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Levin, M. (1936). The Activation of a Repressed Impulse Under Apparently Paradoxical Circumstances. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 17:355-359.

(1936). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 17:355-359

The Activation of a Repressed Impulse Under Apparently Paradoxical Circumstances

Max Levin

According to the current conception of the mechanism of repression, a wish or impulse unacceptable to the ego is, under certain conditions, repressed and banished from the sphere of conscious ideation. The repressed impulse, instead of meekly accepting its fate, strives constantly to re-assert itself, and there is thus a never-ending conflict between the impulse and the force which seeks to repress it. In some instances the repression is apparently complete and permanent. In others it is incomplete, the forbidden impulse succeeding in asserting itself in the form of symptomatic acts, dreams, neurotic symptoms, and even in conscious drives. This activation of the repressed impulse occurs when circumstances render either the impulse unusually strong or the repressing forces unusually weak.

In the case herein reported, a repressed impulse succeeded in re-asserting itself under apparently paradoxical circumstances: that is, under circumstances which might have been expected to strengthen, rather than weaken, the repressing forces.

The patient, a moderately successful business man of thirty-five, a Jew, requested advice because of mild periodic depressive moodswings existing since the age of thirty. He was an intelligent man of pyknic physique, with a predominantly syntonic personality. He was the oldest of three children, all sons. The father, a quiet man, had never been an outstanding success and four years previously had lost practically everything of what little he had. The mother had always been the dominant member of the family. The patient bore a strong facial resemblance to the father.

Ambivalent feelings toward the parents became evident early in the patient's life. Thus, at the age of five be began to rebel against their orthodox Jewish customs. At the age of eight or nine he was conscious of a fear that when he grew up he would fall in love with a Gentile girl, the fear being 'What would it do to my parents, especially Mother?'

An event significant in determining the external course of his life occurred when the patient was sixteen. He became acquainted with a girl of twenty-two, extremely stupid but otherwise attractive, and coming from a family socially much superior to his own.

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