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What Is Sublimation and How Can It Help Me?

When you’re going through treatment, you may find yourself struggling with intense urges and feelings. Resisting can be difficult. In these cases, you can consciously use defense mechanisms like sublimation.

Defense Mechanisms

Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, coined the term “defense mechanism” in an 1894 paper titled “The Neuro-Psychoses of Defence.” The term describes mental strategies that help reduce anxiety or stress. Common defense mechanisms include:

  • Projection: Shifting a negative aspect of yourself onto someone else
  • Denial: Refusing to accept reality as it is
  • Rationalization: Justifying poor behaviors with no intention to change them
  • Humor: Making jokes to avoid uncomfortable situations and emotions
  • Displacement: Transferring your emotions from the correct person to another
  • Sublimation: Channeling an unacceptable feeling or impulse into a socially acceptable behavior

Defense mechanisms are meant to protect you; however, they can inadvertently alter your sense of reality. As such, it’s important to recognize how and when you use them. Many people use defense mechanisms without realizing it. When done intentionally, some defense mechanisms, like sublimation, can help you.

Using Sublimation to Your Advantage

If you’re looking to intentionally use a defense mechanism for stress reduction, you should look at the hierarchy of defense mechanisms. The hierarchy classifies common defense mechanisms into seven levels, separated by helpfulness.

If you’ve ever listened to music when upset, you’ve engaged in sublimation. Sublimation is considered a level-seven, “mature” defense mechanism, meaning it’s rooted in reality and considered productive. This makes sublimation an ideal strategy, especially if you are coping with mental illness.

Your mental illness may cause distressing impulses, thoughts, and emotions. When you experience an intrusive thought, you can channel it into something else. You can do art, exercise, music, or even talk to someone. Additionally, you can perform self-care acts when overwhelming emotions strike. If you have a self-destructive impulse, you can shift that energy into treatment.

Ultimately, sublimation can prove advantageous. The symptoms of mental illness can become more manageable when you use this defense mechanism. You’ll also have some control over your mind, a feeling that can increase your drive.

Throughout your life, you’ll engage in defense mechanisms. This usually occurs without your awareness. You can learn to recognize and alter defense mechanisms, however. Sublimation is a healthy, mature coping mechanism that can help you manage your mental illness symptoms. At The Guest House, we can assist you in deconstructing unhelpful coping mechanisms. Then, we can give you the space to practice sublimation. Our holistic therapies offer you activities to use during sublimation in place of your intrusive thoughts, emotions, and impulses. When you’re ready for help, call The Guest House at (855) 483-7800.