Psychological Self-Help

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shames. Thus, a psychodynamic therapist would assume that an
agoraphobic patient is symbolically terrified by a loss of love or
separation from a caretaker at home (maybe the birth trauma or
castration anxiety or loss of mommy or daddy's love through the
identification process or an actual lost of love due to divorce, etc.). In
short, our irrational adult fears and phobias are neurotic ways of
continuing to cope with childhood traumas. They are manifestations of
our earliest conflicts and stresses. 
Freud wrote 33 volumes, mostly about anxiety. He was a good
writer. Decide for yourself, on the basis of knowledge and reading his
books, how much you will believe of Freud's theories. It is important to
realize that you don't have to agree with everything Freud said in
order to find some wisdom in his writings. You don't have to accept
birth trauma or the Oedipus complex and castration anxiety before you
can believe in defense mechanisms. Indeed, almost all insightful
readers will say, "Oh, I do some things like that," after reading about
defense mechanisms. 
Psychological defense mechanisms
Freud's daughter, Anna, who did psychoanalysis until she died in
1982, summarized several ego defenses in The Ego and the
Mechanisms of Defense (1936). As noted above, the ego protects itself
from three threats: (l) the id, because the urges from the id can
become so strong that they overwhelm the ego, bringing with them
irrational chaos. Thus, we might panic if our sexual or brutally hostile
urges popped into our conscience. (2) The outside world or real
danger. For example, the ego would realize that a child's parents
staunchly forbid any aggression; thus, showing the slightest hint of
murderous urges to them would produce severe anxiety. Likewise, a
fear of driving recklessly or of being rejected by a lover may have a
certain basis in reality. (3) The superego is a threat to the ego too.
The basic duty of the ego is to find some satisfaction for the id. If the
superego detects any immoral aspects in our behavior, there is hell to
pay in the form of self-censure and guilt. The ego tries to avoid this
discomfort. But, keep in mind that, according to Freud's original
theory, the ego defenses are successful only so long as the conscious
part of the ego is unaware that another part of the ego is defending
itself! Uncovering some of your ego defenses may be interesting fun,
but your defenses against really threatening urges or ideas are not
likely to disclose what they are doing to your conscious awareness. 
Anna Freud used the defenses as hints of the repressed, scary
impulses (instincts) that were underlying the patient's troubles. For
example, the goodie-goodie 5-year-old dethroned king, who never
shows anger towards his younger sister, his competitor, is assumed to
be hiding his sibling rivalry. The defenses can also give us insight into
our own mental processes--sometimes mental gymnastics or
contortions. All defenses involve distortions of reality; they are ways of
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