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Reaction Formation
Reaction formation

Virtue itself turns vice, being misapplied,

And vice sometime's by action dignified.

—William Shakespeare, 1595/1917, Romeo and Juliet, act II, scene iii, lines 21–22

Most individuals wish to appear to be reasonably solicitous and scrupulous in their everyday interactions with other people. On a social level, expressions of kindness and honesty in word and deed represent essential qualities in civil and harmonious relationships. At the same time, persons may demonstrate oversolicitude and excessive conscientiousness in exchanges with others that mask or obscure their subjective intentions. In response to threat, individuals may employ the defense mechanism of reaction formation to fend off socially unacceptable or prurient tendencies through the expression of diametrically opposing behavior. Reaction formations also involve exaggerated and excessive responses of a person's effort ...

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