Safeguarding Tendencies

Adler believed that people create patterns of behavior to protect their exaggerated sense of self-esteem against public disgrace. These protective devices, called safeguarding tendencies, enable people to hide their inflated self-image and to maintain their current style of life.

Adler's concept of safeguarding tendencies can be compared to Freud's concept of defense mechanisms. Basic to both is the idea that symptoms are formed as a protection against anxiety. However, there are important differences between the two concepts. Freudian defense mechanisms operate unconsciously to protect the ego against anxiety, whereas Adlerian safeguarding tendencies are largely conscious and shield a person's fragile self-esteem from public disgrace. Also, Freud's defense mechanisms are common to everyone, but Adler (1956) discussed safeguarding tendencies only with reference to the construction of neurotic symptoms. Excuses, aggression, and withdrawal are three common safeguarding tendencies, each designed to protect a person's present style of life and to maintain a fictional, elevated feeling of self-importance (Adler, 1964).

82 Part II Psychodynamic Theories

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