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Loewald, H.W. (1971). Some Considerations on Repetition and Repetition Compulsion. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 52:59-66.

(1971). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 52:59-66

Some Considerations on Repetition and Repetition Compulsion

Hans W. Loewald

It is difficult to speak of repetition without becoming involved in a vast area of phenomena and problems. Freud's treatment of the subject, limited as it is in some respects, is proof of this. Repetition is a concept of such generality that one quickly gains the impression that it is, in one way or another, applicable to most if not all phenomena and processes of life, biological and psychological. My fragmentary and programmatic remarks will deal with only a few issues of repetition as a psychological phenomenon and will attempt to show that the concept of repetition is implied in some key psychoanalytic conceptualizations. In the course of this discussion some more general, but to my mind crucial, ideas concerning the meaning and import of repetition in human life will be considered.

Repetition on the psychological level cannot be defined simply in terms of reiteration or replica in a mechanical sense, although more or less stereotyped and automatic repetitions of prior experiences, prior behaviour, thoughts, feelings and actions play an important role in normal and pathological processes. It is, in fact, one of the most important issues confronting us in a psychoanalytic consideration of repetition to make the distinction between such relatively passive or automatic repetitions and active repeating, and to study the conditions under which transitions from one to the other take place, although little will be said here about the latter point. Any consideration of the relations between id, ego and superego has to deal with the passivity—activity issue in terms of repetition, and so does any consideration of psychoanalysis as a therapeutic process.

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