Why Do I Do That?: Psychological Defense Mechanisms and the Hidden Ways They Shape Our Lives

Joseph Burgo
Joseph Burgo. New Rise Press, $14.95 paper (229p) ISBN 978-0-9884431-2-9
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As a severely depressed college freshman, Burgo began 13 years of psychotherapy with an esteemed doctor he credits with helping him to develop distinct “views of human nature and what drives us”—which enabled him to later become a successful psychologist. This thought-provoking book explores the psychological defense mechanisms he believes all people harbor. These traits—mostly painful and restrictive thoughts and emotions—are largely unconscious behaviors and potentially threaten personal safety and happiness. The author’s tone is congenial and didactic without becoming tedious. Perhaps most importantly, Burgo reiterates that human emotions and their associated defenses (e.g., denial, passive-aggressiveness, displacement, ambivalence) are nothing to be frightened or ashamed of but rather part of everyday life. Change is possible, and those open to it will challenge “the ways [they] react and defend.” Through individual case studies, Burgo identifies and cohesively presents ways in which negative behaviors can be thwarted through direct confrontation with triggers. Exercises at the end of chapters apply techniques for recognizing and defusing oppressive defenses in readers’ own lives and bring the book down to a personal level, creating a valuable resource for readers. Burgo’s approach to understanding and controlling expressions of detrimental emotions is professional as well as empathetic
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