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Pressman, M.D. (1969). The Cognitive Function of the Ego in Psychoanalysis—Ii: Repression, Incognizance and Insight Formation. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 50:343-351.

(1969). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 50:343-351

The Cognitive Function of the Ego in Psychoanalysis—Ii: Repression, Incognizance and Insight Formation

Maurie D. Pressman


In this paper it is proposed that we adopt the term 'incognizance' for those partial decathexes of mental content which are not true repressions (for the content remains in the open), but are partial repressions. The mechanisms of incognizance are studied, enumerated and illustrated, and it is suggested that insight formation results from reversing the motivating force for repression, i.e. helping the patient to tolerate the formerly intolerable and, in this way, more fully cathecting that which has been decathected.

Insight is achieved by amalgamating in consciousness four components: idea, affect, motor impulse and self-image. It is necessary that each component be present in optimum proportion. Exaggerating or diminishing any component results in abortion of insight, as in the familiar clinical phenomenology of intellectualization, affectualization, acting in and acting out.

A neurosis is never a fully isolated phenomenon. Patients resort to neurotic defensive manoeuvres because these manoeuvres work, and to archaic gratifications because they are fed. Therefore it is postulated that there is such a thing as nutriment for the neurosis (an exchange with the environment which maintains the neurosis). Recognition of this fact gives us further understanding of the need for analytic neutrality. One must starve the neurosis before it can be objectified for the patient.

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