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Miller, F. (1977). Denial: A Contribution to Psychoanalytic Theory. J. Amer. Acad. Psychoanal., 5(2):187-193.

(1977). Journal of American Academy of Psychoanalysis, 5(2):187-193

Denial: A Contribution to Psychoanalytic Theory

Frank Miller


Contemporary psychoanalytic theorists have not put forward an explanation of denial that is widely accepted. Waelder (1951), Lewin (1950), and Jacobson (1957) have developed hypotheses which differ from one another significantly and which are not easily reconciled. In partial explanation, it is hypothesized that the incongruities encountered in contemporary theories of denial are determined by the often diverse phenomena the theories attempt to elucidate. In the author's opinion, recent theories of denial are overinclusive and tend to treat a group of closely related phenomena as if they were identical processes. Little attention has been given to those factors which tend to differentiate among the group while similarities have been emphasized. In this essay an attempt is made to discriminate between these phenomena and to differentiate denial as a defensive process from other processes of nonrecognition.

Freud (1938) stated: the ego often enough finds itself in the position of fending off some demand from the external world which it feels distressing this is effected by means of a disavowal (i.e., denial) of the perceptions which bring to knowledge this demand from reality. (pp. 203-204). In this formulation Freud asserts that the mechanism of denial is employed when a percept derived from the external world must be disavowed.

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