Ricky, Ronald, Raymond, Paul, Reed, Donald, and Shawn are best friends. In fact, these friends are unique in that unknowingly, each of their personalities reflects one of the seven defense mechanisms. It was not until a cold, windy day that this fact became something that would change the rest of their lives.
On that cold, windy day, Ricky, Ronald, Raymond, Paul, Reed, Donald, and Shawn had met up at a café to study for their upcoming AP Psychology test. Yet as they began to “study”, it became evident that they would not get anywhere by studying in such a large group. Instead, the group took this opportunity to simply talk. They talked about their grades, social life, childhood memories, food, and almost everything and anything they could have thought of.
Ricky was not having the greatest time of his life. He, for one, was determined to get some studying done because he really wanted to ace this test. Instead, he was stuck talking to Ronald and Raymond. Raymond eventually began talking to Paul and Ricky was left with Ronald. Ricky found it fit to strike up a conversation.
“How’s your coffee?” he asked.
Ronald took a sip of it. “It’s real good. I always enjoy chocolate lattes.”
Ricky nodded and sat there, tapping his glass. “I never enjoyed chocolate when I was younger,” he finally muttered.
Ronald glanced at Ricky until he hesitantly murmured “ ‘Course you didn’t.”
Ricky’s ears perked. What was that supposed to mean? “Are you trying to say something?” he asked.
“Well, no, not really. It’s just that you’re the worst liar I’ve known.”
“Hey, easy there. That’s a pretty wild accusation.” Ricky stared at Ronald waiting for a response. Finally, Ronald looked up and responded.
“You absolutely loved chocolate when you were younger. And I remember that so clearly because we had our biggest fights over a chocolate bar. You stole my chocolate bar that I had bought with my own money, and I was so mad at you after, that I didn’t talk to you for a whole week!”
Why didn’t Ricky remember this confrontation? Besides the fact this was most likely the least concerning moment of his life, Ricky actually represents the repression aspect of defense mechanisms. This involves pushing or banishing anxiety-arousing thoughts out of the conscious awareness. This is why Ricky didn’t remember his childhood conflict.
Ronald, on the other hand, was quite upset that Ricky did not remember their confrontation. In fact, he was so upset that he moved to a corner table away from everyone else and sulked there while sucking his thumb. Of course, the rest of the boys found this odd, but to Ronald this was perfectly normal as he represents regression. In regression, one retreats to an earlier, more infantile and comfortable stage of development, such as sucking a thumb.
Meanwhile, Raymond was having a great conversation with Paul. Unlike Ricky and Ronald’s conversation, their conversation was more appropriate for their age. They were talking about girls. Not any girl, however. They were talking about the cutest girl in their class, Sasha. It was obvious to everyone except Raymond that he had a huge crush on Sasha.
“So, Sasha’s kinda pretty, huh?” inquired Paul.
Raymond shrugged, sipping his coffee and then began to eat his muffin.
“Why don’t you ask her out?” Paul persisted.
“Look, Paul, Sasha’s cute and everything, but I kinda hate her guts. Her personality is horrible and she’s just not that great.”
Paul was perplexed, as he should have been, because it was clear that Raymond had a huge crush on Sasha. So why did he deny it?
Raymond represents reaction formation. In reaction formation, the ego unconsciously makes unacceptable impulses seem like the opposite, and we express the opposite of how we really feel. Raymond did this to hide his true feelings for Sasha. When he told Paul that he hated Sasha, it actually became “I actually really like Sasha and want to ask her out.”
Paul, however, also had a crush on Sasha, something no one else was aware of. So when Raymond told him that he did not have a crush on Sasha, Paul became excited.
“Dude, I know you don’t like Sasha or anything, but she told me that she has a huge crush on you” is what Paul ended up telling Raymond. But if Paul liked Sasha, why did he tell Raymond that Sasha had a crush on him?
Paul actually represents projection. Paul disguised impulses by attributing them to others. He took the feelings that his ego could not handle and thought that people would feel that way towards him. Hence when Paul told Raymond that Sasha has a crush on him, it actually meant that he (Paul) had a crush on Sasha. Neither Paul nor Raymond, however, had the slightest idea who Sasha liked (it actually turned out that Sasha liked Dean, but that’s a whole different story).
After Ricky, Ronald, Raymond, and Paul, we are left with Reed, Donald, and Shawn. Unlike their peers, Reed, Donald, and Shawn were having a thorough discussion about the universities they applied to. All three had applied to Bidani University. Reed had just found out that he had been rejected entry, and Donald and Shawn were comforting him.
“It’s alright, man,” said Donald. “It’s not a big deal.”
“Yeah, you’re right,” agreed Reed. “It’s not that great of a college anyway. I’m not even sure if I ever wanted to go there in the first place. I mean, it’s way too expensive and even though it has the best business program in the world, it’s too far away anyway.”
Why was Reed exhibiting this behavior? It is because Reed represents rationalization. In rationalization, one unconsciously generates self-justifying explanations to hide the truth from oneself. One may come up with a beneficial result of an undesirable occurrence.
Though Donald felt bad for his friend, he was also satisfied that he had done better than Reed. Although Donald didn’t know if he made it into Bidani University or not, he was almost one hundred percent positive he did, considering the fact that he did better in school than Reed and even got a higher SAT score. Donald decided to check his e-mail one last time to see if he had received an e-mail from the university. Sure enough, at the top of his inbox read “Bidani University-Donald Brown.” Filled with excitement, Donald quickly read his e-mail. It wasn’t, however, the letter he had been hoping for. It was a rejection letter!
“Hey Donald, are you alright?” asked Shawn.
“I’m fine,” grumbled Donald.
“Are you sure man, ‘cause you look like you’re really upset about something. Do you need to open up?” offered Reed.
Suddenly, Donald couldn’t take it any longer. He pushed back his chair in anger and stood up.
“Did you not hear me the first time?” he growled. “I’M. JUST. FINE!” Donald’s new iPhone flew from his hand and hit the counter, shattering the screen. Donald then stormed out after kicking the chair over and shoving someone else out of his way.
Donald expressed this type of behavior because he represents displacement. Displacement involves diverting aggressive impulses toward an object or person to make the aggression less threatening or more psychologically acceptable. Donald knew that physically assaulting the administrations officer at the university would be unacceptable, and instead settled for throwing his iPhone, toppling the chair, and pushing a stranger.
Shawn realized that if the university had already informed Donald about his rejection, Shawn might be able to see if he got accepted. Although Shawn was not surprised to see he had been rejected, he was still extremely frustrated. He had received an even higher SAT score than both Reed and Donald and even was valedictorian! Yet, instead of taking out his anger on objects, Shawn left the coffeehouse, drove home, and began studying intensely for his Psychology exam.
Shawn represents sublimation. It is the healthiest of the defense mechanisms. Shawn used sublimation by channeling his frustration towards a different goal: studying. In fact, he would be the only one to ace his Psychology test. He also would be the one to inform his friends about the seven defense mechanisms, something they would have also known if they had actually studied that one cold and windy day (upon finding out about his defense mechanism, Donald took his anger out on his wall, which did not end well).