick vegetation and can quickly hide when danger approaches. Many animals have keen senses of sight, smell, and hearing so that they can detect danger and escape. Some animals have horns or antlers to fight off predators. Some animals are active only at night when it is harder for predators to find them.
Many animals rely on camouflage or the ability to blend in with their surroundings to hide from predators. A few animals are even poisonous or unpleasant-tasting, and predators soon learn to leave such animals alone. These poisonous kinds of animals are often brightly colored, as well, which acts as a warning to predators.
Some animals use chemicals which they spray from various parts of their bodies to deter predators. A few animals rely on trickery and copy the defenses of other animals to protect themselves.
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