Identifying Defense Mechanisms

Instructions: Identify the defense mechanism illustrated in the following examples. Choose from the list below 




Reaction Formation




  1. Mark never stops ranting about the dangers of pornography. He gives endless examples of smut he has seen in movies and on television, and spends a lot of time hanging around porno houses to get even more examples.
  2. Chad always teases and annoys his kid brother Nathan after he himself is bullied and picked on by his older brother Sam.
  3. Judy, who has always been aggressive and fiercely competitive, becomes captain of her college soccer team.
  4. Diane, who keeps accusing Sam of being in love with her, probably has secret desires for Sam.
  5. Despite overwhelming evidence and a murder conviction, Jay's mother refused to believe that her son could actually take the life of another human being.
  6. Brett, who is extremely hard to convince in arguments, complains that all of his friends are stubborn.
  7. Even as a child Lisa was always impulsive and engaged in risky behavior. Perhaps not surprisingly, she grew up to become a famous race car driver.
  8. Roger, a major league pitcher, often "beans" (i.e., hits with a pitch) the next batter after someone has hit a home run on him.
  9. After an unsuccessful attempt at a sexual relationship, Pete began devoting most of his energies toward church activities.
  10. Wendy was embarrassed because somehow she kept forgetting to keep her appointments with the dentist.
  11. Amanda broke off her relationship with Jack, but Jack still talks and acts as if they are still dating.
  12. After her new baby sister came home from the hospital, her parents discovered that Susie had dismembered her favorite doll.
  13. Linda, who has had many extramarital affairs, begins to accuse her husband Dan of being unfaithful.
  14. Larry began wetting his pants again after the birth of his baby brother.
  15. Todd, who is unsure about his own sexuality, frequently make homophobic and gay-bashing remarks.
  16. Two years after breaking off his relationship with Julie, Rick fails to even recognize her at a cocktail party.
  17. At the first sign of any problems or trouble in his life, Bill immediately runs to his parents to bail him out.
  18. After receiving a low grade on a an exam, Phil slams the door as he leaves the classroom.
  19. George feels that his younger son, Gary, is unattractive and not very smart.  He accuses his wife of picking on Gary and favoring their other son.
  20. Many people who were interred in concentration camps were unable to recall events that happened in the camp during their internment.
  21. Lucy dresses in provocative clothes and uses suggestive language although she fears she is unattractive and she really isn't very interested in sex.
  22. Mark behaves like a stereotypical "he-man" but he is actually anxious and insecure about his gender identity.
  23. Marie wears those youthful clothes and fab hairdos.  She apparently can't see that she doesn't look 30, or even 40 anymore.
  24. Trixie was homesick and anxious when she moved into the dormitory and started her first year in college.  She began to sleep with her old teddy bear  again because it made her feel better.
  25. Jack has had a really hard day at the office.  He is particularly angry at his boss, Carlotta, because he found out today that he had been passed over for a promotion.  When Jack gets home, his wife, Joellen, asks him what he would like for dinner and he yells at her for "bothering him with stupid questions."
  26. Ms. Norton wrote a letter to her mother inviting her to spend the winter with them even though Mr. Norton objected to having his mother-in-law "picking at him" all winter.  Ms. Norton gave the letter to Mr. Norton to mail and he carried it in his coat pocket for almost a month before Ms. Norton found it.  He claimed he "just forgot".
  27. Patricia has a lot of anger at the way her verbally and physically abusive father treated her during her childhood.   She has never confronted him about this.  However, she has written a best-selling novel in which parent-child conflict is a major theme.
  28. John has a lot of unconscious hospitality towards his father, but he is outwardly very affectionate toward him and tells other people that he and his father have a wonderful relationship.
  29. Kay takes advantage of other people when she thinks she can get away with it.  People rarely take advantage of Kay because it is her belief that others will cheat you if they can, and she makes it her business to see they don't get an opportunity.
  30. Most people who know Jonathan know that he is gay.  However, his mother stopped speaking to her best friend because the friend told her that "parents should recognize and accept homosexuality in their children".
  31. During an argument, Sally told her husband that he was sexually inadequate and probably a latent homosexual.  When he mentioned this several years later, she didn't recall ever having said such things.
  32. Whenever Ann and Tim have an argument, Ann goes to her parents' house and tearfully tells them how mean Tim is to her.  Her parents comfort her and assure her that they know the problem is not the fault of "their little girl".
  33. Michael is probably the biggest gossip in the office, but he frequently accuses others of talking too much and spreading rumors.
  34. After a fight with her best friend, Penelope finds herself driving too fast and cutting off other drivers.