Adaptive mental mechanisms: Their role in positive psychology

Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, 75 Francis Street, Boston, MA 02115, USA.
American Psychologist (Impact Factor: 6.87). 02/2000; 55(1):89-98. DOI: 10.1037//0003-066X.55.1.89
Source: PubMed


Psychology needs a metric for positive mental health that would be analogous to the IQ tests that measure above-average intelligence. The Defensive Function Scale of the DSM-IV offers a possible metric. In the present article the author links the transformational qualities of defenses at the mature end of the Defensive Function Scale--altruism, suppression, humor, anticipation, and sublimation--to positive psychology. First, the methodological problems involved in the reliable assessment of defenses are acknowledged. Next, the use of prospective longitudinal study to overcome such difficulties and to provide more reliable definition and measurement of defenses is outlined. Evidence is also offered that, unlike many psychological measures, the maturity of defenses is quite independent of social class, education, and IQ. Last, evidence is offered to illustrate the validity of mature defenses and their contribution to positive psychology.

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    • "Slaski and Cartwright (2002) also proved a significant change in the EI of experimental group after 4 weeks of receiving instructions. Some longitudinal studies also support these findings (eg: Kagan, 1998; Vaillant, 2000). Finally, schoolbased programs of emotional learning demonstrated similar results (Kusche and Greenberg, 2001). "
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    • "Humour in general is sometimes considered to be '… an essential part of mental health' (Jakab, 1998b, p. 77), an indicator of self-acceptance and a mature and healthy personality (Allport, 1961). The idea of humour as an indicator of mental health and personal maturity is often based on the recognition of humour as an efficient defence or coping style (American Psychiatric Association, 1994; Freud, 1928; Lefcourt, 2001; Lefcourt & Martin, 1986; Martin, 1989; Vaillant, 2000). It is believed that humour provides better coping ability, because it helps to cognitively reframe a stressful situation, overcome the feeling of helplessness and support inner independence. "
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    • "Nous trouvons par ailleurs l'existence d'une boucle rétroactive des copings émotionnels sur le fonctionnement défensif suggérant que les copings émotionnels peuvent renforcer les défenses les plus archaïques ou favoriser une régression défensive des sujets. Ce résultat sont dans la continuité des modèles posant l'hypothèse d'un impact des copings sur le fonctionnement défensif [21] [22] [23]. Ils soulignent la nécessité d'intégrer les deux modèles d'organisation hiérarchique de la défense et du coping, afin de mieux comprendre la dynamique des processus d'adaptation psychologique dans leur entière complexité. "
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