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Kepecs, J.G. (1954). Observations on Screens and Barriers in the Mind. Psychoanal Q., 23:62-77.

(1954). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 23:62-77

Observations on Screens and Barriers in the Mind

Joseph G. Kepecs, M.D.


Mental states described as blankness, a void, or by the phrase, 'There is nothing in my mind', may be investigated by requesting

the subject to describe the experience. Often this will arouse memories or associations which indicate that these states of mental 'blankness' contain visual memories which have lost their outlines and distinctness. The memory has become a homogeneous part of the perceptual field. The application of attention may cause the memory to emerge from the field. Many of these memories which have become lost in the field are of the maternal breast. Others are memories of later screens which have served to prevent the child from carrying out some action or satisfying some curiosity. These memories which have lost their outlines continue to exist in the preconscious, but are recognizable only when there is a drying up of associations and the subject reports a state of mental blankness. They seem thus to exist as a field on which the figures of consciousness are located. They function as screens or barriers between what is conscious and what is unconscious. This function places them at the service of the forces leading to repression. The repressive forces thus have at their disposal early memories of walls or barriers which have lost their outlines because attention, 'mobile cathectic energy', was withdrawn from them. The breast which served to exclude frustrating reality, or the door which shut out a curious child remain as immanent memories. They continue to function internally as they once functioned externally, to exclude painful or conflicting feelings and thoughts from consciousness.

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