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Externalization means to put something outside of its original borders, especially to put a human function outside of the human body. The opposite of externalization is internalization.

In a concrete sense, by taking notes, we can externalize the function of memory which normally belongs in the brain.

In a more abstract sense, by inventing excuses, we can externalize the guilt associated with our actions.

In Freudian psychology, externalization is an unconscious defense mechanism, where an individual "projects" his own internal characteristics onto the outside world, particularly onto other people. For example, a patient who is overly argumentative might instead perceive others as argumentative and himself as blameless.

Like other defense mechanisms, externalization is a protection against anxiety and is, therefore, part of a normal, healthily-functioning mind. However, if taken to excess it can lead to the development of a neurosis.

See also



  • Bateson, Gregory (1978, 2002). Mind and Nature, Cresskill: Hampton Press.
  • Bergson, Henri (1911, 1998). Creative Evolution, Arthur Mitchell, trans, NY: Dover.
  • Kuchka, H.E (2001). Method for Theory: A Prelude to Human Ecosystems. Journal of Ecological Anthropology 5.
  • Gumperz, John J., Levinson, Stephen C. (December 1991). Rethinking Linguistic Relativity. Current Anthropology 32 (5): 613–623.

[[Category:Personality processes]

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