A Glossary of Book Club Defense Mechanisms -The Toast

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450px-Assorted_shillelaghrepression. A defense mechanism whereby you place a sticky note on the novel’s cover with a phrase akin to “Read by the 19th.” The novel is then carefully set on the passenger seat of your car where it will surely be read over lunch. It is left there for several days, displaced to the floor by a passenger who asks how it is — this being the last time you acknowledge the novel’s existence aloud — then it is further pushed into the unconscious by a scarf, gloves, newspaper, several fast food bags, and other much more enticing reads.

denial. A defense mechanism predicated on your inability to accept the painful reality that you are supposed to be reading the selected novel that you literally tried to bury. Though you are a victim discriminated against by the very institution you helped found, forced to read a novel you have no interest in, you do not acknowledge this and therefore do not react to stimuli that even tangentially references the aforementioned novel, its characters, themes, motifs, symbols, publisher, genre, style of binding, font, page numbers, etc.

projection. A defense mechanism that occurs when you attribute to someone else your own unacceptable thoughts or feelings. Projection is most commonly manifested by your accosting strangers on the street, yelling, “Read it! You don’t want to be in the book club, asshole!? How about you just stop freaking out and pick up the damn book!”

displacement. A defense mechanism whereby you redirect your emotional responses from their real target to someone else, such as the other members of the book club, while nursing the shiner you received on the street yesterday. Though you maintain that you have no problem with the selected novel, you find you hate everything about your co-members and therefore engage in reckless and hostile social media use. All posts, photos, and tweets highlight their social, physical, and intellectual flaws.

reaction formation. A defense mechanism wherein you convert an unacceptable feeling into its opposite by declaring that you are in fact incredibly thrilled to be forced to read this novel. You begin devouring it with unparalleled alacrity. A painfully rosy outlook as well as caffeine-abuse usually accompany reaction formation, while the other book club members ultimately grow shifty watching your nails dig into the coffee table, actually splintering the wood, as you praise the work of genius that you wish had been 500 pages longer since the 500 pages you had to read was such utterly delightful shit.

rationalization. A defense mechanism in which you offer acceptable reasons for unacceptable behavior since they were all so obviously paranoid and delusional when they ganged up on you like that and so it made complete sense for you to throw your friend’s hardback edition of the novel through the plate glass window resulting in expulsion from your book club, friend circle, and favorite coffee shop.

regression. A defense mechanism wherein you retreat to behavioral patterns of an earlier stage of development by asking some co-workers if they would be interested in starting a book club.

Zane Shetler lives and teaches in Durham, NC. His articles can be found here.

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