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Unformatted text preview: Does Repression Exist? Memory, Pathogenic, Unconscious and Clinical Evidence Yacov Rofe Bar-Ilan University The current dispute regarding the existence of repression has mainly focused on whether people remember or forget trauma. Repression, however, is a multidimensional construct, which, in addition to the memory aspect, consists of pathogenic effects on adjustment and the unconscious. Accordingly, in order to arrive at a more accurate decision regarding the existence of repression, studies relevant to all three areas are reviewed. Moreover, since psychoanalysis regards repression as a key factor in ac- counting for the development and treatment of neurotic disorders, relevant research from these two domains are also taken into account. This comprehensive evaluation reveals little empirical justification for maintaining the psychoanalytic concept of repression. Keywords: memory of trauma, neurosis, psychotherapy, repression, unconscious Sigmund Freud (1914) viewed repression as the foundation stone on which the whole struc- ture of psychoanalysis rests (p. 297). It is therefore no wonder that Hundreds of psycho- analytic investigations have been interpreted as either propping up or tearing down this corner- stone (Gur & Sackeim, 1979, p. 167). How- ever, despite tremendous research efforts, the psychology community is polarized regarding the validity of this concept. On the one hand, in line with harsh criticism against psychoanalysis in general (e.g., Crews, 1998; Gross, 1978; Gru nbaum, 1984, 1998, 2002; Macmillan, 1997, 2001), numerous investigators question the validity of repression, claiming that it needs to be abandoned (e.g., Bonanno & Keuler, 1998; Court & Court, 2001; Pendergrast, 1997; Piper, Pope, & Borowiecki, 2000; H. G. Pope, Oliva, & Hudson, 1999). On the other hand, psychoanalysis continues to be one of the cen- tral theories of psychopathology, and many in- vestigators believe that repression is a valid concept (e.g., Bowers & Farvolden, 1996; Brown, Scheflin, & Whitfield, 1999; Cheit, 1998; Eagle, 2000a, 2000b; Talvitie & Ihanus, 2003; Westen, 1998a, 1999). The debate regarding the existence of repres- sion has focused mainly on clarifying whether people remember or forget trauma (e.g., see reviews by Brown et al., 1999; Court & Court, 2001; Erdelyi, 2006; Piper et al., 2000; H. G. Pope et al., 1999). However, repression as por- trayed in psychoanalytic doctrine and research literature is a multidimensional concept, com- posed not only of memory , but also of two additional equally important components. Psy- choanalysis assumes that repression has a pathogenic effect on the individuals psycholog- ical and physiological functioning, preventing both an accurate perception of reality that is necessary for adequate coping and a discharge of harmful tension (e.g., Alexander, 1950; Dol- lard & Miller, 1950; Fenichel, 1946; S. Freud, 1926, 1936). An additional assumption is the existence of an autonomous unconscious entity...
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