Reaction Formation

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Reaction Formation: taking the opposite belief because the true belief causes anxiety or discomfort.

Reaction Formation (German: Reaktionsbildung) is a Ego Defense Mechanism in which emotions and impulses which are anxiety-producing or perceived to be unacceptable are mastered by exaggeration (hypertrophy) of the directly opposing tendency. The reaction formations belong to Level III of neurotic defense mechanisms, which also include Intellectualization, Dissociation, Displacement and Repression.

The concept of reaction formation has been used to explain responses to external threats as well as internal anxieties. In the phenomenon described as Stockholm Syndrome, a hostage or kidnap victim 'falls in love' with the feared and hated person who has complete power over them. Similarly paradoxical reports exist of powerless and vulnerable inmates of Nazi camps creating 'favourites' among the guards and even collecting objects discarded by them. The mechanism of reaction formation is often characteristic of obsessional neuroses. When this mechanism is overused, especially during the formation of the ego, it can become a permanent character trait. This is often seen in those with obsessional character and obsessive personality disorders. This does not imply that its periodic usage is always obsessional, but that it can lead to obsessional behavior.[1]

Ego Defense Mechanism

As one learns how to refocus one’s thoughts, one prevents overwhelming states of emotion from triggering impulsive behaviors and angry reactions. As one develops strong impulse control they are learning a form of ego discipline through applied patience. If we check in and find that we do not like what we may be feeling, we can learn better the reasons for that by further shifting into the observer mode. In our community, we call that process of observing as shifting from identifying with a thought or feeling by moving ourselves into the compassionate witness. As a Compassionate Witness we have no judgment of thoughts or feelings, we hold no judgment of what we are observing in the external, we only observe those thoughts and feelings in our self and others. When we can fully observe through our own Compassionate Witness, we then become neutral and centered. Then, we can immediately find relief from our inner anxiety, fears and a host of other thought distortions. This process is key to shifting Ego Defense Mechanisms, thought addiction tendency and releasing the anxiety or fear of feeling emotional depth or pain. By continually using an ego defense mechanism to avoid facing the source causation of the anxiety or deeply rooted fear, (which is unresolved pain or trauma) we are only perpetuating the mental looping which uses denial of the truth in order to avoid feeling pain or discomfort. [2]


References

See Also

Doublespeak

Denial

Confirmation Bias