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Cohen, J. Kinston, W. (1984). Repression Theory: A New Look at the Cornerstone. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 65:411-422.

(1984). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 65:411-422

Repression Theory: A New Look at the Cornerstone

Jonathan Cohen and Warren Kinston


The purpose of this paper is to revise the theory of repression so as to resolve long-standing theoretical inconsistencies, to increase congruence with data and concepts generated by new clinical problems; and to contribute to analysts' understanding of patients. Our approach is based on Freud's conception of psychic structure as based on representations, which stem from needs mediated through satisfying experiences. We have also adhered to Freud's persistently held ideas of primal repression as a state with its roots in trauma, and of repression proper as a defensive process evolving out of primal repression. The most significant clinical findings are the possibility of primal repression at any stage of life, not just in childhood; and the possibility of healthy development without repression. The revised theory leads to a new general classification of analysands and clarifies the need for both components of the psychoanalytic method, resolving intrapsychic conflicts and facilitating emotional maturation. The most significant theoretical outcome is a reaffirmation of repression as the basis for any general theory of psychopathology.

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