Sublimation, a socially acceptable defense mechanism

Alexander Pearson
Sublimation, a socially acceptable defense mechanism

The defense mechanisms of the ego in Psychoanalysis provide the facility to develop strategies to face the conflict between the three psychic instances: the ego, the id and the superego; between what is "wanted" and what is "should be done", they have the function of using the psychological energy that arises from the intrapsychic conflict in other more practical, positive, objective and effective activities of the self such as: science, sports, art and religion, among others.

It should be noted that when a defense acquires a lot of control over the self, it partially reduces or disables its ability to be flexible and adapt to life changes, with the physical and psychological consequences that this entails..


  • What is sublimation within Psychoanalysis?
  • Defenses of the Self
    • Conclution
    • Bibliographic references

What is sublimation within Psychoanalysis?

Sublimation occurs when repressed motives and feelings are redirected in the direction of socially accepted and valued channels or objects, so it depends a lot on the sociocultural context of the particular person, as well as other factors. With it, libido reaches satisfaction, since it is about the subject's relationship with pleasure directly.

"It is a psychoanalytic term that describes the unconscious process of the id, through which the libido is desexualized and channeled towards other activities." Genovard Roselló

By using sublimation as a defense, psychological energy is linked that could be used in more effective and convenient activities for the self. Sigmund Freud said that: "sublimation produces the satisfaction of the drive".

When the self cannot reduce feelings and emotions, by rational means, and cannot tolerate intrapsychic conflict, the self could be invaded by anxiety. Sometimes the result is a nervous breakdown and anxiety crisis, so it is suggested that they take psychotherapy so that they can learn strategies to manage them properly and work with these conflicts. The person uses the tools available to protect himself, Sigmund Freud said in this regard, that sublimation serves as a socially acceptable escape valve, and that it comes from excess sexual energy and aggressiveness.

Defenses of the Self

The most archaic defenses of the personality such as repression and denial, among others, persist when the self cannot develop adequately, since much of its energy is consumed by these mechanisms, thus causing a vicious circle; From that position, defenses cannot be abandoned because the self is or is perceived as insufficient to face a situation in an adaptive way. It is distinguished from primitive defense mechanisms, since they do not channel or focus that drive on objectives that can help the person to have relief in their anguish or conflicts in convenient ways.

The self is forced to grow and mature constantly with the experiences of life, each problem and challenge, represents an opportunity to extract the best of them and learn, however difficult it may be and when it does it that way, it indicates a healthy development of the self. Therefore, it is important to provide children with a series of experiences that match their ability to adapt to the environment..

They can be assigned, even the smallest, tasks at home according to their abilities and their stage of development, this makes them grow as collaborative, constructive people, and contributes to the formation of good habits. Doing everything for them disables them to carry out activities autonomously. Freud said around this that: "At no time can dangers and risks be so great as to incapacitate the child, or so weak as not to serve as a stimulus".

Melanie Klein, stated that: "sublimation is a tendency to repair and restore the good object, previously damaged by destructive drives." Using this ego defense, you can face stress, anxiety, as well as the threats, dangers and challenges that life imposes every day in healthy ways..


The defenses of the self act as protective armor, when one acquires a lot of influence and dominates the self, it reduces its flexibility and adaptability to face the challenges of daily life. During childhood, the risks and the demands of existence, it is advisable that they be small, and include more complex challenges through the years of growth, according to their stages of development, so the self will have more possibilities to use mechanisms more adaptable and convenient defense systems such as sublimation, as long as it is focused on positive activities, where the person can channel their drives and instincts towards other elements or activities that are more convenient for their development and that are considered more acceptable in their context. Social. Therefore, it represents a “mature” mechanism, which channels the energy produced in ways that contribute to the balance and development of the person..

Libidinal desires and aggressiveness even produce energy, which can be used to fulfill other objectives such as concentrating on a sport, on the development of the intellect, on academic, scientific, religious and artistic activities, to name a few. You can develop planning protocols using sublimation to achieve well-being and health, when they are adequately focused on the growth of the individual in some aspect.

For this reason, it represents an instrument that denotes progress and an "adequate" development of the personality; Using this defense of the self, you can deal in healthy ways with stress, anxiety, anguish, frustrations, as well as the threats, dangers and challenges that life imposes every day.

Bibliographic references

  • Rosselló, C.G. (1980). Dictionary of Psychology. Barcelona: CHOOSE.
  • Bleichmar, N. M .; Lieberman, C. and Cols. (1989). Psychoanalysis after Freud. Mexico: Eleia Editores.
  • Hall, Calvin, S. (1990). Compendium of Freudian Psychology. Mexico: Paidós.
  • Morris, Charles, G. (2001). Introduction to Psychology. Mexico: Pearson Education.

Yet No Comments