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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    • "Research suggests that humor styles may play an important role in stress regulation and resilience (Fonagy et al., 1994; Luyten et al., 2011; Martin, 2001, 2007; Vaillant, 2000). Besides its intrapsychic functions, humor also serves important interpersonal functions (Martin, 2007). "
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    • "These results are generally in line with previous studies revealing relationships between humour and burnout (Tümkaya, 2007;Van den Broeck et al., 2012;Wojtyna & Stawiarska, 2009). The results also lend support to the Freudian theory of humour (Freud, 1928) and Vaillant's (2000) view on humour, highlighting the potential benefits of affiliative and self-enhancing humour as healthy and adaptive defence mechanisms. Specifically, affiliative humour has been characterised as using humour to say funny things and using jokes to amuse others to enhance interpersonal relationships, reducing interpersonal tensions, whilst EE is associated with the depletion of emotional resources that can be caused by interpersonal demands and tensions. "
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    ABSTRACT: In this study, we report on the relationship between positive humour and burnout among 379 secondary school teachers in Hong Kong, and explore whether the relationship varies according to gender. The moderating effects of both affiliative and self-enhancing humour on each burnout component were then examined. High affiliative and self-enhancing humour were found to be associated with lower emotional exhaustion and depersonalisation but higher personal accomplishment. Further, the results indicated that low levels of affiliative and self-enhancing humour were related to more depersonalisation among females than among males. The results also partially supported the stress-moderating hypothesis, as affiliative humour was found to buffer the stress–depersonalisation relationship in this sample. These findings suggest that schools can design continuing education programmes based on the use of positive humour in helping teachers to cope with burnout.
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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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    ABSTRACT: Nous proposons de mettre à l’épreuve des faits le modèle théorique de Chabrol et Callahan proposant une organisation fonctionnelle des mécanismes de défense psychique et les stratégies de coping articulée autour d’une influence des défenses sur les coping.
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