For the next installment of Freudian Script, we will examine the unconscious reactions that characters give when they’re under greater stress or lack emotional maturity.
These are the immature defence mechanisms. As the name suggests, these are normal for teenagers – YA writers, take note – and are fairly common in adults.
The following examples represent some of those defences, alongside some explanation and illustration from two of my favourite shows:
I have a writing deadline and murders to solve…or I could play laser tag
Wasn’t life so much easier when you were a child? No responsibility, all that free time, and a part-time job on Saturday to buy more sweets. So, when reality comes knocking and you need to act like a grown-up, why not do something fun and childish instead? State Dinner to organise? Build a fire! Captaining a starship on a five-year-mission? Pretend you’re the captain of a Royal Navy vessel (or just sing about it).
This is the staple of most man-child comedies and provides some light relief in a script, so it’s a common tool for writers. While these people exasperate us in real life, these characters are entertaining on screen – until a situation requires seriousness and they fail to step up.
I have a deep psychological conflict about my desire to kill people – or maybe I just have a limp and an intermittent tremor
Everyone’s heard of a stress headache. And tension-related back pain is fairly common. But when the conflict is less accessible or too big to deal with, the body reports in with any number of problems. Such as a limp when one was a shot in the shoulder.
While there is the stomach ache when you don’t want to go to school, this defence also operates on a larger scale – the bigger the handicap, the bigger the conflict you’re hiding from. Particularly seen in those who don’t find it easy to talk about feelings: soldiers, tough guys, cultures which don’t acknowledge mental illness.
This sort of defence mechanism can dominate a plot, so use sparingly.
3) Acting Out
The man who arranged my mother’s murder is talking shit about her. I want to hit him – so I hit him
You know when someone’s driving you crazy and you just want to punch them, yell at them or kiss them? Most folk manage to contain that impulse – but sometimes, you just can’t control yourself and WHAM! You act on this impulse and get arrested/fired/laid.
Perfect mechanism to utilise when you’re showing a cool, calm character pushed to their limits. Or when, after seven seasons of dancing around each other, you two leads FINALLY get it on.
Would not recommend using this on an infuriating director…
I am uncomfortable with my flatmate writing about me, so I criticise his blog at every opportunity
You’re angry with someone. You could deal with your anger and get on. Or you could confront the issue and get it out in the open. Or…you could just make snide comments, fail to do things you promised, or subtweet about the irritating person.
A favourite way of displaying a failing relationship, or an issue you wish to drag out for an entire season without anyone just talking about their damn feelings. Particularly British, as we suck at confrontation yet excel at sarcasm.
NEXT WEEK: Defence Mechanisms 3: The Return of the Mech (or, Neurotic Defences Bring the Drama!)