A young college student presented for therapy, saying that she wanted to "understand herself." When asked to define her issues more precisely, she was entirely diffuse and long-winded in her discourse, providing detailed minutia about the most trivial aspects of her friendships, oscillating from one notion to another in quick succession, overly dramatizing each fragment, but without going into anything too deeply. This may be described as a "scattered" cognitive style, as it covers much ground but says relatively little. This is often one of the "functional domains" of the histrionic personality pattern.
Although mechanisms of self-protection, need gratification, and conflict resolution are consciously recognized at times, they operate primarily on an unconscious level. The goal is always the same: to protect conscious awareness from overwhelming feelings of anxiety. Nevertheless, the defense mechanisms are rarely open to conscious reflection, at least without many sessions of psychotherapy. As such, they often contribute to vicious circles, intensifying the very problems they were intended to avoid. Some defense mechanisms are simple, others are complex, and still others, convoluted. This domain of personality is associated most closely with the psychodynamic perspective on personality.
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