23 Unconscious Conflict and Defense

Key

An unconscious fantasy is a wish or fear that pervades a person’s unconscious, driving behavior, and shaping characteristic defenses.

Clusters of linked unconscious fantasies are called complexes.

Unconscious conflict happens when opposing unconscious fantasies collude,

Unconscious conflict produces anxiety, which triggers the ego to mount defenses to decrease the anxiety.

Primary gain is the decrease in anxiety that happens when a defense successfully diminishes unconscious conflict.

Secondary gain is that advantage that the defense or symptom gives the person in their life. Listening for anxiety, other affects, parapraxes (slips), incongruities, and nodal points is the best way to detect the presence of unconscious conflict.

In a supporting mode, We try to identify and reinforce healthy defenses and to help patients adopt new, more adaptive ways of dealing with anxiety. In an uncovering mode, we help patents to become conscious of their conflicts and the defenses they are using in order to make more adaptive defensive choices.


Imagine that you are the fire warden for a vast, northern forest. Your job is to search for fires in thousands of acres of silent trees. You have a watchtower and a helicopter, Where do you want to start? The mind is vast and the conflict is hidden (unconscious).

What is intra-psychic conflict?

It is what happens when two opposing unconscious fantasies collide. An unconscious fantasy is an unconscious wish or far that exists in a person’s mind.

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