Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

PHD - Doctor of Philosophy


Expressive Therapies


Although many researchers have examined the concept of defense mechanisms, almost none have done so from a societal and cultural point of view. The author investigated the following research questions: (1) Which defense mechanisms are used in Israeli society within the context of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict? What changes, if any, have occurred in these defenses over the years? (2) What are the reasons for the use of these defenses? What are the consequences of the use? (3) How can a transition(s) from the use of a lower-level defense mechanism(s) to a higher-level one(s) occur? What is the role of the arts in this transition(s)? The author reviewed the concept of defense mechanism as coined in 1894 by Sigmund Freud and then developed by later researchers and clinicians. The author also reviewed the ways defense mechanisms are perceived and processed within the realm of expressive therapies. The research paradigm was qualitative and the major investigative method consisted of semistructured interviews of six professionals involved in Israeli–Palestinian relations. The author found that a slow, positive transition has occurred in use of the defenses, namely, a progression from mainly psychotic and early forms of immature defenses such as denial, distortion, and splitting to the use of higher-level expressions of immature forms of defenses, as well as various levels of intermediate defenses, such as projection, repression, rationalization, and isolation. The author suggested practical steps to continue the perceived advancement on the developmental scale of the defenses toward more adaptive and empathic relations between Israeli society and the Palestinians. These steps include creating a more objective media, developing changes within the educational system, generating more symmetric encounters and personal contact between Israelis and Palestinians, while using artistic language in order to increase empathy.



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