Redirecting Your Anxiety and Tensions through Sublimation

Through sublimation, you can release your tensions. It's an unparalleled way of redirecting our distress towards something that's healthier for you, thus increasing your well-being.
Redirecting Your Anxiety and Tensions through Sublimation

Last update: 15 March, 2020

Sometimes, anxiety, stress, and distress build up inside you and you don’t know how to deal with them. This can cause intense suffering. The good news is that there are ways you can defend yourself from them and put up a barrier to prevent this anxiety from entering. Through sublimation, you can redirect this suffering!

Although it’s normal to go through difficult moments that produce discomfort, you can limit the anguish it causes you. You can even redirect it and give it a healthier perspective. Isn’t that great? By using sublimation, you’ll be able to turn your suffering into something else. Read on to discover exactly what we’re talking about!

What’s sublimation?

Sublimation is part of the defense mechanisms that Sigmund Freud described. A defense mechanism is a way to deal with distress. They arise, for example, when you experience a fear that you don’t know how to deal with.

In the case of sublimation, these defense mechanisms arise in order to redirect your impulses towards something that’s more socially acceptable. Freud suggested that it’s a way of developing the impulses with the goal of displacing them. So, in summary, sublimation is a way of redirecting your anxieties towards behaviors that don’t penalize you at a social level.

Sigmund Freud.

Sigmund Freud stated in “Civilized” Sexual Morality and Modern Nervous Illness that culture rests entirely on the coercion of instincts. In this sense, we could say that some issues are acceptable at a cultural level and, through sublimation, you’d be able to reshape the things that upset you regarding those issues or ways of expression. This could be through painting, literature, or sculpture, among other ways.

Now, Freud wasn’t the only one who spoke about this concept, as some of his contemporaries and successors did as well (and still do). Nietzsche, for example, formulated this concept around the same time as Freud, but placed greater emphasis on artistic sublimation, referring to art as a saving “god”. Jacques Lacan also mentioned the concept but emphasized sublimation as a substitute for satisfaction.

Experts are still studying it nowadays. For example, Javier Cuevas del Barrio, from the University of Málaga, dedicated a section of his doctoral thesis to the concept of sublimation. He immersed himself in the influence of this concept in the avant-garde art movement and he spoke about the transformation of the concept using examples from different authors.

Sublimation, beyond artistic creation

Throughout time, since the creation of the concept of sublimation, people have spoken a lot about the fact that one way to redirect suffering is through art. However, art isn’t the only way to do this. It’s true that art is a great tool for expressing emotions. It acts in an unparalleled way to support and represent the unconscious and conscious feelings. However, there are other ways to sublimate.

Since sublimation is redirected towards something that’s socially approved, it’s possible to do it in different ways. One of the ways that has been a focus of many studies is work. You can divert your anxiety towards something that society accepts; work, in this case. For example, a surgeon, instead of following his instincts, operates, which is socially-acceptable. He relieves his tensions this way.

In addition to this, you can also sublimate by playing sports. Here, it’s a matter of redirecting your anxiety and distress towards physical exercise. By doing sports, you’re able to release the energy that your impulses are forcing you to keep inside. Moreover, exercise produces endorphins, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in your state of mind and mood.

Another way to sublimate is through new technologies. Here, you have a resource that you can use on a daily basis to relieve your stress and anxiety. For example, you can watch TV series that talk about issues that are unacceptable in the world we live in, such as murder and other acts of violence.

A woman running.

Benefits you can achieve through sublimation

It’s difficult for you to be totally aware of your defense mechanisms. This is because they act in areas that your consciousness finds difficult to access. Whether you do it consciously or not, sublimation can benefit you in many ways. It can:

  • Protect your psyche.
  • Relieve your tension.
  • Encourage socialization processes.
  • Facilitate psychological compensation.
  • Change harmful mental states.
  • Relieve stress.

Each form of sublimation is beneficial for your mental health. Although you’re probably unaware of this mechanism, what you can do is discover how it works inside you. Self-knowledge and psychotherapy are great options that you can use to explore it.

Sublimation is a defense mechanism that acts as a guide for your anxiety. It moves it to another realm where you can express it in a healthier way. Thus, it protects your mind. Instead of letting you follow your impulses and do things that are against the law or unacceptable in society, it redirects your anxieties in ways that society can better understand.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Cuevas del Barrio, J. (2012). Entre el silencio y el Rechazo. Sigmund Freud ante el arte de las Vanguardias. Tesis Doctoral. Universidad de Málaga.
  • Freud, S. (1996). La moral sexual cultural y la nerviosidad moderna. Obras Completas. Tomo II. Madrid: Bliblioteca Nueva, p. 1251.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.