post-classical Latin repression-, repressio suppression (4th cent.), restraint (frequently from 12th cent. in British sources) < classical Latin repress-, past participial stem of reprimere
- 1a : the action or process of repressing : the state of being repressed <repression of unpopular opinions>
- b : an instance of repressing <racial repressions>
- 2a : a mental process by which distressing thoughts, memories, or impulses that may give rise to anxiety are excluded from consciousness and left to operate in the unconscious
- b : an item so excluded
Psychological repression, also psychic repression or simply repression, is the psychological attempt by an individual to repel its own desires and impulses towards pleasurable instincts. Such desires, impulses, wishes, fantasies or feelings can be represented in the mind as thoughts, images and memories. The repression is caused when an external force puts itself in contrast with the desire, threatening to cause suffering if the desire is satisfied, thereby posing a conflict for the individual; the repressive response to the threat is to exclude the desire from one's consciousness and hold or subdue it in the unconscious. Repression plays a major role in many mental illnesses, and in the psyche of average people.
The concept is part of Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytic theory. Since Freud's work in psychoanalysis, repression is now accepted as a defense mechanism by psychoanalytic psychologists. Conversely, regarding the distinct subject of repressed memory, there remains instead some debate as to whether (or how often) memory repression really happens and mainstream psychology holds that true memory repression occurs only very rarely.
Political repression is the persecution of an individual or group for political reasons, particularly for the purpose of restricting or preventing their ability to take part in the political life of society.
Political repression is sometimes used synonymously with the term political discrimination (also known as politicism). It often is manifested through discriminatory policies, such as human rights violations, surveillance abuse, police brutality, imprisonment, involuntary settlement, stripping of citizen's rights, lustration and violent action such as the murder, summary executions, torture, forced disappearance and other extrajudicial punishment of political activists, dissidents, or general population.
Where political repression is sanctioned and organised by the state, it may constitute state terrorism, genocide, politicide or crimes against humanity. Systemic and violent political repression is a typical feature of dictatorships, totalitarian states and similar regimes. In such regimes, acts of political repression may be carried out by secret police forces, army, paramilitary groups or death squads. Relevant activities have also been found within democratic contexts as well.