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in psychology: see defense mechanismdefense mechanism,
in psychoanalysis, any of a variety of unconscious personality reactions which the ego uses to protect the conscious mind from threatening feelings and perceptions.
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; psychoanalysispsychoanalysis,
name given by Sigmund Freud to a system of interpretation and therapeutic treatment of psychological disorders. Psychoanalysis began after Freud studied (1885–86) with the French neurologist J. M.
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The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a defense mechanism of the psyche consisting of the expulsion from the consciousness of experiences— drives and impulses—as well as their derivatives, such as emotions and memories, which are unacceptable to the conscious “I” (ego). The concept of repression is fundamental in psychoanalysis and outside this area has no special psychological importance.

Repressed material is forgotten by the individual but retains its inherent drive (cathexis of psychic energy) in the unconscious. In striving to return to consciousness, a re-pressed element may become associated with other repressed material thereby forming psychological complexes. The ego constantly expends energy to keep back the repressed material. A breakdown of the dynamic equilibrium resulting from a weakening of the defense mechanisms—anticathexes—may lead to a return of the repressed element. Such instances may be observed during illness, intoxication (for example, alcoholic), and sleep. Direct repression, connected with a psychological shock, may lead to severe traumatic neuroses; incomplete or unsuccessful repression may bring about the development of neurotic symptoms. In contrast, the complete dissolution and disappearance of a repressed impulse takes place only in rare cases of complete sublimation.

Among psychoanalysts there is no one accepted opinion as to the place of repression among other defense mechanisms. The initial concept of repression as the principal and universal psychic mechanism is now yielding to the view that repression becomes operative only after the failure of other mechanisms, such as projection, isolation, and reaction formation. Today most psychoanalysts are inclined to regard fear, with which the ego reacts in the face of danger, as the cause of repression.

The concept of repression was applied in the field of ethnology by B. Malinowski (Great Britain).


Freud, S. “Vytesnenie.” In Osnovnye psikhologicheskie teorii v psikhoanalize. Moscow-Petrograd, 1923. Pages 90-102. (Translated from German.)
Malinowski, B. Sex and Repression in Savage Society. London, 1927.
Freud, A. The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defense. New York, 1946.
Madison, P. “Freud’s Repression Concept.” International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 1956, vol. 37, part 1. Pages 75-81.
Brenner, C. “The Nature and Development of the Concept of Repression in Freud’s Writings.” Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 1957, vol. 12. Pages 19-46.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.



Repression can be of a social or political nature—as in the repression of racial minorities. The other meaning of the term is psychological, but is closely related to its political meaning. Just as a society represses or suppresses groups of people who are deemed undesirable in some way, so the psyche represses undesirable thoughts, urges, and so forth. The “ghetto of the mind” into which one’s unacceptable desires are driven is the unconscious. Different schools of depth psychology (psychologies that focus on the unconscious) postulate somewhat different types of repression.

For Sigmund Freud what is primarily repressed is unacceptable sexual and aggressive urges. One might, for example, hate one’s father and wish to kill him (a common desire among men, according to Freud). But this is so unacceptable that we repress awareness of this death wish. For Carl Jung a diversity of material is repressed, including sexual and aggressive urges.

The material repressed into the unconscious mind is widely believed to reemerge in dreams. In Freud’s view, the purpose of dreams is to allow us to satisfy in dream fantasies the instinctual urges that we have repressed. One might, for instance, dream of slaying an oppressive ogre (a symbolic replacement for a hated father). In Jung’s view, dreams are arenas in which the repressed aspects of the psyche may reemerge to balance out the limited self we experience in our daylight consciousness. For Freud, Jung, and other depth psychologists, part of the task of psychotherapeutic dream interpretation is to use the dream to discover what the client is repressing.

The Dream Encyclopedia, Second Edition © 2009 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.


The termination of enzyme synthesis when the products of the reaction catalyzed by the enzyme reach a critical concentration.
(cell and molecular biology)
Inhibition of transcription or translation due to binding of a repressor to an operator on a deoxyribonucleic acid molecule or to a specific messenger ribonucleic acid site.
A defense mechanism whereby ideas, feelings, or desires, in conflict with the individual's conscious self-image or motives, are unconsciously dismissed from consciousness.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
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