Week 7: Reaction Formation and Displacement
One structure of our personality that Sigmund Freud examines is our ego. Our ego is our self-concept; it is the conscious awareness of who we are. Throughout our everyday existence we strive to make sure that we look the best that we can in all that we do. We strive to preserve our self-concept or what Freud calls our ego integrity. To help us cope with situations when our ego integrity is treatened, we employ what Freud calls defense mechanisms. That is, they are designed to defend our ego.

This time we examine two such defense mechanisms. The first is called reaction formation. This is when we act or say things that are opposite to our real feelings and ideas. For example, a boy may really like a girl but act aloof and disinterested when around her. The parents of a child from an unwanted pregnancy may become over-indulgent on their child. Your friend tells you something that really hurts your feelings but when they ask you about it you claim that it's no big deal. These are all examples of reaction formation.

The second defense mechanism is called displacement. This is when sometime takes their frustrations or anger out on someone who is not the source or cause of the frustration. For example, a husband who is having a difficult time at work may yell at his wife over a minor irritation.

These are only two of over a dozen different defense mechanisms employed to preserve ego integrity. They are devices we all use at one time or another, but taken to extremes, they can illustrate abnormal behavior.

Our first story deals with reaction formation. Be warned that both of these stories this are quite sad and show how callous or savage individuals can be when extending defense mechanisms to extremes. The typical symptoms of reaction formation are:
  • behaving the opposite of how one feels
  • saying things that are opposite to what one believes

There is no audio case study this selection for reaction formation.

    1. Describe how Tobias Mindernickel dresses when he goes for a walk.
    2. Describe Tobias Mindernickel's physical features.
    3. Mann writes, "It may sound strange, but there seemed to be missing in him the natural superiority with which the normal, perceptive individual looks out upon the phenomenal world." What does he mean by this?
    4. What did Tobias do when one of the children was hurt while they were taunting him? What was the long term effect of this on how the children and the community treated him?
    5. Why were people laughing at Tobias when he was walking away after purchasing his dog?
    6. How does Tobias feel about Esau? How does he treat Esau when the dog disobeys him?
    7. At one point, Tobias says to Esau, "You see, you are my only...my only....." He never finishes the sentence. What was he going to say? What would he say that?
    8. How does Tobias meet the criteria for reaction formation in this story?
    9. Why do you think Tobias acted as he did to Esau throughout the story?

Our second story involves the defense mechanism of displacement. The typical symptoms of displacement are:

  • anger and hostility toward someone or something that is not the cause of the anger
  • a temporary inability to control of one's rational thinking ability
  • a temporary inability to control of one's behaviors, typically striking out physically from anger
  • a temporary inability to discuss things calmly and rationally

There is no audio case study this selection for displacement.

  • Counterparts is already included in the download with Tobias Mindernickel.
  • Answer the following questions. Title these "Counterparts Questions" (worth 5 points each):
    1. What did the man in the story do to make him "full of smouldering anger and revengefulness?"
    2. Where was the man's wife when he got home? Who greeted him when he got home?
    3. What did the man do to his little boy? What was the reason for this action?
    4. How does this man meet the criteria for displacement?

    When you've finished paste your work into an e-mail titled "Week 7 Homework." Then e-mail your work to me at aeaptl@gmail.com.

Week 7 homework is to be completed by 12:00 pm
Monday, April 13
for full credit. It will accepted after that date for half credit.

When e-mailing your work, be sure to paste your work INTO your e-mail.
Do NOT include your work as an attachment.

This is a reminder the midterm exam is Monday, March 30
at 3:30 pm in room 146/101 at LHHS.
Lesson Copyright ©2009 Clay Sisman