In terms of psychology, what is primal repression?

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theyellowbookworm eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Repression is the way in which an individual defends his or her consciousness from unwanted or harmful desires. Freud hypothesized that individuals often do not actively engage in repression but, rather, the mind works to protect an individual and repress harmful desires before they can even enter one’s consciousness. Thus, repression is instinctual. Primal repression works in this way.

Primal repression pre-exists the ego, or the thinking consciousness / self, which means that an individual may repress a harmful desire without being consciously aware of what is happening.  The primary purpose of primal repression is to avoid displeasure and protect an individual from harmful desires that may cause pain or anxiety. Freud posits that primal repression is most often caused by an outbreak of anxiety which leads to the repression of the desire. The mind responds to the anxiety by engaging in primal repression and protecting an individual from unwelcome desires that may be detrimental to one’s sense of self or the world.

eli468 | Student

Repression is," the ego's ridding itself of unacceptable desires and ideas by dumping them into unconsciousness."

Sigmund Freud  said that there are two main motivations for primal repression. The first one is due to "instinctual impulses that are too intense and threaten to overwhelm the organism." This motivation is not used as widely due to the fact that Freud ruled out that the instinctual impulses might not occur from things such as hunger, sex, etc. 

The more accepted motivation that Freud proposed was the primal repression may occur when your mind thinks that you may be in danger due to a satisfaction of a drive that a person may have. By repressing certain memories your mind is trying to protect you in ways that can keep you okay. 

Some people repress traumatic events as a way of coping because the mind knew the body could not handle the grief all at once. It may also be a way to keep someone living normally. Repressing bad memories can keep people from feeling in constant fear, paranoia, or it is just your own ego refusing to accept unwanted things that happened.