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Boag, S. (2010). Repression, Suppression, and Conscious Awareness. Psychoanal. Psychol., 27(2):164-181.

(2010). Psychoanalytic Psychology, 27(2):164-181

Repression, Suppression, and Conscious Awareness

Simon Boag, Ph.D.

Both “repression” and “suppression” are said to involve removing mental content from awareness. However, repression is generally said to be unconscious, whereas suppression is said to be conscious. The meanings of the terms “unconscious” and “conscious,” though, are open to a variety of interpretations and so the validity of this distinction is uncertain. This paper discusses the relationship between repression and suppression and whether conscious awareness distinguishes these processes. Consciousness and unconsciousness are discussed in terms of a relational account of cognition where “knowing” is understood as a relation between a cognizing subject and a cognized object term. On this view, problems arise from confusing consciousness and unconsciousness with properties or qualities of mental processes. Examined in this light, the present analysis reveals that repression can become conscious and that suppression can occur unconsciously. The role of “resistance” and the recognition of a series of defenses are discussed.

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