Repression, as I see it, is denying a situation of any expression or exposure, until it has gone from our awareness or rarely takes up too much of our attention.
This can be brought about in two ways, which depend on the subjective severity of the experience. The first one is by the use of instantly denying an experience and doing everything we can in the moments after, to escape from it, so that no amount of time is allowed for the event to consume our mind. The other way is through a more gradual process of escaping and denying of an unpleasant memory. This may be more appropriate if the experience is less traumatic for us.
But the question that arises is - Do we truly believe that once we have repressed something it has gone from our lives forever or is it still there influencing our lives. It is easy for us to assume that situations throughout our life that have been overwhelming and unpleasant have been removed completely by the useful action of repression. However, upon closer inspection we can see that our reality does not validate this perception.
And by living in a society that encourages repression, it makes it natural and even ‘normal’ for us to continue to live this way without ever questioning if it’s helping us or if there is another way to live.
Moments in our life when we feel down or off and can’t figure out why, are usually due to leading a repressed life. This could be from a moment in our past when we have pushed down an experience that was too painful and which now causes us to feel numb in certain situations or for prolonged periods of time in our lives. This can understandably make us feel disconnected from ourselves and from life.
Feeling numb can create a strong desire in us to feel a sense of aliveness, with there being plenty of options in our society to take care of this urge. With drugs and alcohol being obvious examples, however there are numerous other ways.
Another common occurrence to repression is the tendency to react to life, instead of responding. The ability to respond could be described as a conscious occurrence, with reacting being the result of unconscious memories being triggered and resurfacing. This happens due to the fact that the more we push something down the stronger it becomes, until we become like a ticking time bomb, ready to go off at any moment and without any real control of our emotions.
And along with the tendency to react comes the potential for violence. This can of course be on a small scale and even on the larger scale in life. This leads us to doing things that, once we have done them, we have an instant surge of regret and ask ourselves ‘why did I do that’. And this is because most of our actions and internal process are not conscious and are coming from our repressed pain.
So it is easy to see how living a repressed life can create abuse and lead to the often talked about ‘unexpected behaviour’ of people portrayed in the media and everyday life.
It is also my perspective that health problems are also the consequence of not dealing with our repressed memories and experiences.
This shows to me, that it is of paramount importance to work on our history, or should I say, that which keeps turning up in our present moment.
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Oliver J R Cooper
Oliver JR Cooper
Author of 26 books, Transformational Writer, Teacher & Consultant.
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That which is contained within these articles is based on my own empirical understanding and is true for me at the time they were written. However, as I continue to grow, what I perceive as the truth will inevitably change and as a result of this - parts of these articles may not reflect my current outlook.