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compromise formation


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In psychoanalysis, a form assumed by a repressed wish, idea, or memory to gain admission to consciousness as a symptom, usually neurotic (1), a dream (1), a parapraxis, or some other manifestation of unconscious activity, the original idea being distorted beyond recognition so that the unconscious element that needs to be repressed and consciousness that needs to be protected from it are both partially satisfied by the compromise. The idea was introduced by Sigmund Freud (1856–1939) in 1896 in his article ‘Further Remarks on the Neuro-Psychoses of Defence’ (Standard Edition, III, pp. 162–85, at p. 170) and developed further in his book Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis (1916–17): ‘The two forces which have fallen out meet once again in the symptom and are reconciled. It is for that reason, too, that the symptom is so resistant: it is supported from both sides’ (Standard Edition, XV-XVI, at pp. 358–9). See also choice of neurosis, return of the repressed, substitute formation, symptom formation.

Subjects: Psychology.


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