I had never heard of the psychological concept of “reaction formation” until recently, but I’ve apparently been using this defense mechanism all my life.
Almost two weeks ago, I encountered the idea of reaction formation in a book about the psychology of personality. In a chapter about my personality type, the author discussed reaction formation as the central defense mechanism of the type. The first time I heard it, the idea went in one ear and out the other. It didn’t sound relevant to me.
But I listened to the chapter a couple more times. One day this past week, a painful insight hit me. It was something I didn’t want to see. All of a sudden, I saw with startling clarity how I had been using this obscure defense mechanism my entire life. This sudden insight explained a lot about my past.
And then suddenly, an even-more-powerful insight showed me how I was continuing to do the same thing today — and that’s something I definitely didn’t want to see.