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Implications of Freud and Psychoanalysis for Women

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I am doing a critical examination of women and psychoanalysis. Any suggestions? An article or other information would help to get me started. I also need a full description of defense mechanisms and how they impact women. Thank you.

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Solution Summary

This solution examines Freud's theory and psychoanalysis as it applies to women, including the defense mechanisms. Response updated on March 2, 2009.

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I located an article to consider presented below, which should help get you started. Much of Freud's theory is rejected today, although some ideas such as defense mechanisms and transference and counter-transference are still important concepts in therapy.

Defense Mechanisms (excerpt)

Because of anxiety provoking demands created by the id, superego, and reality, the ego has developed a number of defense mechanisms to cope with anxiety. Although we may knowingly use these mechanisms, in many cases these defenses occur unconsciously and work to distort reality.

While all defense mechanisms can be unhealthy, they can also be adaptive and allow us to function normally. The greatest problems arise when defense mechanisms are overused in order to avoid dealing with problems.

There are a number of defense mechanisms that have been described by researchers. Sigmund Freud's daughter, Anna Freud described ten different defense mechanisms used by the ego.

1. Denial

Denial is probably one of the best known defense mechanisms, used often to describe those who seem unable to face reality or admit and obvious truth (i.e. "He's in denial."). Denial is an outright refusal to admit or recognize that something has occurred or is currently occurring. Drug addicts or alcoholics often deny that they have a problem, while victims of traumatic events may deny that the event ever occurred.

Denials functions to protect the ego from things that the individual cannot cope with. While this may save us from anxiety or pain, denial also requires a substantial investment of energy. Because of this, other defenses are also used to keep these unacceptable feelings from consciousness.

2. Repression

Repression is another well-known defense mechanism. Repression acts to keep information out of conscious awareness. However, these memories don't just disappear; they continue to influence our behavior. For example, a person who has repressed memories of abuse suffered as a child may later have difficulty forming relationships.

Sometimes we do this consciously by forcing the unwanted information out of our awareness, which is known as suppression, but it is usually believed to occur unconsciously.

3. Displacement

If you have ever had a bad day at work, then gone home and taken out your frustration on family and friends, you have experienced the ego defense mechanism of displacement. Displacement involves taking out our frustrations, feelings, and impulses on people or objects that are less threatening. Displaced aggression is a common example of this defense mechanism. Rather than express our anger in ways that could lead to negative consequences (like arguing with our boss), we instead express our anger towards a person or object that poses no threat (such as our spouses, children, or pets).

4. Sublimation

Sublimation is a defense mechanism that allows us to act out unacceptable impulses by converting these behaviors into a more acceptable form. For example, a person experiencing extreme anger might take up kick boxing as a means of venting frustration. Freud believed that sublimation was a sign of maturity that allows people to function normally in socially acceptable ways.

5. Projection

Projection is a defense mechanism that involves taking our own unacceptable qualities or feelings and ascribing them to other people. For example, if you have a strong dislike for someone, you might instead believe that he or she does not like you. Projection functions to allow the expression of the desire or impulse, but in a way that the ego cannot recognize, therefore reducing anxiety.

6. Intellectualization

Intellectualization works to reduce anxiety by thinking about events in a cold, clinical way. This ...

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