Reaction formation refers to the process by which people:
offer self-justifying explanations in place of the real but unacceptable unconscious reasons for action.
retreat to behavior patterns characteristic in early stages of development.
consciously express feelings that are the opposite of unacceptable unconscious thoughts.
disguise unacceptable unconscious desires and impulses by attributing them to others.
express and treat others with anger and hostility because of unconscious conflicts.
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Reaction Formation is one of the defense mechanisms we learn about.
It's where we try to relieve uncomfortable thoughts,
by behaving in a way that is totally OPPOSITE to those thoughts.
Here's a scenario:
There's this girl in your class. Her name is Sara, and you absolutely hate her.
At the same time, you don't want to reveal the fact that you dislike Sara.
So, you behave politely, whenever you're talking to Sara,
even though it's the opposite of how you feel about her.
That's Reaction Formation.