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August 2010


By Jeffrey Lance Ph.D.

Here are some of the defenses we use to protect ourselves from vulnerability, that get in the way of intimacy and genuineness in our listening:


Projection can be defined as attributing to others one’s own unacceptable or unwanted thoughts and/or feelings/emotions.

Reaction formation:

Is a defense mechanism in which anxiety-producing or unacceptable/ painful emotions are replaced by their direct opposites.


Compensating for whatever we think are our weaknesses or inadequacies.


Withdrawal involves the removal of oneself from anything and everything that carries reminders of/ or is associated with painful or stressful thoughts and emotions.

Projective Identification :

Projection is unconscious. People are rarely aware that they are projecting onto others their own unpleasant characteristics and feelings. But, sometimes, the projected content is retained in the subject's consciousness. This creates a conflict. On the one hand, the person cannot admit that the emotions, traits, reactions, and behaviors that he/she so condemns in others are really his/hers. On the other hand, he/she can't help being conscious of this. He/she fails to erase from consciousness the painful realization that he/she is merely projecting. When we explain unpleasant feelings/emotions and unacceptable conduct as reactions to the recipient's behavior, "She made me do it!" we are using this defense.





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