Repression [other]

The concept of Repression is one that is quite dense, difficult to understand and argue. it refers to an attempt by an individual to manage their drives and longings by means of exclusion from our consciousness/ is a key psychoanalytic concept that explores the way the human mind deals with conflict and trauma. 

Sigmund Freud, in an article by Saul Mcleod on Defense Mechanisms, talks about how when conflicting demands between the Id and Superego upon the Ego causes it to feel overwhelmed or threatened, one of a number of defense mechanisms are employed,  subconsciously to block or avoid unpleasant feelings or make other feelings better for the individual.

If the ego is obliged to admit its weakness, it breaks out in anxiety regarding the outside world, moral anxiety regarding the superego, and neurotic anxiety regarding the strength of the passions in the id. (Freud 1933, p. 78).


Freud contemplates that there is, reason to assume there is a primal repression, a first phase which consists, he notes, of the idea that represents instinct/ desire and not the idea that is represented by something else, which is being denied entrance into the conscious. as well as a second stage of repression, repression proper which affects mental offshoots of the repressed representative.

Primal Repression to me is a means by which the ego reconciles constructs such as moral/conscience(superego) with baser desires and libidinal drives(Id) and also a parameter of subconscious indoctrination. Robin Wood  goes further to say 

Basic repression is universal, necessary, and inescapable.

Upon starting this piece I flash back to a scene from a tv series, of the action fantasy horror genre, I watch.Teen Wolf. Matt was at the home of Isaac Lahey to see a rare comic book when he was thrown in the pool by Isaac’s brother Camden, and the other members of the 2006 BHHS Swim Team, who had just won a State Championship and were celebrating. they were drunk and their coach, Isaac and Camden’s father, was fully aware that alcohol was being consumed at their home.

As Matt, who could not swim, struggled in the pool, he took note of the numerous swim team members who were just standing around laughing while he was drowning.

Matt lost consciousness. He was revived by Coach Lahey who berated him for not being able to swim and warned him never to tell anyone.

Matt kept the secret which resulted in recurring nightmares of drowning followed by shortness of breath. His parents, thinking he suffered from asthma, bought him an inhaler.

This first came across as Repression, period, only for my lack of knowledge to become apparent upon further research and scrutiny.

This scene would more closely resemble the latter of the two stages of repression or Surplus repression as Herbert Marcuse would come to dub it.

Where matt stood as a symbol of the other, as a consequence of his status on the evolutionary ladder due to his inability to swim. and his colleagues ridiculed him to near-death for this motor deficiency.

In comes the coach, a signifier of social organization to exploit his humiliation yet again into keeping the incident a secret. a kind of, its really your fault you almost drowned cause you are a vulnerable, defenseless, finite being incapable of, something as rudimentary as, swimming. society frowns and preys on the weak.  

It might be worth noting that from the beginning of the episode in question, the storyline plays out without much reference to the matt character. matter of fact I barely recall ever seeing him the entire previous season.

Matt tries to repress the experience and never spoke of it. but the effects of the trauma manifested in three stages. the first of which was flashbacks that would trigger night terrors and shortness of breath. the nightmares of drowning were perceived as asthmatic attacks leading his parents to get him an inhaler.

Dreams are also escapes, from the unresolved tensions of our lives into fantasies. Yet the fantasies are not meaningless; they can represent attempts to resolve those tensions in more radical ways than our consciousness can countenance.

The conditions under which a dream becomes a nightmare are that the repressed wish is, from the point of view of consciousness, so terrible that it must be repudiated as loathsome…

The second stage manifests in form of a love interest, Allison, which he shares with the protagonist. on closer inspection, his attraction to her was mildly obsessive compulsive and voyeuristic. This second eruption though still subtle stemmed from a more successful attempt at psychic defense mechanism, reaction formation. 

This is where a person goes beyond denial and behaves in the opposite way to which he or she thinks or feels.  By using the reaction formation the id is satisfied while keeping the ego in ignorance of the true motives.  Conscious feelings are the opposite of the unconscious.  Love – hate.  Shame – disgust and moralizing are reaction formation against sexuality. Usually, a reaction formation is marked by showiness and compulsiveness. (McLeod 2009)

Matt comes over to gloat and to declare his stalker “If I can’t have you, no one can” love for her.

the 3rd and final stage is marked by matt connects with a mythological creature, the kanima, a weapon of vengeance. which carries out the bidding of its master.  he uses this weapon to kill first for revenge but spirals into mania. killing people for simply making him feel slightly less competent

He says it was like the furies of Greek myth coming down to punish Orestes. He then chides Scott for his ignorance of the classical reference explaining that the furies are deities of vengeance with tears of blood and snakes for hair that punished criminals who had escaped justice.

at the end, it all comes full circle. matt eventually dies from drowning.


Laplanche, J. and Pontalis, J. (1988) The Language Of Psycho-Analysis [online] available from <> [19 January 2017]

McLeod, S. (2009) Defense Mechanisms | Simply Psychology [online] available from <> [17 January 2017]

Groenveld, J. (2017) REPRESSED MEMORIES AND RECOVERED MEMORY THERAPY(RMT) [online] available from <> [18 January 2017]

Phùng, T. (2013) “Herbert Marcuse: Basic Repression And Surplus Repression”. [ 2013] available from <> [22 January 2017]

WOOD, R. (n.d.) The American Nightmare Horror In The 70S [online] 1st edn. Robin Wood. available from <> [20 January 2017]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *