The role of defense mechanisms and hope on change in negative affect
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Research has attempted to improve therapeutic outcomes and help clients cope with negative events. Psychoanalytic theory uses defense mechanisms to explain the unconscious ways in which people cope. Hope is another concept commonly studied by clinical psychologists to better explain people’s varying ability to cope. This study looked at how individual defense mechanisms and hope influence change in negative affect following recollection of two events, one academic and one relational, that resulted in negative outcomes during the past year. Negative affect was measured before and after recall to measure affective change. Multiple regression analyses were calculated to measure the main effects of hope and individual defense mechanisms (projection, isolation, altruism, and anticipation) on change in negative affect. Results showed that hope had a main effect in all regressions, with higher hope resulting in lower levels of negative affect at time two. Projection was the only defense mechanism that had a main effect, with higher levels of projection leading to higher levels of negative affect. While psychodynamic theory emphasizes the importance of individual defense mechanisms in coping, these results suggest that only certain defense mechanisms have a role in change in negative affect. While more research is needed, this could suggest that coping may have less to do with defense style and more to do with hope.