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Repetition Compulsion

  1. Rosemary Cogan

Published Online: 30 JAN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470479216.corpsy0791

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

How to Cite

Cogan, R. 2010. Repetition Compulsion. Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1–2.

Author Information

  1. Texas Tech University

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 30 JAN 2010


One remarkable feature of the human condition is that people repeat unhappy or troublesome experiences. As he developed psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud recognized that the unrelenting repetition of unhappy experiences was a hallmark of psychopathology. In 1914, in “Remembering, Repeating, and Working Through,” Freud (1914/1958) described the repetition compulsion, in which a patient in psychoanalysis repeats something important from the past without recognizing the repetition. Freud noted that the compulsion to repeat often occurs at the beginning of treatment and also when the transference is hostile or intense. As the meaning of the repetition becomes clearer, it becomes increasingly possible for analyst and analysand to recognize and talk about the conflicts in the mind involved in the repetition. Understanding the mental conflict helps to reduce the pressure of the unconscious conflict and the compulsion to repeat.


  • trauma;
  • play;
  • anxiety dreams;
  • transference