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Freud’s Concept of Repression and Defense, Its Theoretical and Observational Language

Freud’s Concept of Repression and Defense, Its Theoretical and Observational Language

Peter Madison
Copyright Date: 1961
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Freud’s Concept of Repression and Defense, Its Theoretical and Observational Language
    Book Description:

    Freud’s Concept of Repression and Defense was first published in 1961. Freud’s concept of repression and defense (he used the terms almost interchangeably) is central to the whole theory of psychoanalysis, yet his use of the terms has never been clearly or fully understood by psychologists or psychoanalysts. Nowhere in his writing does he state the meaning precisely and unequivocally. To clarify the concept, Professor Madison, a psychologist, examines the whole body of Freud’s writing with reference to his use of the terms. Through his study, which uses a generous number of quotations from Freud’s own work, the author provides a comprehensive statement of the concept. Professor Madison demonstrates that repression and defense are inseparable aspects of a single concept, one which played the principal generative role in the development of every main concept in Freud’s theory and which functioned as the keystone of the finished structure. With his clarification of the basic concept, Professor Madison demonstrates the possibility of formulating a theoretical and observational language for repression and defense directly from Freud’s writings, a necessary preliminary for the development of measurement and validation procedures for the concept. As he points out, psychoanalysts today have no way of objectively measuring the value of a given therapy for patients, and appropriate measurement techniques are greatly needed in order to evaluate treatment methods.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-6355-2
    Subjects: Psychology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Acknowledgments
    (pp. [v]-[vi])
    Peter Madison
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-10)

    I had no intention of writing a book on Freud’s theory of repression and defense when I accepted the invitation of the Institute of the Pennsylvania Hospital to spend a summer with their psychiatric staff. It was to be a friendly exchange of ideas in which I was left free to make whatever contributions a psychologist could to their discussions, which at that time were largely concerned with problems in the evaluation of therapy.

    The resulting contacts were both stimulating and surprising. Like most academic psychologists, I was unaware of how psychoanalytic psychiatry had become — a situation I soon...

  5. Part One. The Theory

    • [PART ONE. Introduction]
      (pp. 13-14)

      In order to present as complete a statement of Freud’s theory of repression as possible — sufficiently full so that the scholar or research worker need not restudy all of Freud’s works for himself — Part One relies heavily on Freud’s own words. One or more quotations are given for every aspect of the theory discussed. Without such direct evidence Freudian scholars might well dispute some of the points made, since the argument that develops is not the one that is familiar either to psychologists or to psychoanalysts.

      The frequent quotations make the reading difficult, for besides the pertinent evidence...

    • I Repression and Defense
      (pp. 15-30)

      The most difficult and persistent problem in the theory of repression is the relation between repression and defense.

      Freudian scholars agree that the earliest meaning for “repression” was amnesic forgetting as seen in hysterical cases in which painful events of the patient’s past could not be recalled. This remained as one constant meaning of the term throughout the years. They agree, too, that Freud also introduced the term “defense” almost at the start and used the two words interchangeably for a time, both with this limited meaning and in a more general sense. Gradually the term “defense” dropped out of...

    • II Repressive and “Nonrepressive” Defenses
      (pp. 31-37)

      The preceding chapter explored the varying usages of “repression” and “defense” and concluded that, at their most general level, they had the same meaning. As was suggested, a great clarification of Freud’s theory becomes possible if we grasp the fact that the concept of repression and defense had as its main theoretical referent the idea of unobservable inner psychic forces interacting and producing a variety of observable effects. Chapter I mentioned some of these effects. The rest of Part One will attempt to show the whole range of effects on psychological processes resulting from interaction of force and counterforce. In...

    • III Inhibitory Defenses
      (pp. 38-42)

      As the theory of repression developed, Freud turned to a consideration of several kinds of inhibitions as protective devices. He said that repression not only worked to keep dangerous material out of consciousness, but also attempted to prevent arousal of the dangerous impulse by directly inhibiting its development as a psychic process within the person, and by keeping the person from undertaking activity that would arouse the impulse:

      “It is of especial interest to us to have established the fact that repression can succeed in inhibiting an instinctual impulse from being turned into a manifestation affect. This shows us that...

    • IV Resistance
      (pp. 43-71)

      In the organization of Freud’s theory presented in this book, resistances make up one large class of the several main types of manifestation of repression. Resistance is undoubtedly not only the most important indicator of repression, but a key idea in his whole theory.

      Freud himself pointed to this special position of resistance and said that repression was the theoretical formulation of the resistance phenomenon: “As you are aware, the whole of psychoanalytic theory is in fact built up on the perception of the resistance exerted by the patient when we try to make him conscious of his unconscious” (1933,...

    • V Successful Defenses
      (pp. 72-88)

      Thus far we have dealt with four different manifestations of the forces of repression and defense:

      1. Repressive defenses (including amnesic repression, which can be regarded separately for some purposes).

      2. Regression as a “nonrepressive” defense.

      3. Inhibitory defenses.

      4. Resistances.

      These types of defense are all “unsuccessful” in the sense that they do not accomplish their aim of eliminating the dangerous impulses. Since the anxiety-causing instinctual forces are only disguised or inhibited, or are replaced with other anxiety-linked impulses, the person’s fundamental problem remains unsolved. The “successful defenses” to be dealt with in this chapter have a radically different outcome in that the...

    • VI Primal Repression
      (pp. 89-100)

      One of the most intriguing, important, and least discussed aspects of Freud’s theory of repression and defense is his idea that adult repression is dependent upon the prior existence of childhood repressions. Without a history of such “primal repressions,” to use the term Freud adopted, an adult would not be able to use repression (called “repression proper,” or “after-expulsion,” or “after-pressure” when Freud was distinguishing it from early repressions) as a means of ego-protection. This was a point that Freud made very early in his writings and insisted upon throughout in the strongest terms. The neglect of this whole topic...

    • VII The Motives of Repression and Defense
      (pp. 101-129)

      The underlying structure of the theory of repression and defense is motivational: a force and counterforce working against one another. At the most abstract level, in the fully developed theory, this polarity became instincts versus anticathexis, but each side of this force and antiforce duality had a long developmental history and a complex final structure.

      For purposes of exposition it is useful to use consistently the terms “force” and “counterforce” instead of Freud’s various phrasings of his motivational antithesis. This constant terminology will allow the reader to keep his bearings through the many shifts of language that the ideas underwent...

    • VIII Remoteness and Repression
      (pp. 130-136)

      A most important aspect of the theory of repression is Freud’s idea that repressed material can be represented in consciousness under certain conditions — providing the material is in a form that does not permit ego recognition. If the true meaning of a repressed impulse is hidden from the person because of such remoteness, the otherwise objectionable motive can enter awareness.

      There are three main types of remoteness: defensive misrepresentations of impulses, expression of symptoms, and situational remoteness. The latter includes dreams, free association, daytime fantasies, and jokes.

      We are already acquainted with repressive defenses as responses that achieve repression...

  6. Part Two. The Theoretical and Observational Language

    • [PART TWO. Introduction]
      (pp. 139-141)

      The preceding chapters have attempted a complete representation of Freud’s theory of repression and defense. In the chapters of Part Two we shall try to build on this foundation in working toward a solution of some of the difficulties that scientists and philosophers of science have found with psychoanalytic theory, of which the concept of repression and defense is so central a part.

      These difficulties are summarized in the following passages by a psychologist (Gardner Lindzey) and a philosopher (Ernest Nagel):

      “There are manyformal shortcomingsto psychoanalysis as a body of theory, and these shortcomings pose a striking problem...

    • IX The Theoretical Language of Repression and Defense
      (pp. 142-153)

      The first question is whether Freud’s theory can be expressed clearly and consistently at the abstract level. The present chapter is an effort to achieve a logical presentation of the main ideas of the theory. It must be emphasized that the outline presented here depends for its full meaning on the comprehensive statement of Freud’s theory in Part One; before proceeding the reader may wish to review the summaries for Chapters I–VIII.

      I.“Defense” refers to a variety of effects that arise out of the interplay of forces on psychological processes.

      A. These variable effects have the theoretical status...

    • X The Observational Language of Repression and Defense
      (pp. 154-179)

      The question we turn to now is whether the “correspondence rules,” “coordinating definitions,” or “operational definitions” of the theoretical terms can be stated in observational language.

      It may be helpful first to use an analogy with concepts and measurement in physical science. Temperature serves as a convenient comparison in the following chart:

      Temperature Repression and Defense

      I. Theoretical Language

      Temperature is a manifestation of the energy of atomic vibrations in solids and of the speed of random molecular motion in liquids and gases.

      Repression and defense are manifestations of the interplay of the force of instincts and the counterforce of...

    • XI Conclusions
      (pp. 180-196)

      The separation of repression and defense by restricting the former to amnesia was, in theory, possible in 1926 when Freud made his half-hearted gesture, and still is — but highly unlikely in practice. There is today the same basic difficulty that prevented Freud from effectively refining the terminological usage that had developed over thirty years: the close association of “repression” with a far broader conceptual meaning than amnesia. As we have seen, “repression” came to be used for alternative manifestations of the central Freudian hypothesis of interplay between instinctual force and anticathectic counterforce. Possibly a consistent and unitary meaning for...

  7. References to Freud’s Writings
    (pp. 199-200)
  8. References to Works of Other Authors
    (pp. 201-202)
  9. Index
    (pp. 203-205)