Theory of Repression - Paper Example

Published: 2021-07-16 12:28:14
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University of Richmond
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Case study
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Sigmund Freud was a pioneer in the notions of the theory of repression of memory where he asserted that the essence of memory suppression is embedded in the mechanisms of depriving the conscious mind. The dynamic perception where mental contents are denied access to the conscious has served as a fundamental tenet for contemporary psychoanalysis. This proposition is regarded as the nerve center of psychotherapeutic tests, which is inclusive of all the cognitive elements. Nonetheless, detractors have questioned the scientific basis of this concept as it present anomalous ideologies, which distinguish psychoanalysis separately from the rest of science. Moreover, the principle of memory repression has not received adequate experimental support, which renders its paradigms as being obsolete, and hence they ought to be discarded in the old bin. On the other hand, pundits hold the belief that these principles are not fully comprehended in mainstream psychology and this has resulted in the severe breakdown of the scientific process. This essay focuses on highlighting the various facets of the philosophy advanced by Freud including its fit in the history of memory science and the anomalies prevailing over it.

Definition of Theory

According to Freud, repression refers to the act of rendering traumatic memories as being inaccessible through the enablement of enthused forgetting where the client intentionally suppresses thoughts from the conscious mind. This phenomenon is perceived to be a defensive technique where an individual fends off incompatible ideas, which cause distress. These negative feeling may be characterized by psychological pain or self-reproach, and a person strives to keep these away from the conscious thinking. The stimulation from such a premise distinguishes unhealthy behavioral patterns from normal behavior (Erdelyi, 2006). Besides, perceive repression makes as withdrawing from painful stimuli following a traumatic event although no clear distinction was made in regards to the intensity or cause of repression.

Freud further extrapolated his notions to include the belief that adult neuroses was interlinked with ones sexual experiences as a child and is commonly referred to as seduction hypothesis. This condition may be defined as the ideal framework that would facilitate repressions at a later duration in an adults sexual life. In such a model of repression, two distinct stages may be identified on either side of puberty stage where the late phase acts as the foundation for the second stage. In the first instance, the child is seen as being sexually immature and may experience sexual seduction by either an adult or an age mate. Such an experience is not assimilated but is reserved in the unconscious memory and only becomes pathogenic following a revival after puberty. Freud asserted that it is not the seduction experiences that act traumatically, but it is their restoration as a memory once an individual attains sexual maturity. Puberty increases the capacity towards sexual reactions where memories from childhood sexual experiences mimic current events and hence are compulsive.

Rejection of the Seduction Hypothesis

Later on, Freud rejected the proposition of the seduction hypothesis by the role of fantasy in mental progression where seduction was now viewed as being an imaginative fallacy. This implied that the objectives geared towards repression were no longer seated in painful memories but rather, they were desires and impulses stemming from fantasies. Besides, Freud incorporated terminologies such as surges, currents, and forces to define the dynamics of the mind in regards to motivating factors. Consequently, the current paradigm denotes the mind as an economy that is striving t gain a sense of equilibrium amongst a multitude of competing drives. Moreover, neurotic symptoms are viewed as a compromise between opposing elements whose outcome hinges on the relative strength of the impulses generated and their domination ability over others. This philosophy presents a different perception in regards to in regards to the theory of repression where it is not only focused on forgetting painful memories but also offering an insight into motivational conflicts and reservation of instincts. In essence, repression is regarded as an inhibiting mechanism that is integral in guiding the belief of human attitudes that culminate in frustrations. Consequently, ideations that would lead to undesirable effects is also inhibited although it is incidental to pursuing endogenous motivational factors

Anomalies in Theory of Repression

Efforts geared towards the interpretation of the genesis and connotations associated with unconscious activities which psychoanalytic theory. For instance, the origin of neurotic symptoms is dependent on conflicts that have been extracted from consciousness through the process of repression. The progression of psychophysiological knowledge has elicited the notions that psychoanalytic ideologies are tied to the central nervous system. This implies that the physiological foundation of cognition is dependent on chemical alterations, which occur in the brain cells and are as a result of an inference from clinical observations. These annotations have been proven by researching direct stimulation of the cortex while a patient is still conscious on an operating table. The results indicated that unconscious experiences are brought back to awareness while the removal of certain parts of the brain interferes with the memory retention and skills. Direct electrical stimulation of the reticular activating system enhances the probability of bringing the unconscious mind to awareness. Moreover, the emotions such as anxiety and fear lack a clear justification though researchers claim they may be as a result of internal conflicts which are not necessarily apparent to the individual. Nonetheless, chronic and intense instances of anxiety, which may be caused by an unreasonable object, may be defined as an emotional disorder (Krohne, 2002). Anxiety may also result from suppression of impulses and experiences, which may be too threatening or disheartening to bear including inadequacies in job performance. Behavioral psychologists perceive tension as stemming from the surrounding circumstances that are related to a particular event. Social and Personality psychologists have reiterated that the evaluation of certain stimuli may produce anxiety. In the concept of psychoanalysis, mental disorders may be treated by focusing on the unconscious mind. During his studies, Freud noted that a majority of his patients experienced repressed energy, which is tied to their sexuality. An area of controversy in modern psychology touches on the fundamental factors that are associated with the proliferation of efforts to recover memory following a traumatic event. Psychologists posit that women are naturally predisposed to accuse men of good character of instances of sexual abuse hence it is recommended that a psychological assessment be conducted to root out cases of malingering


In sum, Freuds theory of repression set on course the paradigms of psychoanalysis whereby the general view is that negative memories are often relegated in the subconscious. This is mostly to forget memories that cause distress including acting as the defense mechanism for the emotional well-being of an individual. Nonetheless, there are various anomalies which are seemingly conspicuous in Freuds ideologies rendering them obsolete.


Erdelyi, M. H. (2006). The unified theory of repression. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 29(5), 499-511.

Krohne, H. W. (2002). Stress and coping theories. International Encyclopedia of the Social Behavioral Sceinces, 22, 15163-15170.

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