Defense mechanisms (DMs) are ways of coping with reality while being unable to accept it. Out of most DMs, sublimation is one of the “positive” ones. By positive, I mean that it has functional value, versus the ones that tend to have primarily negative outcomes, and yes, it is a personal favorite of mine.
So what is it?
Sublimation is the DM that transfers your focus/energy into something personally or socially productive while something that you can’t quite handle is happening in your life. A few examples of sublimation are:
– Cleaning your room.
– Working extra.
– Engaging in social activities.
– Helping others.
– Engaging in physical activity/sports
Notice that I don’t mention things like going out, hanging with friends, gaming or engaging in other forms of entertainment – as all of these activities are mostly escapist and do not contribute to your personal or social wellbeing, other than being a vent or a time waster.
In order for something to be identified as sublimation it must bring some sort of value to your life or the life of the people around you.
So, whenever life hits me for whatever reason, my most effective DM is to sublimate, to be productive in one field or another, that way I get to pull myself up faster or just cope with whatever is going on.
Now we could argue that sublimation is a list of things that any satisfied/normal person would do, the reason it is a DM and not just a normal thing to do lies in the underlying reason as to why we started doing the things that we are doing. So of example, it would be a productive thing to focus on your career and to be ambitious, but if you are doing the same thing because your girlfriend left, then chances are that you are engaged in sublimation. So the reason that you want to be better or more productive is not your default set of values, rather it is a consequence of you needing to fill some sort of void in your life.
As far as DMs go, I would rather engage in sublimation, than repression (denial of the things that are happening), projection (blaming others), rationalization (giving yourself excuses) etc.