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Arnold, K. (2006). The need to Express and the Compulsion to Confess: Reik's Theory of Symptom-Formation. Psychoanal. Psychol., 23(4):738-753.

(2006). Psychoanalytic Psychology, 23(4):738-753

The need to Express and the Compulsion to Confess: Reik's Theory of Symptom-Formation

Kyle Arnold, M.A.

The present article offers a close reading of Reik's theory of symptom-formation. Drawing on two-person aspects of Freud's work, Reik argues that human beings have a basic need to express ourselves to others. The child's expressions develop as compromises between the urge to express and the internalized responses of caregivers to expressions, which are consolidated into the superego. When others repeatedly reject the child's expressions, the child comes to reject its own expressions through repression. Repressed expressions return as composites of the need to express and the internalized prohibitions against expression. These composites emerge as unconscious confessions in which the patient both communicates repressed material and punishes herself for doing so. Reik proposes that neurotic symptoms comprise such unconscious confessions.

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