6 Ego Defense Mechanisms You May Develop After Narcissistic Abuse

6 Ego Defense Mechanisms You May Develop After Narcissistic Abuse 6 ego defense mechanisms you may develop after narcissistic abuse
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Narcissistic abuse will leave you feeling powerless, hopeless, confused and in deep emotional and psychological pain. The narcissist used various manipulation tools to get their needs met at the expense of your mental wellbeing.

Because of this abuse, you may develop various resources called ego defense mechanisms to help you cope with those painful experiences. Ego defense mechanisms can be defined as psychological strategies your mind develops to protect you from feeling those uncomfortable emotions, thoughts, feelings and circumstances. They help you manage those stressful situations in life like abuse.

Most of this defense mechanisms are unconscious and you may not be fully aware you’re engaging in them. These defense mechanisms can provide a temporary relief in the short-term but they may also prevent you from fully dealing with the pain deep inside. They provide like a barrier which prevents you from feeling and processing those uncomfortable emotions.

In this article, I will be sharing some of the common ego defense mechanisms after narcissistic abuse, with examples. This may shed some light on how your mind might trick you and keep you stuck in your healing journey.

1. Denial

This involves refusal to accept the reality and the severity of the abuse. So, the pain is clearly there but you tell yourself things like, “It was not that bad”, “They were not a 100% narcissist” or just anything that denies or downplays that the abuse. When you’re in the state of denial, you will not be able to seek any professional help, even work on yourself or take the steps to protect yourself from further abuse. It provides an element of control and safety but at the same time, it keeps you stuck in an illusion.

2. Rationalization

This is where you make excuses and justifications for someone’s actions, thoughts and behavior. In case of narcissistic abuse, you’ve experienced abuse from your partner but you try to minimize or justify their abusive ways. This can involve saying things like, “They’re acting that way because of their depression”, “It’s because of their childhood trauma.” You may justify the abuse by saying things like, “I deserve this treatment because I made a mistake” or “It was my fault they acted that way.”


3. Dissociation

Dissociation is where your mind detaches from reality and there’s a disconnect between your thoughts, memories and actions. You disconnect from your emotions so that you cannot feel the pain deep inside. You may find yourself zoning out, ‘having an out of the body experience’, having moments of amnesia or feeling sleepy when things get challenging or experiencing general feeling of numbness.

4. Projection

Another common one is projection, where you may attribute your undesirable behavior, thoughts or actions onto someone else. Projection is mostly associated with narcissists but we all engage in it to some degree. As a victim of abuse, you may project your internal experiences to an outside circumstance in order to avoid acknowledging or dealing with your own fears, insecurities and feelings of inadequacy.

It’s more of avoiding to take full responsibility of your healing journey and putting all the blame on your past relationship or your past experiences. You may project those negative feelings about yourself onto your friends or family for not supporting you enough or for not listening to you.

You may also assume that everyone is as manipulative as the narcissist or everyone around you is ‘evil’ and no one is to be trusted. When you fail to take full responsibility of your current life, you disempower yourself.

5. Displacement

This involves redirecting your emotional reactions from one target to another. In case of narcissistic abuse, you may redirect the frustration you have towards your narcissistic ex to another person (like your kids, family or friends or online strangers) or just a situation. You may find yourself lashing out to your loved ones or becoming so impatient with them.

You may also engage in some self-sabotaging behaviors like substance-abuse or binge-eating just to channel those frustrations and negative feelings you have towards your ex. It’s simply redirecting your emotions onto another person or target that is not the true origin of that emotion.

6. Toxic Positivity

One last common defense mechanism is where you’re overly positive so as to escape the reality of the situation. Toxic positivity is where instead of allowing yourself to feel and process those negative emotions, you choose to maintain “positive outlook” so as to hide those negative emotions. It’s more of invalidating your negative experiences and pushing them because you cannot deal with them. This can be something like pretending everything is okay, feeling pressure to solely focus on the “positive side” or blaming yourself for not being able to “get over it.”


All ego defense mechanisms may look okay and even provide a temporary relief from those painful experiences. They provide mechanisms to deal with those uncomfortable emotions but when taken too far they prevent you from fully processing and dealing with your pain. They may also keep you stuck with the pain much longer because they feed you with an illusion that you’re doing very okay and you don’t need any help or you can even stop working on yourself.

It’s important to note that, those traumatic experiences and unhealed wounds never really disappear into the thin air even if you think that you have the best defense mechanism. They just linger below the surface and the fact that you are employing defense mechanisms (consciously or unconsciously) means that you’re protecting yourself against something. You’re protecting yourself against past unprocessed pain or trauma.

So, be brave and really go to the root of the problem so that you can live life where you don’t have to be on ‘guard’ all the time. Your authentic self lies beyond the pain you’re protecting yourself from. Without past pain and uncomfortable emotions affecting your life, there will be no need to have those defense mechanisms.

Note from the Author

If you’re ready and you’d like my help with healing, finding peace in life and breaking free from these toxic patterns, then you can book a FREE BREAKTHROUGH CALL with me HERE. Happy healing 💙💙. Feel free to share and comment! Use this information with caution, it comes from my own thoughts & bias, experiences and research😊.


1. https://bmcpsychiatry.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1471-244X-10-12#:~:text=Ego%20defense%20mechanisms%20(or%20factors,deals%20with%20conflict%20and%20stress.

2. https://positivepsychology.com/defense-mechanisms-in-psychology/#:~:text=Freudian%20defense%20mechanisms%20and%20empirical,isolation%2C%20sublimation%2C%20and%20denial.

3. https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/defense-mechanisms#common-defense-mechanisms

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Edwin Bii
Edwin Bii

I'm Edwin Bii, a trained advanced conversational hypnotherapist (ACH) and Mind Shifting Coach from Kenya offering mental health support, and life coaching to help you crush your goalsand overcome your problems. Together, we'll navigate challenges, build self-awareness, and create a happier, healthier you. Let's unlock your potential.

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