What is Reactive Training?

The Reactive training It's one of the Mechanisms of defense of the psyche , Initially proposed by Sigmund Freud and later developed by his daughter Anna Freud , Both important references of Psychoanalysis.

Its main characteristic resides in the transformation in the opposite of those situations or subjects that compromise the moral of the subject. In this type of situations, the individual will express the opposite of what he or she really wants or feel, leaving what is true, repressed or lodged in the unconscious.

What is Reactive Training?

Reactive training, as a defensive mechanism, operates at the unconscious level, so it is not possible to choose it among others in a conscious way. It will prevail over other psychic defense mechanisms, depending on the structure of the personality and the psyche of the subject.

It is one of the defensive mechanisms available in the human psyche, generally predominant in people with an obsessive psychic structure.

It becomes a resource that a subject has when defending himself from something that he can consider as a danger, a threat or, to generate a feeling of displeasure, from both his inner world and the anxiety or the fear , And the outside world.

Whatever the origin of this emotion or feeling , If it is to result in a destabilizing factor for the subject, then the psychism will be in charge of using a mechanism such as reactive training, to defend itself against it.

Reactive formation is thus a mental process of an unconscious nature, by which the subject actuates or responds to something unpleasant for him, behaving in opposition to what he truly thinks or feels, transforming in the opposite the original emotion or impulse.

What are the defense mechanisms?

They are those psychic processes or unconscious mental operations that a person uses as a coping strategy, to defend themselves.

In the face of thoughts or emotions that are harmful to the subject, such as stress, anxiety or fear among others, which can be generated as a result of a traumatic event, the individual feels the need to defend himself. It is then that the psychic apparatus resorts to the defense mechanisms so that the subject can continue forward, minimizing the effects produced by this event.

In this way, coping strategies prevent all unpleasant motions from accessing consciousness, maintaining psychic balance. Which tends constantly to be unbalanced, as much by internal factors as the ideas, the thoughts and feelings, as by external factors corresponding to the surrounding context and world of the subject.

In performing his work, the psychic apparatus produces an energy expenditure at a quantitative or economic level, that is, it requires psychic energy for its functioning. That is why the psyche will have to prioritize or prioritize the resources to be used, including defense mechanisms, to meet its ultimate goal, to keep that amount of soul energy in balance.

Thus, the defense mechanisms are hierarchical and will be used as a function of the energy expenditure required to quell the anxiety-provoking stimulus or any other unpleasant feelings for the subject.

How Does Reactive Training Work?

It is the unconscious that sets in motion this defensive mechanism, depriving the I, or the consciousness, of the true motives; So that all the conscious sensations of the subject will become the opposite in the unconscious whenever they are generating feelings that are irreconcilable for the conscience or enter into dispute with the subject's morality.

That is, reactive training will consist of expressing the opposite of your inner feelings in your external behavior. For example, the subject can show love, hiding the hatred or hostility to a particular situation that has generated an unpleasant impulse.

The dissociation between both feelings, the genuine and the generated by the reactive formation, its opposite, will allow to keep repressed the first, consciously exteriorizing the opposite feeling. Now, the original impulse rejected, does not disappear, but continues to exist under that exteriorized, hidden to consciousness.

In this way it is how a person can behave in a way that is contrary to what he really feels or thinks. Since impulses or feelings that are irreconcilable to the self or consciousness are such a threat that it is not enough to repress them, but also a reactive formation is necessary so that the individual expresses a behavior opposite to those real feelings that have been lodged in the unconscious.

A reactive formation is characterized by inflexibility and a compulsive character, that is to say that a person with a psychic structure that adopts this defensive mechanism repeatedly as a coping strategy, will lose its spontaneity and possibly, will tend to behave obsessively. This being the resource most used by the psychic mechanism characteristic of people with Obsessive neurosis .

If this is the defensive mechanism used frequently and excessively, it can become a trait of permanent character. As in the case of obsessive people or with Obsessive compulsive disorders .

Reactive formation then acts as a disguise that can be used in many ways.

Types of reactive formations

In general terms, reactive formations of a healthy or adaptive nature can be found. An example of these are those designed to maintain routines, at work, at times or at home.

These can be generative of an amount of displeasure when opposing the own desire to continue sleeping when having to rise for example. In doing so, and not continuing to sleep, ignoring the sound of the alarm clock, this defense helps to keep under control the rebellion that this event generates daily to the subject.

There are also the reactive formations that are constituted as habit, modifying the personality of the individual, who acts as if the danger or the unpleasant situation were always present or with great possibilities of coming.

This type of reactive formations can be called generalized reactive formations, since they construct in the person general character traits, modifying the structure of the personality.

However, reactive formations can also be localized, and brought into play by a particular event or event. Any of these, localized and generalized, can become a symptom. Whether it is rigid, forced, not spontaneous, inflexible and compulsive, its failure to keep hidden from the consciousness that originated it, or because it leads to a result opposite to that expected in its application.

Its success lies in having managed to exclude from consciousness what is intolerable to it, to break with the subject's morality. The factor of the social is important since the image of the self, and the look of the other, condition the subject, who is forced to comply with his own and social demands.

That is why reactive formations can be compared to a disguise. Not only because from the psychoanalytic perspective they are called reactive formations because they are directly in opposition to the realization of one's own desire; But also because through its use, the true and proper identity of the subject is protected under this disguise, since even the consciousness itself ignores the true motives of the person.

Reactive formations can also be compulsive. These are cases where people may feel compelled to behave this way steadily to ensure that the truth, their true desires or feelings never come to light or are known to anyone.

Why do we need to defend ourselves?

The need to defend ourselves lies in avoiding everything that is inconceivable to the conscience. Protecting yourself from a threat, from fear, distress, anxiety or guilt Are some of the reasons why the different mechanisms of defense are put in place, to which the unconscious can resort, in a hierarchical way, to one of them or more than one at a time.

These operate unconsciously, ie they are not controlled by the consciousness so they are not voluntary either. In fact, the consciousness is not distinguished from the unpleasant feeling, because it has been repressed and as a consequence has emerged its opposite in consciousness.

Defense mechanisms, such as reactive training, are regulatory psychic functions. They aim to keep the psychic energy in balance, avoiding all those disturbances that generate an excess or increase of that amount, thus reducing the psychic tension, to safeguard the integrity of the self.

The truth is that often the subject not only has to defend himself from external factors, but also from the internal, such as emotional conflicts, threats of internal origin or even his own desires.

In this way there is a constant battle between the repressed desire in the unconscious and the defense mechanisms at stake to keep it hidden from consciousness.

By substituting reactive formation for feelings which are unacceptable to them, by their opposites, at the same time as the former are repressed or deposited in the unconscious. An example of this is love and hate.

A person who is not reciprocated goes from loving to hating the other person. The explanation lies in the fact that continuing to love someone who does not correspond to it generates pain, therefore an intolerable emotion for consciousness. In this way the feeling of love is repressed, it is housed in the unconscious, and hatred is expressed in consciousness.

Often people who use reactive formations excessively often have social disadvantages, since the feelings produced from that defense mechanism are manifested with an uncommon force and in many cases even exaggerated and inadequate.

Although reactive formations are mechanisms that aim to avoid anxiety, stress, anguish, or any type of emotion or feeling that generates discomfort in the subject, often this defensive process can be unhealthy. Especially when they are used too much to avoid solving a problem.

Reactive formation and psychoanalysis

By means of psychoanalysis one must try to know which are the defensive mechanisms that operate in the subject, to discover with him, a healthier way to solve what happens to his feelings. It is in the subject's discourse that the analyst will maintain a particular Attention.

In this way the analysis and interpretation can be worked not only of what he says, but also of his silences, since often the analyst also works with what the subject does not say.

When working with a patient who uses reactive formations as a defense mechanism, it is possible to quickly evidence that the subject has a determined behavior, and inadequate from the social viewpoint.

So through psychoanalysis, creating an environment of support and confidence so that the subject itself can identify, admit, and accept what is truly happening to him.

It should be made aware of what remains unconscious, get the subject to identify what is being defended through reactive training, and give you options so you can react in a new, healthier way.

It happens many times that when facing the subject to the void that surrounds his emotional reality, he feels threatened or exposed and tries defensively to put into practice a conscious expression that will be the result of a new reactive formation.

It is then that the analyst will gradually face it with this, and use it as an example of repetition in past situations. That is to say, to show him with his own words or actions, that is what he does to defend himself against other situations or feelings similar to those produced in this threatening situation for him.

Breaking with the patient's defenses and helping him find an alternative way to deal with what is happening, to be able to do something healthier about it.

In order for this to happen, and success has more possibilities, a transferential relationship between the patient and the analyst must have been established previously, creating an enabling environment for the subject to know himself, to work with what happens to him and to encourage change .

Being able to be the own analyst that in this opportunity represents the threatening figure for the subject, who will face it to that unconscious truth of which the subject is defending without knowing it.


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