Sublimation is an Awareness Reduction Mechanism. Sublimation is the redirection of awareness and energy from painful and disjunctive ideas, impulses, and actions towards less painful or disjunctive targets.
Other Awareness Reduction Mechanisms
Awareness Reduction Mechanisms > Avoidance, Denial, Displacement, Dissociation, Distortion, Distraction, Diversion, Gaslighting, Intellectualization, Internalization, Projection, Rationalization, Reaction Formation, Regression, Repression, Sublimation
An adolescent angry at their abusive father may, because the father will respond to their anger with abuse, redirect their anger to weaker children at school, their spouse at home, or their opponent in a boxing ring.
Proper expression of negative emotional and/or psychic energies involves proper attachment. Anger at parents should be directed at, and expressed, at parents and not scapegoats. Similarly, the anger and resentment that one experiences as the result of economic exploitation at work should be directed at those who exploit and not one's spouse or children.
Sublimation is a second-order defence mechanism. Sublimation involves the transformation of unwanted ideas, emotions, and memories onto an alternative target. For example, an individual angry over sexual assault and unable to properly express/resolve that anger might become a professional boxer in order to gain release. Or, an individual shamed about their sexual urges repress these urges and devotes their attention to artistic pursuits. Note that disjuncture can also be handled with sublimation. You may have a desire to cheat on your partner, but instead, you focus your attention on other pursuits, like your car, or fashion.
Sublimation may not seem like a serious ARM to begin with. What is wrong with sublimating emotions into a successful boxing career so you do not have to deal with them? For one, sublimation involves repression of root causes. If you get into boxing in order to deal with the anger you have for your parents, you are not dealing with the root causes. In this case, the anger won’t go away. It will persist and potentially do neurological and psychological damage. Similarly, avoiding cheating on your partner by sublimating your urges does not deal with the root issues, which may be problems in your partnership. Perhaps there are communication issues, or whatever.
If you sublimate your emotions and do something else, you will not be dealing with the problems. If you do not deal with the problems, they will eventually get worse. It is the same with repressed emotions from childhood or adolescent trauma. You can pretend the emotions are not there, but they do not go away. Chronic sublimation, like all forms of awareness reduction, will eventually cause other problems, like ill health, broken relationships, neurosis, and even psychosis.
Raising client awareness of the sublimated feelings, impulses while at the same time helping the client develop skills necessary to deal. An adult child who hates their father but has sublimated that anger on their own spouse and children learns to recognize the source, develops skills to be able to properly express, and gets guidance on how to apologize and atone to their spouse and children.
[[Is a::Second Order Defense Mechanism| ]