Reaction Formation

Defense mechanisms are a big part of our everyday life, whether we are a client/patient or the art therapist. These mechanisms are used to protect ourselves from a stressful situations, uncomfortable instances, and threats. This list of defense mechanisms below are seen often in clients of all populations and ages in the field of Art Therapy (this is not a full list of ALL defense mechanisms.)

  1. Denial – the refusal to accept reality because it is too painful to be felt
    • A patient of a bad car accident getting the news they will not be able to walk again
  2. Regression – returning to an unhealthy mental state from before
    • a young child who has suffered from severe trauma returning to a misbehaving stage
  3. Displacement – acting on certain feelings/emotions & blaming something else for feeling that emotion
    • an older man who is angry with his job and workplace but taking it out on his family and blaming them for the anger
  4. Repression – unconsciously blocking out certain situations & emotions from trauma
    • a teenage girl blocking out the memory of her abusive parents
  5. Reaction Formation – converting negative thoughts in your head into the opposite
    • seeing someone you strongly dislike on campus and going out of your way to ask how they’re doing, how classes are going, and that you love their new haircut

One defense mechanism that I think a lot of people fall accustomed to is Reaction Formation. There is always a time and place to confess the stress you are going through, but reaction formation is a mechanism that acts like stress is not there or those negative feelings do not exist for a small amount of time. As my classmates and I were asked to create a representation of a mechanism of our choosing, more than just a few students created an artistic representation of reaction formation (see below!) I know I have found myself using reaction formation one too many times just to make sure I kept my emotions inside and bottled up. So if someone asks how you are and you’re angry/upset, it is okay to tell them lightly or if you interact with someone you are not too fond of, it is okay to avoid them.

Featured Image: [My reflection of reacton formation!]

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.