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Keywords:

  • intrusive reexperiencing;
  • repetition phenomena;
  • memory;
  • psychotherapy;
  • compulsion to repeat

Abstract

Psychotherapy and psychotraumatology share a preoccupation with repetition phenomena, manifested as transference, compulsions to repeat, or intrusive reexperiencing. Terminological diversity obscures compelling similarities between these repetition phenomena and discourages speculation about processes involved in their genesis. This paper remedies these oversights by integrating recent empirical evidence pertaining to memory with European intellectual traditions embraced by its pioneering dynamic psychotherapists. Using dreams as a prototype repetition, the phenomenological diversity of repetition phenomena is shown to be reconcilable with current evidence about memory encoding, storage, and retrieval. Differences in persistence, intensity, pervasiveness, and treatment resilience of repetition phenomena are explained using concepts derived from psychological and biological sciences. Implications for psychotherapeutic theory, practice, and evaluation are considered.