I am trying to find a correct psychological term for a specific type of behavior.

When a person is trying to distance themselves from past suffering by projecting an idea of "I'm over it" to others. Trying to convince others and maybe even themselves that they've overcome something.

For example, a person who has suffered depression is trying to project an idea of "I'm over it and never going back" to another person suffering from depression.

A similar example would be about two people dealing with divorce or breakup and one person tries to project that they are over it not wanting to feel the pain or suffering that the other person is experiencing.

Is it distancing? Is it disengagement? Since there are different types of distancing, some positive some negative, what type is this? Is it overcompensating? Or something else completely?


3 Answers 3


The term you are looking for is probably dissociation.

There is a range or continuum of experiences that can be subsumed under "dissociation", going from mild to pathological. On the pathological end of the continuum, for example, there is dissociative identity disorder.

Dissociation is technically a kind of defence mechanism. See for example the article Dissociation Isn't a Life Skill on Psychology Today. The International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation has a long list of Dissociation FAQs.

  • $\begingroup$ I always associate dissociation with trauma but might be true in this case. However, a mild form of dissociation from the pain and suffering experienced and avoiding to connect with it can be the right term here. $\endgroup$ Oct 17, 2017 at 23:16

My first thought was closure.

Closure can be defined as (source: Psychology Today):

[F]inality; a letting go of what once was. Finding closure implies a complete acceptance of what has happened and an honoring of the transition away from what's finished to something new. In other words, closure describes the ability to go beyond imposed limitations in order to find different possibilities.

Often this term is related to broken relationships, but it can also be applied to grievance. Generally, closure means the closing of a 'chapter', e.g. a closure of the hurt after the ending of a relationship, or after loosing ones job (Bell & Taylor, 2011).

The issue of closure can be debated, however, and especially in the case of exceptionally painful life events, such as the death of a loved one where grief can be persistent for a life time, or in the case of progressive dementia, because the lost person is here, but not here, and the grief is 'frozen' (Boss, 2010).

- Bell & Taylor, Scand J Management (2011); 27(1): 1-10
- Boss, Pastoral Psychology (2010); 59(2): 137–45

  • $\begingroup$ Closure is different. Closure is not a behavior. It can be the internal motivation to act in that way. A desire for closure can lead to the behavior I mentioned. In cases of complex grief, closure is not possible. $\endgroup$ Oct 17, 2017 at 23:12
  • $\begingroup$ @user2840286 - the examples OP provides are not all behaviors either, e.g. overcompensation. Therefore, while recognizing closure is not a behavior, I do reckon my answer fits the question. $\endgroup$
    – AliceD
    Oct 18, 2017 at 6:14

The above answers are both quite good. Could this also be just "in denial"?

Medical Definition of denial. : a psychological defense mechanism in which confrontation with a personal problem or with reality is avoided by denying the existence of the problem or reality.


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