Repetition compulsion

Repetition Compulsion

Repetition compulsion

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Repetition compulsion is a psychological phenomenon in which a person repeats a traumatic event or its circumstances over and over again. This includes reenacting the event or putting oneself in situations where the event is likely to happen again. This "re-living" can also take the form of dreams in which memories and feelings of what happened are repeated, and even hallucination.

The term can also be used to cover the repetition of behaviour or life patterns more broadly: a 'key component in Freud's understanding of mental life, "repetition compulsion"...describes the pattern whereby people endlessly repeat patterns of behaviour which were difficult or distressing in earlier life'Jan Clark and Jim Crawley, Transference and Projection: Mirrors to the self. (Buckingham 2002) p. 38

Freud and the repetition compulsion

Sigmund Freud's use of the concept was 'articulated...for the first time, in the article of 1914, Erinnern, Wiederholen und Durcharbeiten ('Remembering, Repeating and Working-Through.'Jacques Lacan, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-Analysis (London 1994), p. 49 Here he noted how 'the patient does not remember anything of what he has forgotten and repressed, he acts it out, without, of course, knowing that he is repeating it....For instance, the patient does not say that he remembers that he used to be defiant and critical toward his parents' authority; instead, he behaves in that way to...
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