Repression Theory of Forgetting

As the term implies, a defensive system is a method the ego uses to protect its possessor from unpleasant emotional states. A common ego protection technique is repression. Repression, along with other forms of protection, guarantees that nothing upsetting or otherwise unwelcome is allowed to enter the conscious mind and trigger unfavorable affective responses. Repressing is a more nuanced process than suppression, which may be as simple as choosing to forget a painful recollection. Repression as well as suppression are often used interchangeably but have distinct meanings. When a person forgets about a recollection or concept, it is called repression since the person is unaware that they have forgotten about it.

Conversely, suppression is the intentional and willful erasure of an experience from one's consciousness. One research found that suppression is linked to poorer satisfaction with life and even worse scholastic fulfillment, suggesting that repression and suppression may have deleterious effects on the human psyche and interpersonal interactions. If suppression worked, the negative emotions triggered by that idea or recollection would disappear. However, no matter how hard they try, repressing emotions and urges does not make them disappear, and they continue negatively impacting a person's conduct and connections.

Explaining the Repression Theory of Forgetting

Repression is the subconscious erasure of negative feelings, urges, recollections, and ideas. As Sigmund originally noted, the goal of this defensive system is to lessen the impact of negative emotions like guilt and fear. However, although repressing these feelings may temporarily alleviate worry, it often has the opposite impact in the long run. According to Sigmund, suppressing feelings might make them harder to deal with later.

Facts of the Repression Theory of Forgetting

Sigmund's theory of the mind is crucial to comprehending the dynamics of suppression. Sigmund likened the human mind to a glacier. In this metaphor, the part of the glacier that lies above water symbolizes the aware self. The consciousness is like the tip of a glacier that lies just below the sea's surface. The blackout might be considered the vast, submerged portion of the glacier. The thoughts of the subconscious have the potential to influence our actions even if we are unaware of their presence. Sigmund assumed that an active process kept unwanted ideas buried as he sought to assist patients in taking their blackout emotions. Because of this, he came up with the idea of repression. Sigmund saw suppression as the primary survival tactic since it was the first he discovered. In reality, Sigmundian psychotherapy was developed to illuminate and process these latent impulses and thoughts.

Impacts of Repression Theory of Forgetting

Studies have shown that individuals often use selective amnesia to bury painful or upsetting experiences. Specifically, this may happen via a process called learning forgetting. When we recollect particular experiences, we may overlook other details. For this reason, it is possible that bringing up certain recollections over and over again might make others less approachable. It is possible that recalling positive recollections over and again might help one forget unpleasant ones, including trauma and undesirable experiences.


Sigmund thought dreams might provide insight into the subconscious. He theorized that by examining the overt elements of a dream, we might get insight into its hidden meaning. The wants, worries, and concerns we encounter in our dreams may manifest uncomfortable feelings. Sigmund's mouth errors are another way suppressed emotions and ideas might surface. According to Sigmund, careless utterances frequently disclose our true, blackout thoughts and feelings about a topic. Although these emotions are often buried deep inside, they always seem to surface at the most inopportune times. An innocent slip of the tongue, or, according to Sigmund, an indication of suppressed sexual urges for a coworker, maybe a case of accidentally referring to one's significant other by the wrong name.


According to Psychosexual development of psychological stages, during the developmental period, children undergo a process in which they perceive their identical parents as a competition for the emotions of the contrary parent. Rather than acting on their aggressive impulses, they internalize their family's identical traits to resolve the tension between them.


Phobia is an example of how a suppressed recollection might remain to influence behavior. A dog bites a youngster, for instance. They eventually discover a lifelong aversion to canines, but they cannot place its genesis. They have blocked out the distressing recollection of their encounter with the dog, so they do not know whence this apprehension stems.


When many high-profile instances involving rediscovered recollections of childhood abuse gained public attention, the topic of unwanted thoughts was thrust into the limelight. Many studies, like those by Elizabeth Loftus, have shown how simple it is to generate false recalls of events that did not occur. Furthermore, people often invent or embellish their recollections. People might be fooled into thinking their recollections are correct if the events they recall did not take place in the ways they recall. Sigmund observed that during psychoanalytic treatment, patients occasionally "recovered" previously suppressed recollections from infancy. These experiences from childhood are not necessarily real," he said in his book "Introduction Courses on Psychoanalysis." The vast majority of these claims are false and contradict what we know to be true in a few instances. A traumatic experience can enhance one's recollection of an incident. Vivid recollections of the traumatic event are a symptom of thread stress disorder, which may develop in certain people who have experienced trauma. People do not forget their traumas; they are forced to replay them repeatedly. This is not to say that people's recollections of these occurrences are always reliable. Since encoding, storing and retrieving recollections all include human error, it is not surprising that people often have distorted recollections.


Researchers have not confirmed Sigmund's theory that releasing suppressed emotions would lead to healing. Instead, many feel that bringing hidden data to light is the first step in making positive societal changes. After all, knowledge alone is seldom a solution. However, this may inspire other actions that bring much-needed alleviation and long-term improvements.

Updated on: 15-Dec-2022


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