Classic Defense Mechanisms: The Good and the Bad, Part 2

Four tips for pinpointing and dealing with destructive defense mechanisms.

As a follow-up to my last blog, here are some helpful tips for recognizing defense mechanisms, and strategies to help counter them:

1. Keep a journal. Set aside time each day to write about your feelings. It will help you gain clarity and context.

2. Try to identify the feelings you might be avoiding by using a particular defense mechanism. Ask yourself, “Do I avoid expressing my emotions because I’m more comfortable with facts (intellectualization), or do I think about communicating with others more than I actually communicate (fantasizing)?”

3. Imagine what you can do to address emotions you’re avoiding. Someone using idealization as a defense may be shielding herself from feelings of loss or disappointment. One way to cope is to learn how to mourn losses in ways that are positive rather than destructive. Examples include confiding in a trusted friend, joining a support group, or talking to a mental-health professional.

4. Review your feelings journal at the end of each week. It’s good for processing and understanding your emotions and thoughts. Review how it helped you to gain a better understanding of yourself, bringing latent emotions to a place where you can intelligently act on them.

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About This Blog

Dr. Paula Durlofsky is a psychologist in private practice in Bryn Mawr, whose practice focuses on psychological issues affecting individuals, couples, and families.

Dr. Durlofsky treats a wide variety of disorders and has a special interest in issues affecting women. She is affiliated with Bryn Mawr Hospital, Lankenau Hospital, the Women's Resource Center in Wayne, and the Psychoanalytic Center of Philadelphia. In addition to her practice, Dr. Durlofsky is a workshop facilitator and blogger. 

If you have questions or feedback for Dr. Durlofsky, please don't hesitate to reach out to her via email at

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