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Greenacre, P. (1949). A Contribution to the Study of Screen Memories. Psychoanal. St. Child, 3:73-84.

(1949). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 3:73-84

A Contribution to the Study of Screen Memories

Phyllis Greenacre, M.D.

In an early paper (6), Freud described screen memories as any childhood memories which are retained into adult life. These isolated islands of recollection were found on analysis to mark the location of and to represent the lost continents of childhood experience. Among these memories some were noted as having special characteristics of brightness or intensity which generally contrasted with their relatively indifferent, innocuous, or patently distorted content. They were not only predominantly visual, but Freud further noted that, in contrast to memories from later periods of life, the rememberer was detached and seemed to watch himself as a child performer. Such memories seemed to be screen memories par excellence. In this early paper the mechanisms of repression and displacement were especially noted and screen memories were likened to slips of the tongue or of behavior, and the other psychopathological phenomena of everyday life. In his book of this title (7) Freud developed the concept of screen memories further and attempted to classify them somewhat formally as retroactive or regressive, interposing, or contiguous memories according to the time relationship between the retained memory and the events which it was concealing. This classification has not proved especially useful as screen memories are found to draw their strength from or "feed on" (to use Fenichel's hunger analogy) events which have happened both before and after their occurrence. It is probable that they may even be molded somewhat and get new increments in the course of years.

In later papers (8), (9), Freud stated that screen memories could be treated in ways similar to dreams and like them were products in which repression, displacement, condensation, symbolization and secondary elaboration might all participate.


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