Repression: Finding Our Way in the Maze of Concepts

  • Bert Garssen
  • Published 2007 in Journal of Behavioral Medicine


Repression is associated in the literature with terms such as non-expression, emotional control, rationality, anti-emotionality, defensiveness and restraint. Whether these terms are synonymous with repression, indicate a variation, or are essentially different from repression is uncertain. To clarify this obscured view on repression, this paper indicates the similarities and differences between these concepts. Repression is the general term that is used to describe the tendency to inhibit the experience and the expression of negative feelings or unpleasant cognitions in order to prevent one’s positive self-image from being threatened (‘repressive coping style’). The terms self-deception versus other-deception, and socially related versus personally related repression refer to what is considered to be different aspects of repression. Defensiveness is a broader concept that includes both anxious defensiveness and repression; the essential difference is whether negative emotions are reported or not. Concepts that are sometimes associated with repression, but which are conceptually different, are also discussed in this paper: The act of suppression, ‘repressed memories,’ habitual suppression, concealment, type C coping pattern, type D personality, denial, alexithymia and blunting. Consequences for research: (1) When summarizing findings reported in the literature, it is essential to determine which concepts the findings represent. This is rarely made explicit, and failure to do so may lead to drawing the wrong conclusions (2) It is advisable to use scales based on different aspects of repression (3) Whether empirical findings substantiate the similarities and differences between concepts described in this paper will need to be shown.

DOI: 10.1007/s10865-007-9122-7

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@article{Garssen2007RepressionFO, title={Repression: Finding Our Way in the Maze of Concepts}, author={Bert Garssen}, journal={Journal of Behavioral Medicine}, year={2007}, volume={30}, pages={471 - 481} }