Reaction formation is a way for the mind to regulate emotions and thoughts that are perceived as being too inappropriate to reveal. It may be that one feels shame or guilt around expressing a certain emotion or thought. And as the ego mind works in polarities; the experience then becomes polarised.
For example; one feels anger towards someone, but is unable to express this directly due to a number of reasons and this then goes to the other extreme and one comes across as really pleasant
However, this is not to say that everyone will feel guilt, shame or fear around the same things. There may be general patterns to this, but there will also be people who have associated something to be inappropriate and others will not.
So now let’s take a look at some of the common examples in everyday life.
A common example of this will be authority figures. Due to the positions of authority figures it is not always beneficial to express how one truly feels towards them. This could be a manger, a policeman or a club bouncer.
And as a way to deal with ones inner experience, one becomes overly polite and friendly towards them. It is also possible for this to show up in other cases, this could be towards a bully or an abusive person in someone’s life.
The Opposite Sex
There will be some men who have moments when they feel as though they are against women and some women will have moments when they feel like they don’t like men. And as a way to deal with these feelings, they can then become extremely nice to the opposite sex.
This can come across in many ways; from men worshipping women and putting them on a pedestal, to women looking up to and idealising men.
In recent years political correctness has taken over and lead to all kinds of problems. And this is the perfect example of reaction formation. As a way to deal with anything that is labelled as ‘offensive’; it has caused things to go to the other extreme. The term walking on egg shells can sum it up. Here, one is expected to be all accepting, completely tolerant and without opinion.
What then occurs is that people can feel like robots and lose all sense of authenticity. It is quite clear that this approach is not going to lead to any real growth and is causing repression. At when it comes to society, that is nothing new.
These are just a few examples and I am sure many more that will come to mind .There will be moments when this defence mechanism is useful. And there will also be times when it is right for one to reveal what is really going on. This will depend on many factors and something that one must decide for themselves.