Customer Reviews: Why Do I Do That?: Psychological Defense Mechanisms and the Hidden Ways They Shape Our Lives
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on October 26, 2012
This book is amazing from every angle! Anyone who's searched through Amazon or any bookstore knows there are mountains of self-help books out there. How do you choose? As a practicing psychotherapist (and someone who's had years of my own therapy), I've tended to steer my clients away from self-help books because they usually oversimplify issues and promote unrealistic expectations which actually sabotage growth. At last, here's a self-help book I can heartily recommend to clients, friends, family, or anyone who asks! This is a one-of-a-kind book which addresses the depth and complexity of human psychology in astonishingly clear, graspable language which the everyday reader will relate to. Along with providing a pretty fascinating review of the most powerful ideas in psychoanalytic thought, it also gives the reader concrete and effective exercises that promote growth and change. And the book keeps getting better as it goes on. it ends by giving the reader a picture of what it is to be "healthy," as opposed to "perfect." Dr. Burgo goes out of his way to show the reader that a person never arrives at personal perfection. He acknowledges change is hard work, but that the rewards of getting out from under the oppression of one's defenses are well worth the effort. Likewise, you'll find this book is well worth the read!
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on May 29, 2013
As others reviewers have already said, this is a self-help book which "... addresses the depth and complexity of human psychology in astonishingly clear, graspable language which the everyday reader will relate to. Unfortunately, because of a mediocre editing and poor numbering system, those who will study this book seriously will have some difficulty in locating later on the subjects and references that interested them and would like to revise again. As a free contribution to this valuable book for those who want to study it seriously and find the numbering system too limited, I am reproducing here a more detailed Table of Content:

Table of Contents (Detailed)

PART I – Understanding Our Psychological Defense Mechanisms
0 Introduction

Chapter 1: The “Me” I Don’t Know
1.1 Introduction
1.2 What is a Psychological Defense Mechanism?
1.3 Defense Mechanisms and Your Personality
1.4 Making Use of the Exercises of this Book
1.5 Exercises
1.6 Now What?
Chapter 2: Our Primary Psychological Concerns
2.1 Introduction
2.2 Theoretical Views on the Primary Psychological Concerns
2.3.4 Cluster A Group 1 Group2
2.3.5 Cluster B Group 3 Group 4
2.3.6 Cluster C Group 5 Group 6
2.4 Now What?
Chapter 3: The Emotional Landscape
3.1 Introduction
3.2 “All I Want is to be Happy”
3.3 Aristotle’s List of Emotions
3.4 Fear, Anger and Hatred
3.5 Calmness and Confidence
3.6 Shame
3.7 Envy and Jealousy
3.8 Love, Gratitude and the Ability to Empathize
3.10 Now What?
3.11 To Bear in Mind

PART II - Identifying Your Psychological Defenses

Chapter 4: Repression and Denial
4.1 Repression
4.2 Unconscious Hostility and Passive-Aggressive Behavior
4.3 Repression and Resistance
4.4 Denial
4.5 Denial of Awareness
4.6 Denial in Psychotherapy and in Everyday Life
4.7 What to Look For
4.7.1 Need and Dependency
4.7.2 Emotions
4.7.3 Self-Esteem
4.10 Now What?
Chapter 5: Displacement and Reaction Formation
5.1 Displacement
5.2 The Usefulness of Displacement
5.3 How Displacement May Damage Relationships
5.4 Reaction Formation
5.5 The Reformed Smoker
5.6 Reaction Formation as a Part of Character
5.7 Reaction Formation at Work along with Displacement
5.8 Reaction Formation and Shame
5.9 What to Look For
5.9.1 Need and Dependency
5.9.2 Emotions
5.9.3 Self-esteem
5.11 Now What?
Chapter 6: Splitting
6.1 Introduction
6.2 The Two Types of Ambivalence
6.3 The Problem of Hatred
6.4 The Universality of Hatred
6.5 The Story of Alexis
6.6 Useful vs. Excessive Splitting
6.7 Splitting Our Perceptions of Other People
6.8 Splitting Under Extreme Stress
6.9 What to Look For
6.9.1 Need and Dependency
6.9.2 Emotions
6.9.3 Self-Esteem
6.11 Now What?
Chapter 7: Idealization
7.1 Introduction
7.2 Idealization as a Defense Mechanism
7.3 Ethan
7.4 Cultural Images of the Ideal
7.5 Idealization and Splitting
7.6 Heroes and Celebrities
7.7 Idealizing an Experience
7.8 Idealizing Ourselves
7.9 What to Look For
7.9.1 Need and Dependency
7.9.2 Emotions
7.9.3 Self-Esteem
7.11 Now What?
Chapter 8: Projection
8.1 Introduction
8.2 How Babies Communicate
8.3 Projection as a Part of Everyday Life
8.4 Projection of Guilt
8.5 Projection in Romantic Love
8.6 Projection as an Aspect of Character
8.7 Splitting and Projection Together
8.8 Projection and Anxiety
8.9 Projection and Shame
8.10 What to Look For
8.10.1 Need and Dependency
8.10.2 Emotions
8.10.3 Self-Esteem
8.12 Now What?
Chapter 9: Control
9.1 Superstitions
9.2 Helplessness and Control
9.3 Dependency and Control
9.4 Stealth Control
9.5 Self-Esteem and Control
9.6 What to Look For
9.6.1 Need and Dependency
9.6.2 Emotions
9.6.3 Self-Esteem
9.8 Now What?
Chapter 10: “Thinking”
10.1 Introduction
10.2 Rationalization
10.3 Intellectualization
10.4 Precocity
10.5 The Overall Process of Thinking as a Defense
10.6 What to Look For
10.6.1 Need and Dependency
10.6.2 Emotions
10.6.3 Self-Esteem
10.8 Now What?
Chapter 11: Defenses Against Shame
11.1 Introduction
11.2 The Primary Defense against Shame
11.3 David
11.4 Ordinary vs. Defensive Narcissism
11.5 The Shame-Driven Superego
11.6 Blaming
11.7 Contempt
11.8 The Defense of Last Resort
11.9 What to Look For
11.9.1 Need and Dependency
11.9.2 Emotions
11.9.3 Self-Esteem
11.11 Now What?

Part III Disarming Your Defenses

Chapter 12: The Mindset for Change
12.1 Introduction
12.2 The Tenacity of Your Defenses
12.3 Vigilance
12.4 Sources of Distraction
12.5 Anesthetics
12.6 Mindfulness
12.7 “Locating” Your Feelings
12.8 Don’t Believe Everything You Feel
12.9 Open-Eyed Honesty
12.10 Courage and Compassion
12.11 Preparing to Choose
Chapter 13: The Role of Choice
13.1 Introduction
13.2 Resistance to Change
13.3 The More Difficult Choice
13.4 Facing Shame
13.5 Justifying Our Defenses
13.6 Distrusting Your Emotions
13.7 Feelings Don’t Last Forever
13.8 Challenging the Hidden Defense
13.9 The Ongoing Nature of Choice and Change
Chapter 14: The Future of Your Defenses
14.1 Introduction
14.2 Denial and Repression
14.3 Displacement and Reaction Formation
14.4 Splitting
14.5 Idealization
14.6 Projection
14.7 Control
14.8 “Thinking”
14.9 Shame and Self-Esteem
14.10 Conclusion

15 Additional Reading
16 Acknowledgments
17 About the Author
18 Footnotes
22 comments|43 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on October 28, 2012
As a practicing psychoanalyst, I found that this book tackles complex matters of the human condition and the workings of our minds in a highly sensitive and forthright way. It's pages are full of clear and detailed understanding of the many extraordinarily human ways we undermine our own emotional growth and instead adhere to self-deceptions. Here Dr. Burgo brings much compassion as well as a gentle but firm nudge to take any new self-understandings gleamed while reading, and with his helpful and probing questions and exercises, to actually develop in new ways. The candor and wisdom found in this well crafted and jargon free book will be an immensely useful tool for growth as an adjunct to those already in psychotherapy or for those who can not access or afford quality treatment.
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on October 26, 2012
Even though I've been in psychodynamic psychotherapy and thought I understood about defenses, I find this book extremely helpful. The way Dr. Burgo explains the defenses is clear, and not full of jargon. His examples from life or from movies or TV are so recognizable that it really helps me remember "Hey, something's probably going on here," when I hit certain situations or interactions in my life. The other thing that seems so important in what he says is that defenses are against pain. May seem obvious, but often when I realize I'm doing something defensive, I end up feeling like I'm "bad," or like I should be "over it" already. The reminder in this book that it's about pain, and the fear that the pain might not be bearable, helps me be kinder to myself, have more self respect for my efforts, and keep trying. Also, the discussion about shame and early life damage really hits home and describes ways I've felt but not understood before."
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on October 28, 2012
This book is mostly about the defense mechanisms and how they can lead you to having a less than enjoyable life. (They aren't seen as entirely negative - more that overusing them has bad consequences).

Something not obvious from the Contents page is that the impact of the defense mechanisms is worked through in terms of each of our primary psychological concerns (which are considered to be bearing with our neediness and dependency, living with strong emotion and developing self esteem).

It provides extensive journalling exercises to explore (and heal where necessary) the impact of the defense mechanisms on our lives. The instructions are clear and the exercises relate clearly to the theory.

The writing is clear and accessible. Concepts are explained and illustrated.

This book provides a clear and thorough way to living a more enjoyable life.

Why not five stars? Perhaps because I'm a bit of a perfectionist. For me to give a book five stars it would need to be bowl-me-over awesome. This book is very good - thorough, clear, systematic and valuable.
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on January 21, 2013
Very interesting. Makes you understand why child rearing is so very important and what damage can follow in your life as an adult from things your parents have done. It doesn't blame parents, but helps you overcome what they did or did not do.
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on January 14, 2013
I could never understand the reasons why I did the little thing that I did, such as snap with anger at the smallest things, or smart little quips at my significant other. After reading this book, I gained a better understanding of my defense mechanisms and how they work, and when. More importantly, I learned how to cope with them, and take a different route instead of letting the mechanisms surface and take control of a situation. Coupled with ongoing counseling, this book is another weapon I used in my personal battle to take my life back, and it was worth every penny. A big thanks to Joseph Burgo, PhD!
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on April 21, 2014
Overall a great book that covers various defense mechanisms. The author presents the info in a clear manner and provides relevant examples to clarify each point. He delves into the root causes of how we develop defense mechanisms and addresses the impact they have on our behavior. Ultimately, the author discusses how to overcome our defense mechanisms by applying techniques such as focusing on breathing.

- Great coverage of the material presented.
- Interesting dissection of the root causes of defense mechanisms.
- Useful exercises to help the reader discover which defense mechanisms apply to him.
- The material was presented in a fashion that seemed slightly haphazard. The author's references seemed to jump around a bit.
- The topics weren't indexed. So if I just wanted to look up anger, I had to read sections that didn't apply.
- Not enough time was spent on the "fixes". Coverage of how to overcome defense mechanisms was relegated to the last section.

Nevertheless, I highly recommend this for someone looking to discover why people behave the way they do.
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on November 16, 2012
Whether you're just starting out on the lifelong journey of self-discovery or are well along the way (in therapy for years as I have been), this book is an illuminating, trustworthy
guide. Joe Burgo's explanation of self-defense mechanisms against pain -- and the deeper pain into which the defenses can freeze us -- are profoundly insightful and clearly explained.
I learned a great deal from the text and the exercises. It's a unique, potentially life-altering book.
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on October 27, 2012
Dr. Burgo has written an eye-opening book on the psychological defenses we all use in life in an effort to ward off our personal pain. None of us is immune from behaving defensively, and that is somehow reassuring to me. He discusses the therapeutic setting and what sort of real outcome to expect in that type of situation. The hope of this book is that with some hard work, we can develop aspects of ourselves that help compensate for our limitations in life. I would recommend this book to anyone who is considering the commitment of therapy as an avenue of personal growth.
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