What is Sublimation in simple words, examples from life

January 19, 2021

Hello, dear readers of the KtoNaNovenkogo.ru blog. The term sublimation is very versatile and is used in various areas of human life, from chemistry to psychology.

It is in the latter area that this word gained the greatest popularity. Well-known psychologists have come to the conclusion that it is useful and even vital for a person to sublimate.

Today we will look at this concept from all sides and will especially focus on the psychological aspect, because the ability to correctly sublimate a necessary step towards happiness.

What is sublimation

What is sublimation in psychology, what does this word mean in simple language? This means a process during which significant negative feelings, emotions and experiences, destructive and antisocial tendencies are transformed into a positive direction. Sublimation protects a person from feelings of shame and guilt, public condemnation and self-reproach, and internal conflict. A person does not suppress his desires and feelings, but allows them to come out in a socially acceptable way. And this is a definite plus, because suppression sooner or later leads to a breakdown, an uncontrolled release of what has been locked in a “cage” for many years.

Important! At first, sublimation in psychology was understood as the transformation of sexual energy into creativity, then any replacement of energies began to be called this.

Sigmund Freud's theory of sublimation

As already mentioned, the first author of the idea of ​​​​the existence of such a defense mechanism is Sigmund Freud. In his opinion, sublimation occupies an important place in human life. Freud argued that civilization arose through this defense mechanism. Many works of art were born thanks to sublimation.

A good example of the theory of sublimation is the works of Leonardo da Vinci. Due to the lack of interest in his personal life, the scientist, artist and engineer managed to create a large number of masterpieces. He considered sex and similar relationships between people to be something immoral and unworthy. According to Leonardo da Vinci, science, architecture, art are more important than earthly love.

Sigmund Freud explained his activities by the conscious sublimation of sexual energy into a scientific direction. According to the psychoanalyst, sex is “decent” only for the purpose of procreation. True pleasure can only come from the result of your own work.

After analyzing the lives of many outstanding artists, writers and poets, Freud came to the conclusion that the most striking works were created in the absence of love relationships.

The process of sublimation not only redirects energy into physical labor, but also makes it possible to realize your dreams and fantasies in the process of any activity.

Origin of the term

The concept comes from physics. There, sublimation means the method of sublimation: the transition of a substance from a solid state to a gaseous state, bypassing melting.

The literal meaning of the term “sublimation” is “to elevate”, “to spiritualize”. Initially, the word was used to define a person’s spiritual growth. The Austrian psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud was the first to use the concept of “sublimation” and give it a definition (1900). However, its essence has remained almost unchanged.

Sublimation in Freud's psychology and philosophy is the process of processing base feelings, passions and desires into socially approved and moral actions. Most often we are talking about such animal impulses as aggression, thirst for power (desire to dominate) and sex, and the like.

For example, in the animal world it is customary to sort things out in a fight, but people have to restrain such impulses and solve problems with the help of words. However, aggression does not go away; sublimation helps to get rid of it: instead of hitting the boss, the subordinate goes to the gym and hits a punching bag.

Remember! The word “sublimation” is derived from the Latin sub and limo, which means “under” and “to carry”, that is, “to bring”, “to replace”. In simple words, sublimation is the replacement of one thing with another.

How to transform aggression?

Violation of the instinct of aggression leads to self-destruction, thanks to which a person maintains his life. Aggression cannot be “stored” into yourself; you must definitely find ways to “discharge”. Here are some of them:

  1. Sublimation of aggression using psychoanalytic methods.
  2. Transferring emotional experiences to inanimate objects.
  3. Playing sports. The best option is sports where there is a competitive aspect.
  4. Engaging in creative activities.

The word "sublimation" is used in many sciences. Sublimation is transformation, transformation. In a broad sense, it means a transition from one state to another. However, this term is most often used in psychology, where it is considered as an option for psychological defense. Sublimation helps a person transform aggression and sexual impulses into socially acceptable forms of energy. Thanks to this, a person can live a harmonious life and achieve high results.

How does sublimation work?

The mechanism of sublimation is simple:

  • I want such and such an object;
  • due to certain reasons (internal or external) I cannot take it;
  • but in front of me there is this, similar to that, but accessible;
  • Well, I'll take it.

Sublimation helps resolve the contradiction between “I want” and “I can.” Often this saves a person not only from internal conflict and possible neuroses, but also from antisocial or illegal actions.

Impact on lifestyle

Sublimation, being a healthy defense mechanism for both the person himself and the society that surrounds him, allows each individual to be effective, work productively and cope with the destructive impulses that arise in him.

Sublimation allows you to avoid internal conflicts caused by the inability to satisfy your needs, so the phenomenon reduces the risk of mental illness.

A person who is able to use sublimation correctly is considered a mature person, effectively benefiting both himself and others.

Sublimation also allows you to avoid conflicts in real life, for example, the ability to project internal destructive impulses onto what is happening in a work of art allows you to reduce the desire to implement them in reality. Therefore, the process of sublimation reduces the likelihood of committing violent acts or crimes towards others.

Sublimation in men

Men more often suffer from experiences in the intimate sphere. Heavy sports, concentration on a career, hunting and fishing, or a passion for technology help to cope with them.

Important! This does not mean that there are not other manifestations of sublimation. For example, many artists and poets express their experiences through creativity, and some women take up weightlifting.

The benefits of sublimation - the conclusion of Theodor Adorno

The German philosopher and sociologist Theodor Adorno believed that a person’s true desires can be judged by a person’s activity on the Internet and his television preferences. For example, people who secretly crave violence watch corresponding programs and films.

In addition, the Internet and television help get rid of daily worries, stress, fatigue, and disappointment. A person chooses films and programs that compensate for what he lacks in real life.

How to get the most out of sublimation

The ability to sublimate is a trait of a mature personality. This ability allows you to direct all destructive impulses into a productive direction, making life positive and creative. For this, sublimation must occur at the level of consciousness, which means it is necessary to develop awareness as such. Relaxing techniques help with this: breathing exercises, meditation.

To sublimate correctly, you need to learn to understand your emotions and feelings, desires and needs. It is also important, with the help of introspection, to separate true activity from sublimation and be able to find its causes (unsatisfied needs). Think about whether it is possible to refuse a surrogate and still get what you want. The problem is that in most cases it is easier to sublimate than to work on satisfying a need or working through negative experiences, destructive tendencies, and traumas.

Sublimation and cultural embodiments of energy

Freud was unable to implement the technology for implementing the theory of sublimation itself.
He deepened into his psychoanalysis and everything that saving sexual energy leads to. Until now, independent scientists cannot figure out how, according to Freud, sexual energy is transformed due to the movement of emotions of a creative orientation and, in fact, into certain prerogatives. Freud was sure: every self-respecting person, even those not creatively gifted, engages in sublimation at least once in their life.

We are always overwhelmed with the desire to do something, not to mention the spring transformation and revival of thoughts in April-May. At such times, artists and scientists begin to create more intensely. The most advanced ideas and masterpieces of artistic excellence are created.

All this is the sublimation of unclaimed sexual energy, which was embodied in more productive matter. Another equally important process of sublimation is dreams. When a person expresses himself in this way, the results of his activities are more productive and visual than when a person does not transform the remaining energy to one degree or another.

Have you seen a beautiful, bright, colorful dream? This can already be considered a creative embodiment of your thoughts and reflections. According to Freud, such qualities are irreplaceable and commensurate only with great discoveries. As a result, the result of sublimations is any creative work.

In practice, including contemporaries, in order to create truly advanced works of a cultural or scientific nature, it is worth giving up sex. However, Freud's theory in this regard is not always confirmed, since an artist or thinker, sexually satisfied, begins to create in a new way, using advanced approaches and practices.

Love is the energy of life. Robert Browning


How sublimation is used in human life: examples

Let's consider popular, obvious and non-obvious methods and methods of sublimation in the form of a table.

An example of sublimation from lifeTranslation from the “language” of sublimation
Release of aggression in the ringIf a person’s fists are constantly itching, he thirsts for blood and fights, then you can arrange this not on the street or in a cafe, but in a ring. The more rage a person has, the better success he can achieve in sports.
Striptease and exhibitionismIf we delve deeper into the theory of psychoanalysis, we can assume that exhibitionists go into striptease. Imagine what will happen if they start showing off their bodies on the street - this is punishable by law. And in the club everything is legal, all participants agree
Keeping pets instead of having childrenWhy a person does not want to continue his family is a question for another article, but in order to fulfill the need to take care of someone, to feel important and significant, he gets an animal
Passion for food and alcoholAn example of distorted satisfaction of the need for love. This is an example of destructive sublimation. At the chemical (hormonal) level, the same thing happens, only overeating and addiction are dangerous to health, but love is not. A more successful option for sublimation in this case is sports and creativity.
Watching horror moviesA socially acceptable outlet for sadistic tendencies. A person gets pleasure from the fact that the maniac from the film hurts someone. This is enough to prevent a person from lashing out at anyone in life.
Creativity and sexual energyUnfulfilled sexual energy or perverted fantasies find outlet in erotic paintings or stories and other creative works.
Sexual perversions and pathological tendenciesSome sexual addictions, for example, BDSM, are also a manifestation of sublimation: a permitted outlet for the craving for violence or, conversely, a specific outlet for a person with a victim program. And again everyone is happy and content, no breaking of laws or domestic violence. By the way, scandals and sports are a sublimation of sex as such
Traumatic memories, feelings and creativityUnrequited or lost love, difficult childhood, disappointments and other painful emotions and experiences help create. Artists, musicians, poets use negative feelings to create masterpieces. In fact, this is how they help themselves survive the trauma.

Examples of sublimation can be continued endlessly; our whole life is saturated with them. Otherwise, people would not have survived, and the level of crime, unhappy or crazy people would have gone through the roof. It's a pity that not everyone is familiar with this wonderful mechanism.

Protection rules

Before you familiarize yourself with the rules of sublimation, you need to know that in many cases the phenomenon occurs on a subconscious level and is not controlled by a person. Therefore, it is very important to discover this ability in yourself and understand your true motives and the reasons for possible frustration.

Rules for effective sublimation:

  • You must try to live every event in your life and not suppress the emotions that arise when appropriate.
  • To focus on any task or goal, you need to get rid of external stimuli and be alone with yourself.
  • It is necessary to develop imagination and the ability to think creatively. To do this, it is recommended to read works of fiction and engage in creativity.
  • Don't limit yourself to new experiences; It will be useful to constantly learn something new, make different acquaintances and experience interesting emotions.
  • It is necessary to make an appointment with a psychologist or psychotherapist to work through complexes or problems with communication and self-acceptance.

By following these rules, you can prepare yourself to become aware of problems and unexpressed needs, which allows you to find a way to express the accumulated energy.

Its transformation can occur in the form of:

  • creating works of art;
  • performing sports exercises;
  • scientific activities;
  • creation of musical works;
  • writing poetry or prose;
  • engaging in activism in any organization;
  • dancing, stretching or yoga classes.

Sublimation may vary depending on the needs that predominate in a person. The most problematic thing is to sublimate aggression, which most often arises due to self-doubt, complexes and inability to communicate with people.

There are rules to cope with aggression using sublimation:

  • it is necessary to create conditions for the manifestation of creativity;
  • it is necessary to focus on positive events;
  • It is advisable to go in for sports as an effective way to relieve stress;
  • you need to create a safe atmosphere around yourself, turn to loved ones for support;
  • It is advisable to contact a psychotherapist and work through the situation that caused the aggression.

There is also a concentration technique that is often used to find a way to embody energy in an activity.

It is called “Black Hole” and consists of the following sequence of actions:

  1. It is necessary to create complete soundproofing in the room.
  2. Close the curtains in the room to create a feeling of complete darkness.
  3. Focus on your goals and let your thoughts flow to generate new ideas.

This method allows the psyche to focus only on a specific task and not be distracted by extraneous stimuli.

For the same purpose, there are sensory deprivation chambers, which are found in some spas: during the procedure (floating), a person is in a pool with a salt solution, which feels like it keeps the body weightless. The temperature of the solution corresponds to body temperature, and extraneous sounds and light do not penetrate into the room.

This promotes complete relaxation of the senses and body, so the brain, due to the lack of familiar information to process, allows you to think about things that a person had not thought about before. This procedure allows you to look at problems from a different angle and find new solutions to your goals, so the process is often compared to deep meditation.

Sublimation is a defense that, in psychology, allows one to direct internal unwanted impulses to socially approved activities. Proper preparation for the process of sublimation and awareness of internal conflicts and causes of frustration allows you to effectively use your energy and feel satisfaction from the activities performed.

How to sublimate effectively: my tips

To sublimate consciously and effectively, you need to understand what you are experiencing and what it can be turned into. I’ll give you a hint: the universal sphere of sublimation is creativity. And the most universal form of creativity is drawing. You can express any emotions and fantasies in it, and you don’t need to be able to draw to practice. The result will be something like independent home art therapy.

These tips will help make sublimation as effective as possible:

  1. Take a comfortable position (sitting or lying down), isolate yourself from society and any irritants, close your eyes. Listen to your thoughts and feelings, try to identify your emotion.
  2. Think about when and where you experience this most often. What and who surrounds you at these moments. What exactly is the emotion associated with?
  3. Think about where your emotion is concentrated: legs, arms, torso, etc.
  4. Draw the emotion and the conditions under which it occurs. Remember that there are no restrictions. You can draw with any part of the body (where the emotion lives), with any objects. And you can draw anything. Have you seen modern art? In my opinion, most of them are sublimation products. In general, if you are angry with someone, then splash paint on the canvas. If you want to tear someone apart, smear paint on the canvas with your hands. If you're sad or feel like you're missing something, paint a picture that reflects that. Or you can do this exercise: blindfold yourself and move a pencil along the sheet as you see fit.

Concept methodology

Every psychologist can define the general meaning of sublimation as protecting an overstrained psyche from collapse and redirecting accumulated energy in another direction.
This is how great scientists and artists are born. At the same time, journalism does not die, when a lot of thoughts and ideas are embodied in original texts transferred to the pages of well-known publications. But not all impulses are expressed in a positive way. There are also criminal intentions that turn into crisis and destructiveness. There are many examples of such sublimation.

Here are some of them:

  1. A tendency to aggression and violence at moments when a person does not know where to pour out his own excess energy.
  2. Police often show an unhealthy interest in corpses or people who have been killed with particular brutality.
  3. Sadism that turns into the realization of the opportunity to work in the surgical field.
  4. Refusal of sex for creative activities or sports, scientific research.

According to Freud, such states are nothing more than a normal phenomenon. But in the modern world there are other types of sublimation. This is a spatial concept that includes a number of factors aimed at relieving stress or getting rid of depression.

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