Main article: Repressed memory
It is often claimed that traumatic events are repressed, yet it appears that the trauma more often strengthens memories due to heightened emotional or physical sensations. (These sensations may also cause distortions, though human memory in general is filtered by layers of perception and incomplete.) One problem from an objective research point of view is that a "memory" must be measured and recorded by a person's actions or conscious expressions, which may be filtered through current thoughts and motivations.
Despite the ability of some psychologists, such as Elizabeth Loftus, to implant false memories in individuals, there is evidence that people can indeed forget painful memories from the past, although it is also possible for them to underestimate the degree to which they actually remember the events. However, due to ethical and methodological reasons—for example, a researcher cannot put an experimental group of people through a traumatic experience, and one could not prospectively secure a trauma-free control group, anyway—the information about repression that experimental research can provide is especially limited.
However, the repression of information chosen for consideration in the present or future - because it is viewed as aversive - has a powerful relationship to what will be drawn out of the unconscious to be made available for honest, conscious deliberation.[clarify] This has an enormous amount of supporting research in the area of cognitive dissonance theory started in the 1950s by Leon Festinger among others.
In the Primary Repression phase, an infant learns that some aspects of reality are pleasant, and others are unpleasant; that some are controllable, and others not. In order to define the "self", the infant must repress the natural assumption that all things are equal. Primary Repression then is the process of determining what is self,...