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Possible Benefits of Sublimation as a Defense Mechanism

Proposed Question: I was thinking about sublimation. How might this defense mechanism actually be beneficial rather than have a negative impact over time?

Solution: Examples of the use of sublimation with high-functioning individuals, gauging the use of sublimation based on personality organization, and the healthy and unhealthy use of defense mechanisms.

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Originally and following psychoanalytic theory, sublimation was considered to be one of the "healthiest" of defenses.

Freud considered it the defense which allowed us to express socially unacceptable drives in a socially acceptable way. It was a means for cathartic release without all of the sex, aggression, and death, that characterized Freud's theories.

Although sublimation is not discussed much today, coming from an art therapy background, I see the use of sublimation pretty frequently in my work. It is relatively a similar concept to Freud's original definition of it, too. For a non-art therapy example, say a client enters the office and sits on the couch and says, "I'm so pissed at my boss!" There are many different ways to approach this, do you just go over some relaxation techniques and call it day? Do you have her try to identify the actions that led to her response of anger? Do you have her try to reframe her perspective on her boss? ...

Solution Summary

In this solution, the author provides material to stimulate discussion regarding the possible benefits of the defense mechanism, sublimation. It is meant to challenge the student's negative conceptions regarding the use of this defense mechanism. Healthy and unhealthy use of higher order defenses are briefly discussed.