Psychological Self-Help

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feeling better by fooling ourselves. If we realized these defenses in our
lives, we might handle reality better. Almost all adjustment books
mention these defense mechanisms, even the writers who are
arrogantly critical of Freud. An excellent text about Sigmund and Anna
Freud and the ego defenses is by Christopher Monte (1980). 
Repression: shoving thoughts and urges that are unacceptable or
distressing into our unconscious. This is what happens to the
unacceptable urges of childhood--the ego represses them. Taboo
ideas, like incest, would probably never get into consciousness or, if
they got there, they'd be quickly repressed. Sometimes dreams or
slips of the tongue or attempts at humor reveal our unconscious
motives. For example, if a teacher ridiculed you in class, you might
dream he/she had a horrible auto accident. Or, trying hard to say
something nice to the teacher a few days later, you comment after
class, "Each of your lectures seems better than the next." Or, if you
were unfortunate enough to be asked to introduce your former teacher
at a symposium and said, "I'd like to prevent--huh--I mean present
Dr.___," some might guess the truth. All these speculations about
repressed feelings are just guesses. 
Repression must be distinguished from suppression and
withdrawal. Suppression is more conscious and deals with unpleasant
but not usually utterly despicable acts or thoughts. Examples: You
may want to forget a bad experience or an unpleasant chore to be
done (a term paper to write or expressing sympathy to a friend whose
mother has just died). You just forget to do things or you may
deliberately try to think of other things so you can "settle down" and
function better. It may, indeed, be rational to worry about one thing at
a time (suppressing the other worries) and to withdraw from a
stressful situation. Counting to 10 before acting in anger is another
good example of brief suppression. 
Dissociation: includes processes closely related to repressed and
above). Dissociation (or something like it) occurs in several forms,
ranging from very common occurrences, like "spacing out" or quickly
forgetting an embarrassing moment, to very pathological conditions,
like flashbacks, Multiple Personality Disorder (now called DID), or
Dissociative Amnesia. It seems to be the nature of the human mind to
select a preferred point of view or theory or "the right way" to do
things. Once you know or "feel" what is "right," then most different
opinions or ideas seem wrong to you. This tendency to accept one side
(point of view) results in rejecting many other perspectives, even if
each perspective holds some truth that might contribute to
understanding/solving a problem. This is called right/wrong or
either/or or black/ white or good/bad thinking. In effect, we lose track
or discount a little part of reality (in order to hold the belief that we
know the truth). If people know you believe one thing, they tend to
assume you disagree with the opposite. Examples: if you believe in
practical courses, they assume you are anti-academic; if they know
you recommend psychopharmacology, they assume you do not
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