The essence of repression

“Some unconscious ideas in a human being are incapable of becoming conscious to him in the ordinary way, because they are strenuously disowned and resisted by the conscious self. From this point of view Freud can say that ‘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.’ The dynamic relation between the unconscious and the conscious life is one of conflict, and psychoanalysis is from top to bottom a science of mental conflict.

The realm of the unconscious is established in the individual when he refuses to admit into his conscious life a purpose or desire which he has, and in doing so establishes in himself a psychic force opposed to his own idea. This rejection by the individual of a purpose or an idea, which nevertheless remains his, is repression. ‘The essence of repression lies simply in the function of rejecting or keeping something out of consciousness.’ ¬†Stated in more general terms, the essence of repression lies in the refusal of the human being to recognize the realities of his human nature.” –Norman O. Brown, in Life Against Death, The Psychoanalytical Meaning of History, Wesleyan University Press, 1985, p.4.


It’s the beast up there on the stairs, the one in the background, the one we don’t¬†want to invite to dinner, that causes most of our problems.