Repression is a defence mechanism used to protect ourselves from things that have happened in the past. It was the first defence mechanism discovered by Sigmund Freud. Repressing memories is accomplished by placing uncomfortable in nearly inaccessible areas of the subconscious mind.
The amount that people forget these memories vary they either forget the temporarily or it is linked with amnesia where the events are very difficult to ‘find’.
Examples of common repressed memories are:
- A child who is abused by a parent later has no recollection of the events, but has trouble forming relationship
- A woman who found childbirth particularly painful continues to have children (and each time the level of pain is surprising).
- A man has a phobia of spiders but cannot remember why or his first experience with them.
Repression is done unconsciously the activity is done by the ego to keep disturbing or threatening thoughts from becoming conscious in the individual. Thoughts that are often repressed are those that would damage or harm the individual. The Oedipus complex was a controversial theory by Sigmund Freud involving children having a desire to have sexual relations with its parent. If you would like more information about it here. Sigmund Freud explained that in the Oedipus complex the aggressive thoughts about the same sex parents are repressed.
In the long term repressive memories are not a very successful defence of removing disturbing memories or ideas from the conscious memory. When the memory is in the unconscious it will not be remembered but it will create anxiety and fear for the individual but they will have little or absolutely no memory of why .
Recovered memory therapy refers to the methods that are used to recover to repressed memories. One of these methods most commonly used is psychoanalysis this is psychological theory and therapy that is used to mental disorders by going through the conscious and subconscious memories in the mind and trying to bring repressed fears and conflicts out from the subconscious mind. This is done by using techniques such as dream interpretation and free association. Psychoanalysis is also used to cure anxiety and depression. It was initially developed by Sigmund Freud. This is where you have the image in your head of someone lying on a couch whilst being talked to.
Many people argue that repressed memories should not be uncovered because it can ruin family relationships and harm someone worse if they retrieve something really tragic it may completely change the way that they live. on the other hand though if they reveal something tragic it may explain the way that they act around certain things or people and will be able to help them more. There is more information about Harrison G Pope and James Hudson who are known sceptics of repressive memory and held experiments on proving it wrong here.
There is lots of information about psychoanalysis how it is done and how it can affect people here : http://www.simplypsychology.org/psychoanalysis.html