Psychological Self-Help

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"analyze" his parents' underlying motives without showing his own
emotions. Likewise, people may discuss war without vividly feeling the
misery of many people dying. This is a repression of the painful parts.
Freud believed that the compulsive hand-washer was trying to cleanse
his hands of the guilt of masturbation but the feeling of guilt was
separated from the hand-washing. 
There are many other defense mechanisms ("acting out" as a way
of rebelling and reducing tension, "self-repudiation" to get others off
your back, seeking sympathy, etc.). More importantly, there are many
other much healthier ways of coping with stress, fears, and anxiety
which we will review later in this chapter and in chapter 12. 
As Sigmund Freud described ego defense mechanisms, the
processes were primarily unconscious. As Anna Freud and later
psychoanalysts studied these processes more intensely and re-defined
them, the mechanisms came to be seen as more conscious and
available to the ego (the conscious self) for dealing with anxiety. This
new focus on the ego as a coping, self-directing part of our personality
came after Freud. For Freud, however, the great driving forces were in
the id--the unconscious sexual and destructive instincts. The ego was
merely "a rider of a spirited horse" who tried to have some control
over the animal instincts. The later "ego psychologists" also extended
the role of the ego beyond reducing anxiety and into a means of
mastering and enjoying life. Today the Cognitive theorists tend to
believe, again, that the ego--the rational mind--is in charge or, at
least, has the potential to make a substantial difference. Freud would
say, if he were here today, that most of psychology has repressed and
denied his disturbing insights into the powerful sexual, selfish, hostile,
and irrational nature of man, just as he predicted we would. Could he
be right? Are we denying our basic biological and innate drives? 
It is likely that each of us can sometimes recognize when we use
defense mechanisms. We can't detect every time, but by being very
familiar with the common defense mechanisms and by being vigilant,
we can investigate our possible use of defense mechanisms and keep
ourselves honest. Most of the time (not all, as we saw in denial) it is
helpful to stay in touch with reality. Awareness is the mark of a
healthy, adjusted person. Work on it. 
More recent experimental investigations of defenses
Almost all of the information about defense mechanisms mentioned
above comes from pre-W.W.II psychoanalysts. Just to illustrate how
"scientific" beliefs wax and wane, history shows that many academic
psychologists during the 70's and early 80's rejected the notion of
unconscious thoughts and, especially, Freud's notions of unconscious
ego defenses. Clinical psychologists, however, in contrast to
experimentalists, continued using the idea of defenses. Then in the
late 1980's, cognitive researchers began to repeatedly find ample
evidence for unconscious mental processes. For example, experimental
studies have shown that experiences we have no conscious memory of
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