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Psychoanalysis as a type of therapy

Defense Mechanisms

Freud believed these three parts of the mind are in constant conflict because each part has a different primary goal. Sometimes, when the conflict is too much for a person to handle, his or her ego may engage in one or many defense mechanisms to protect the individual.

These defense mechanisms include:

  • Repression: The ego pushes disturbing or threatening thoughts out of one’s consciousness;
  • Denial: The ego blocks upsetting or overwhelming experiences from awareness, causing the individual to refuse to acknowledge or believe what is happening;
  • Projection: The ego attempts to solve discomfort by attributing the individual’s unacceptable thoughts, feelings, and motives to another person;
  • Displacement: The individual satisfies an impulse by acting on a substitute object or person in a socially unacceptable way (e.g., releasing frustration directed toward your boss on your spouse instead);
  • Regression: As a defense mechanism, the individual moves backward in development in order to cope with stress (e.g., an overwhelmed adult acting like a child);
  • Sublimation: Similar to displacement, this defense mechanism involves satisfying an impulse by acting on a substitute but in a socially acceptable way (e.g., channeling energy into work or a constructive hobby) (McLeod, 2013).

The 5 Psychosexual Stages of Development

Finally, one of the most enduring concepts associated with Freud is his psychosexual stages. Freud proposed that children develop in five distinct stages, each focused on a different source of pleasure:

  1. First Stage: Oral—the child seeks pleasure from the mouth (e.g., sucking);
  2. Second Stage: Anal—the child seeks pleasure from the anus (e.g., withholding and expelling feces);
  3. Third Stage: Phallic—the child seeks pleasure from the penis or clitoris (e.g., masturbation);
  4. Fourth Stage: Latent—the child has little or no sexual motivation;
  5. Fifth Stage: Genital—the child seeks pleasure from the penis or vagina