Defense Mechanism of the Week: Intellectualization

Intellectualization occurs when reasoning and logic are used unconsciously to control intellectualization as defenseinternal conflict and emotional anxiety. People who intellectualize talk about feelings in a way that strikes the listener as emotionless. For example, if a man talks about “feeling rage” since he found out that his wife cheated on him in a detached and casual tone. It is as if they were talking about the weather report.

There are advantages to intellectualization-it shows considerable ego strength to be able to think rationally about a situation fraught with emotional meaning. For those that tend to over-depend on intellectualization, psychotherapy is intended to help these individuals process their personal experiences with more emotional affect and acknowledgment of their feelings. For those that cannot leave this defense mechanism behind, they tend to have limited enjoyment of playful conversations, artistic expression, sex and adult play, limiting their full enjoyment of the human experience.

If you suffer from depression or are interested marriage counseling or psychotherapy and live in the Newport Beach, Irvine, or Orange County area, please contact Jennifer De Francisco, MPA, MSW, LCSW at (949) 251-8797.

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How to Stop a Temper Tantrum

Nothing brings dread and helplessness into the heart of a toddler’s parent quite like a tantrum: they seem to happen at the most inopportune moments (like in public), and parents feel powerless to stop these outbursts that seem to be absolutely irrational and without cause. Normally between the ages of 2 and 3, most children will go through a period of tantruming-very few do not and it is a normal part of childhood development. Until recently, most parents thought this was something that they simply had to endure until the child outgrew the phase.

Fortunately, we now have the power to stop them. As it turns out, tantrums have a predictable pattern to them. Scientists have known for quite some time that temper tantrums tend to have two phases, the first phase which tends to be predominated by angry feelings, with screaming, hitting, throwing things, and kicking. The second phase is predominated by sadness with crying, whining, whimpering, and the seeking of comfort from caretakers.

What scientists have discovered recently, however, is that there is sadness and anger in both phases of the tantrum and that they are going on simultaneously. The key to controlling the tantrum is to abbreviate the angry reaction and encourage the child to seek out comfort from their caretaker. The trick to getting the tantrum to end is to get the child past the peaks of anger. Once the child is past the anger, what is left is sadness, and at that point, they seek out comfort and love.

The quickest way past the anger? DO NOTHING. This can be the hardest thing for the parent to do, since the child seems so out of control and parents often feel that they must do SOMETHING to help ameliorate the situation. Experts state, however, that even asking questions to the child, such as, “how can I help you?” or “what do you need?” simply prolong the angry phase of a tantrum.

Remember, DO NOTHING when the child is angry, and then provide comfort when sadness predominates.

Jennifer De Francisco, MSW, MSW, LCSW, offers infidelity counseling, couples counseling, psychotherapy, and counseling for depression in the Newport Beach, Irvine, and Orange County area at (949) 251-8797.

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What is Ego Psychology?

Newport Beach, Orange County- With the publication of The Ego and The Id (1932), Freud introduced his structural model of the mind consisting of three parts- the Ego, the Superego, and the Id.  Years later, theorists began examining the processes of the unconscious, with emphasis on understanding the processes of the Ego.  This school of thought is known as Ego Psychology. Ego psychologists were less interested in the deeply unconscious material of the Id, and more concerned with the wishes, fantasies, and fears that are closer to our consciousness and could be accessible if the defensive functions of the patient’s ego were worked on in psychotherapy.  Ego psychologists also augmented the work of Freud  by discovering the autonomous, conflict free functions of the Ego, such as reality testing and memory.

Unlike the Id, the Ego is a set of functions that adapt to life’s demands, finding ways that are acceptable within one’s family to handle the Id’s strivings.  The Ego is developed throughout a person’s lifetime but patterns are often set in childhood.  With the structural theory of Ego Psychology, theorists have a new way of understanding pathology, namely that the defenses that may be adaptive to childhood circumstances are maladaptive in adulthood. Some unconscious defensive processes include repression, regression, and denial.  We all use these defense mechanisms at times, as all defense mechanisms can be adaptive and maladaptive, depending on the character style of the person.

Clinically speaking, the Ego psychologist helps the patient strengthen their Ego so that they can better cope with pressures from the Id, Superego, and society in general.  Another clinical observation hailing from the Ego Psychology movement is the idea that psychological health involved not only having mature defenses but also being able to use a variety of defensive processes.  Defense mechanisms arise to combat anxiety; if an individual only uses denial and projection to manage their anxious feelings, for example, one can be said to have Ego Rigidity. The purpose of therapy is to allow the patient to have several defense mechanisms in his or her arsenal when emotional conflict arises. Throughout the psychotherapeutic process, ego strength should improve, meaning a person’s capacity to accept reality even when it is extremely unpleasant.

If you are interesting in exploring counseling or the psychotherapeutic process, please contact me, Jennifer De Francisco, MPA, MSW, LCSW.

Servicing Irvine, Newport Beach, and all of Orange County.

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What is Self-Psychology?

In the 1960’s, psychologists began to notice that there were a group of patients that were not well described by current Freudian, Cognitive Behavioral, or Ego Psychology models. These patients seemed empty and devoid of internal objects, and came to therapy looking for some meaning in their lives. On the surface, they appeared to be doing well; dig a little deeper and there was a nagging sense of needing to be validated and accepted. They had little sense of who they were and what they felt, thought, or valued. They did not seem mental “sick” as it would be traditionally understood, but they experienced very little pleasure and suffered from true emotional emptiness.

Began and championed by psychoanalyst Heinz Kohut, Self-Psychology posits that most psychopathology originates from failures in empathy from a person’s primary caregiver. For some narcissistically oriented people, because of this mis-attunement in early childhood, they do not have the objects of their parents internalized, leading to emptiness and depression. According to Kohut, empathy and mirroring heal the narcissistically oriented patient and over time this creates self-objects that were once not there. Empathic attunement of the therapist to the patient is an absolutely necessary component of successful therapy.

If you are interested in depression counseling or marital counseling in the Newport Beach, Irvine or Orange County area, please contact Jennifer De Francisco, LCSW at (949) 251-8797.

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Defense Mechanism of The Week: Withdrawal

What is it? When an infant is overstimulated or distressed, it will often fall asleep. Adult versions of the same process can be observed in people who retreat from social or interpersonal situations when there is conflict, going into an internal fantasy world instead of relating to others. Abusing chemicals to alter one’s consciousness can also be considered a kind of withdrawal. Withdrawal can also be labeled an “autistic fantasy”, or a tendency to shrink from personal contact. Some people may generate a rich internal fantasy life, since they regard the external world as problematic; furthermore, when someone responds to this way to anxiety to the exclusion of other ways of coping, he or she could be described as schizoid.

Believe it or not, there are advantages, at least at times, to withdrawal. When an individual is attempting to escape from reality through withdrawal, there is not much of an attempt to distort it. Since people with schizoid tendencies are usually very sensitive, although they have difficulty expressing their own feelings, they are usually very adept at understanding what others are experiencing and what is happening in their environment. On the healthy end of the spectrum, one will find philosophers, artists, and scientists who have the capacity to stand aside from ordinary convention.

Unfortunately, withdrawal is more often harmful than not. The most obvious disadvantage of using this defense mechanism is that it disengages a person from living life, meaning that there is limited participation in interpersonal problem solving. People who are involved with individuals who depend on withdrawal are often frantic to get an emotional reaction out of them or they are exasperated due to their inability to connect.

If you are interested in marriage counseling, psychodynamic therapy, or advice for depression in Newport Beach, Irvine, or the Orange County area, please contact Jennifer De Francisco, LCSW at (949) 251-8797.

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