Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences

Living Edition
| Editors: Virgil Zeigler-Hill, Todd K. Shackelford

Undoing (Defense Mechanism)

  • Rui Miguel CostaEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-28099-8_1434-1


Undoing is the defense mechanism by which individuals avoid conscious awareness of disturbing impulses by thinking or acting in a way intended to revert (“make un-happen”) those impulses, even if only at a symbolic level.


Undoing as a defense mechanism is accomplished by doing things that have the opposite meaning of the distressing impulses that the individual wants to be psychologically defended against. Examples include apologizing after being assertive or being nice to someone after having an aggressive thought against that same person. Through the use of undoing, individuals try to symbolically revert not only the consequences of an event but the event proper, as if it had never existed. In this regard, undoing has been linked to magical thinking (Baumeister et al. 1998). However, if undoing is “possible” to some degree in one’s mind, it can serve a defensive function by impeding a direct confrontation with the distressing impulses that were made to...


Personality Disorder Social Phobia Panic Disorder Borderline Personality Disorder Borderline Personality Disorder Patient 
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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.WJCR – William James Center for Research, ISPA – Instituto UniversitárioLisbonPortugal

Section editors and affiliations

  • Simon Boag
    • 1
  1. 1.MacQuarie UniversityNorth RydeAustralia