2. Repression (1915)

Under certain conditions an impulse passes into a state of 'repression' (as an external stimulus one would simply run, take flight however this is obviously not possible with mental processes and the ego). Repression is a preliminary stage of condemnation - a good method to adopt against an instinctual impulse - only formulated from psychoanalytic studies.

Why should an instinctual impulse undergo repression? If (a) attainment of its aim produces unpleasure not pleasure - however satisfaction of an instinct is always pleasurable, therefore Freud looks for alternative circumstances by which this pleasure of satisfaction is changed into pleasure. Repression does not arise in cases where the tension produced by lack of satisfaction of an instinctual impulse is raised to an unbearable degree (e.g. pain and hunger).

Freud turns to psychoanalytic observation of transference neuroses, concluding that the essence of repression lies simply in turning something away, and keeping it at a distance, from the conscience. Furthermore, Freud proposes that there is a primal repression, a first phase whereby the psychical representation of the instinct is denied entrance to the conscious. With this a fixation is established. The second stage of repression, repression proper, affects mental derivatives and associative connections with the repressed representative.

It should be noted though, that the repressed representative can still persist in the unconscious, from where it takes extreme forms of expression, giving extraordinary and misleading pictures of the instinct's strength. Nor is it accurate to say that repression withholds all the derivatives from the conscious - if they are sufficiently far removed they may have free access to the conscious - although there seems to be no general rule as to what degree of distortion and remoteness is necessary - repression acts in a highly individual manner. Additionally Freud notes that repression is exceedingly mobile - demanding a persistent expenditure of force - therefore its removal is a huge saving economically.

Freud then moves from this discussion of the repression of an instinctual representative, to an obligation to divide it into the 'idea' and the 'quota of affect', the psychical energy linked to it. The quantitative factor of the instinctual representative having three vicissitudes - either suppression such that no trace is found - or reappearing as an affect in some way changed - or is changed into anxiety. This latter point emphasis that the vicissitude of affect are more important than those of the idea - since the motive and purpose of repression is the avoidance of unpleasure (i.e. anxiety). Additionally it is noteworthy that only those repressions that have been unsuccessful will be of interest since successful ones will, for the most part, escape our examination.

Freud then turns his attention to looking into the mechanism of the process of repression. - in particular whether it is one or several, and are they specific to each neuroses? Here Freud argues that the analogous process of substitute formation must be looked at. However from investigation and speculation, he concludes that:

(a) the mechanism of repression does not, in fact coincide with the mechanism of the formation of substitutes
(b) there are a great many different mechanisms of forming substitutes
(c) the mechanisms of repression have at least one thing in common - a withdrawal of the cathexis of energy (or libido in the case of sexual instincts).

Freud then looks at examples of anxiety hysteria (namely of animal phobia, conversion hysteria and obsessional neurosis) to show the application of these concepts.

Freud concludes this essay with the urge for more comprehensive investigations to better understand the processes of repression and formation of neurotic symptoms. Proposing that the intricacy of the factors involved should be treated by selecting first one then another point of view, following them through the material as long as it yields results, in this way as yet unidentified obscurities can be found, and only then a final synthesis may lead to a proper understanding.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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