Reaction Formation. Reaction formation occurs when a person's mind turns an unacceptable feeling or desire into its complete opposite. For example, a person who harbors murderous rage toward his fellow humans may claim to be a devoted pacifist. Often such people take refuge in various spiritual disciplines and believe that they are "superior" to "less civilized" people who engage in "violent behavior" such as the martial arts. These are the type of people who devote themselves to militant animal welfare organizations that proclaim that the rights of animals take precedence over the rights of people. This not only allows angry people to avoid dealing with their rage, it allows them actually to harm the people they hate without having to know they hate them. True pacifists generally exhibit good will toward people with whom they disagree.
Defense mechanisms are normal; their use does not imply mental illness. People may be misguided, uninformed, stupid, or intent on evil, but that does not necessarily mean they are mentally ill.
Because defense mechanisms distort reality to avoid unpleasant emotions, the person who uses them has an impaired ability to recognize and accept reality. This explains why some believe that people who are active in the martial arts must be aggressive or violent, even though most martial artists are less violent than is the general population.