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Psychology and Mental Health

Chicago, USA
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Protecting the self: Defense mechanisms in action

Author(s): Cramer P

Abstract

Defense mechanisms color our perceptions and behavior throughout life, helping us maintain psychological equilibrium and preserve self-esteem. Yet excessive use of defense mechanisms, or use of immature defenses, also can point to psychological disturbance. From leading investigator Phebe Cramer, this volume provides a theoretically grounded examination of defense mechanisms and their role in both normal development and psychopathology. Integrating the latest research methodologies and empirical findings--and shedding new light on longstanding questions and controversies--this is a timely, eminently practical reference and text. Following an introductory section, the book delves into three common defense mechanisms: denial, projection, and identification. Many lucid examples illustrate what these phenomena look like in the everyday lives of children and adults. Analyzing extensive data from her own and others' research, the author addresses such compelling questions as how defensive strategies change across the lifespan, the impact of personality and gender variables, and the ways different defenses are mobilized in situations of trauma and stress. Clinical implications are explored, including the links between defense mechanisms and psychopathology and the extent to which they can be modified in psychotherapy. The concluding section focuses on the challenges of assessing processes that take place largely outside of conscious awareness. Detailed information is provided on the author's Defense Mechanism Manual (DMM), which is used in conjunction with the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT). Other evidence-based instruments are also considered, and their applications, strengths, and limitations are discussed. Authoritative and scholarly yet engaging, this book will be read with interest by clinical and personality psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, and other practitioners, as well as researchers working in the areas of psychotherapy, personality and personality assessment, and psychopathology. It will serve as a highly informative supplemental text in advanced undergraduate- and graduate-level courses.

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