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In psychoanalysis, a defence mechanism whereby unacceptable thoughts, feelings, or wishes are banished from consciousness. In an article entitled ‘Repression’ in 1915, Sigmund Freud (1856–1939) gave the following brief and frequently quoted definition: ‘The essence of repression lies simply in turning something away, and keeping it at a distance, from the conscious’ (Standard Edition, XIV, pp. 146–58, at p. 147, italics in original). In primal repression, wishes emanating from the id are blocked from reaching consciousness; in primary repression, anxiety-arousing information already in consciousness is removed and blocked from returning; and in secondary repression conscious material that is reminiscent of repressed material is also removed from consciousness. The term (German Verdrängung) was introduced in its psychological sense in 1806 by the German philosopher and psychologist Johann Friedrich Herbart (1776–1841) (Samtliche Werke, V, p. 19) and repeated in 1824 in his book Psychologie als Wissenschaft (Psychology as Science), and it has not been established whether Freud knew of this work when he began using the term in 1894. See also countercathexis. Compare foreclosure, suppression (with which this concept is often confused). repress vb. repressed adj.

Subjects: Psychology.

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