Psychological defence mechanisms - The example of repression
Chris R. Brewin and Bernice Andrews uncover parallels between repression and modern cognitive theories of forgetting
For many years the central role accorded to mechanisms of psychological defence was one of the characteristics that divided psychoanalytic theory and therapy from behavioural and cognitive therapies. Throughout his life Freud claimed that the purpose of psychoanalytic therapy was to lift the repression that excluded unacceptable mental contents from awareness in order to ‘make the unconscious conscious’. In 1893 he and Breuer argued that repression operated on memories of traumatic events, and that allowing these memories back into consciousness, accompanied by their original affect, could bring about a permanent cure for hysteria. In 1896 Freud adapted this idea and claimed a unique role for early sexual traumas. By the beginning of the new century he had already abandoned this stance in favour of the position that was to become part of mainstream psychoanalysis: namely that repression operated primarily on infantile drives and wishes, rather than on memories of actual events.
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