The Psychoanalytic Concept of Repression

explanatory Essay
1310 words
1310 words


Repression is defined (White, 1964,p214) “the forgetting, or ejection from consciousness of memories of threat, and especially the ejection from awareness of impulses in oneself that might have objectionable consequences.”
In layman’s terms when forming a memory, the brain takes what we see, hear, smell, feel and taste and fills in the blank spaces with information that we have perceived from common knowledge and stores it as a memory. But sometimes something happens that is so shocking that the mind grabs hold of the memory and pushes it underground into some inaccessible corner of the unconscious.

The psychoanalytic concept of repression as a defense mechanism is closely linked to the Freudian idea of an unconscious mind. Early Freudians saw the unconscious mind as having the same properties as that of the conscious mind. Just as the conscious mind was believed capable of consciously inhibiting events by suppression, so the unconscious was considered capable of inhibition or cognitive avoidance at the unconscious level by repression.
Suppression is said to happen, when one voluntary and consciously withholds a response. Unconscious repression in contrast may function as an automatic guardian against anxiety, a safety mechanism that prevents threatening material from entering consciousness.

Symptoms are formed as a result of repression even though the patient may not be aware of it. Freud says; (Freud, 1973, p335) “We must now form more definite ideas about this process of repression. It is the precondition for the construction of symptoms.” Symptoms serve as a substitute for the patient for something that repression is holding back. Freud says; “A symptom like a dream, represents something as fulfilled: a satisfaction in the infantile manner” (Freud, 1973, p413).

Freudian therapy is like an entrance hall, with a room adjoining it, in which consciousness is found also, but that between these two rooms resides a watchman, who acts as a censor to those entering the second room from the entrance hall. This watchman represents resistance in psychoanalysis, which is present during psychoanalytic treatment, when the psychoanalyst endeavors to uncover the repression. Resistances in psychoanalytic treatment if lifted are able to bring the past into focus and act as support systems in the analysis. I...

... middle of paper ... from uncontrollable and often unfathomable depths, can cause unpredictable, sometimes unimaginable reactions: the wife who has repressed her anger at her husband for fifteen years suddenly lights him and his bed on fire. The repression causes anxiety, discomfort, even neurosis, and the release causes massive emotional and often physical damage. But it is not all negative, the ability to find release, is a positive thing, since we cannot bottle everything up all the time. However it is how we release these repressed emotions that is the cause for concern.

Freud’s conception of the mind is characterized by primarily by dynamism, seen in the distribution of psychic energy, the interplay between the different levels of consciousness, and the interaction between the various functions of the mind. The single function of the mind, which brings together these various aspects, is repression, the maintenance of what is and what isn’t appropriately retained in the conscious mind.

There is no easy answer or explanation to the theory of repression and retrieval, but until psychologists can drag our unconsciousness into the light, retrieval of repressed memories will be left in the dark.

In this essay, the author

  • Explains that the ego is the mental agency which supervises all its constituent processes, and which goes to sleep at night.
  • Explains that repression functions as a vital coping tool, but it also can cause great anguish.
  • Explains how the psychoanalytic concept of repression as a defense mechanism is closely linked to the freudian idea of an unconscious mind.
  • Explains that dreams play an important part in psychoanalytic treatment, as they help to discover the sense of his symptoms, and what wishful impulses have been repressed.
  • Explains freud's conception of the mind, which is characterized by dynamism, interplay between different levels of consciousness, and interaction between the various functions. repression is the maintenance of what is and what doesn't appropriately retained in the conscious mind.
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