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Shockxey, F.M. (1916). Clinical Cases Exhibiting Unconscious Defense Reactions. Psychoanal. Rev., 3(2):141-160.

(1916). Psychoanalytic Review, 3(2):141-160

Clinical Cases Exhibiting Unconscious Defense Reactions

Francis M. Shockxey, M.D.

The work of the Psychoanalytic School in the interpretation of human conduct has shown that when the ego is unable to adapt to environmental conditions so that certain various experiences at the biological levels are involved, or when certain fundamental demands are to be met which are contrary to the conscious ethics of the psyche, it then makes certain unconscious adaptations. These mechanisms serve a double purpose in that they permit the psyche to gratify certain unconscious needs, and at the same time prevent a conscious recognition of these needs together with the mental conflict which might ensue if these needs should become conscious. These various unconscious defense mechanisms have been too often described theoretically to need further elucidation. However, clinical pictures of these various mechanisms have not been very abundant. The following cases serve to show not only a variety of defenses by the unconscious, but also point out that unconscious defenses may be arranged into certain groups depending upon the degree of emotional content as an etiologic factor.

Amnesia as a Defense Against an Unpleasant Memory

Case No. I.—A young medical student when being examined could not remember the name of the Pasteur treatment, although able to describe it in detail. Analysis revealed that he always thought of the pronunciation of Pasteur as Pasture. Thinking of pasture recalled to his mind a field, field recalled to his mind a man named Field, with whom he had the day before been involved in a difficulty. This had worried him that morning and he had gone to his examination with a determination to forget the entire matter. Here the forgetting of the name became a defense against the distraction of his mind from the examination by the thoughts of the unpleasant affair of the day before.

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