Social Theory: The Multicultural and Classic Readings

By Charles Lemert | Go to book overview

on the other hand, the overpowering of the censorship is facilitated if anxiety has already been produced as an immediate sensation arising from somatic sources. We can thus plainly see the purpose for which the censorship exercises its office and brings about the distortion of dreams: it does so in order to prevent the generation of anxiety or other forms of distressing affect.❖


Remembering, Repeating, and Working-Through

Sigmund Freud ( 1919)

At this point I will interpolate a few remarks which every analyst has found confirmed in his observations. Forgetting impressions, scenes or experiences nearly always reduces itself to shutting them off. When the patient talks about these 'forgotten' things he seldom fails to add: 'As a matter of act I've always known it; only I've never thought of it.' He often expresses disappointment at the fact that not enough things come into his head that he can call 'forgotten'--that he has never thought of since they happened. Nevertheless, even this desire is fulfilled, especially in the case of conversion hysterias. 'Forgetting' becomes still further restricted when we assess at their true value the screen memories which are so generally present. In some cases I have had an impression that the familiar childhood amnesia, which is theoretically so important to us, is completely counterbalanced by screen memories. Not only some but all of what is essential from childhood has been retained in these memories. It is simply a question of knowing how to extract it out of them by analysis. They represent the forgotten years of childhood as adequately as the manifest content of a dream represents the dream-thoughts.

The other group of psychical processes--phantasies, processes of reference, emotional impulses, thought-connections--which, as purely internal acts, can be contrasted with impressions and experiences, must, in their relation to forgetting and remembering, be considered separately. In these processes it particularly often happens that something is 'remembered' which could never have been 'forgotten' because it was never at any time noticed--was never conscious. As regards the course taken by psychical events it seems to make no difference whatever whether such a 'thought-connection' was conscious and then forgotten or whether it never managed to become conscious at all. The conviction which the patient obtains in the course of his analysis is quite independent of this kind of memory.

In the many different forms of obsessional neurosis in particular, forgetting is mostly restricted to dissolving thought-connections, failing to draw the right conclusions and isolating memories.

There is one special class of experiences of the utmost importance for which no memory can as a rule be recovered. These are experiences which occurred in very early childhood and were not understood at the time but which were subsequently understood and interpreted. One gains a knowledge of them through dreams and one is obliged to believe in them on the most compelling evidence provided by the fabric of the neurosis. Moreover, we can ascertain for ourselves that the patient, after his resistances have been overcome, no longer invokes the absence of any memory of them (any sense of familiarity with them) as a ground for refusing to accept them.

____________________
Excerpt from James Stachey, ed. and trans., The Standard Edition, Vol. 12 ( London: Hogarth, 1958), pp. 148-155. Reprinted by permission of Sigmund Freud Copyrights, The Institute of Psycho-Analysis, The Hogarth Press, and Basic Books.

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