These categories can help you develop and dimensionalize characters – and to help shape storylines – in any kind of fiction. Of course, it made me proud that my favorite personal defense mechanism is Humor, which is considered a ‘Mature’ defense.

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28 Defense Mechanisms

Adapted from Adaptation to Life by George Vaillant

Based on The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defense by Anna Freud

Mature Defenses

  • Altruism
  • Anticipation
  • Asceticism
  • Humor
  • Sublimation
  • Suppression

Narcissistic Defenses

  • Denial
  • Distortion
  • Projection

Immature Defenses

  • Acting out
  • Blocking
  • Hypochondriasis
  • Introjection
  • Passive-aggressive
  • Regression
  • Schizoid fantasy
  • Somatization

Neurotic Defenses

  • Controlling
  • Displacement
  • Externalization
  • Inhibition
  • Intellectualization
  • Isolation
  • Rationalization
  • Dissociation
  • Reaction Formation
  • Repression
  • Sexualization

This is just one of hundreds of articles and thousands of links in “Miller’s Compendium of Timeless Tools for the Modern Writer” – a comprehensive catalog of writing resources.