(1856-1939) Freud was an Austrian neurologist who famously founded the psychoanalytic school of psychiatry, a practice based on the belief that our actions, emotions and neuroses have causes unknown to use that can only be accessed by attempting to tap into the unconscious.
Wikipedia writes: "Freud is best known for his theories of the unconscious mind and the defense mechanism of repression, and for creating the clinical practice of psychoanalysis for treating psychopathology through dialogue between a patient, technically referred to as an "analysand", and a psychoanalyst. Freud redefined sexual desire as the primary motivational energy of human life, developed therapeutic techniques such as the use of free association, created the theory of transference in the therapeutic relationship, and interpreted dreams as sources of insight into unconscious desires. He was an early neurological researcher into cerebral palsy, and a prolific essayist, drawing on psychoanalysis to contribute to the history, interpretation and critique of culture.
"While many of Freud's ideas have fallen out of favor or been modified by other analysts, and modern advances in the field of psychology have shown flaws in some of his theories, his work remains influential in clinical approaches, and in the humanities and social sciences. He is considered one of the most prominent thinkers of the 20th century, in terms of originality and intellectual influence."
The formulation of repression was one of Freud's great "discoveries". In his estimation, "one of the vicissitudes an instinctual impulse may undergo is to meet with resistances which seek to make it inoperative" (569). When this happens, the impulse has been "repressed"; repression is a stage "between flight and condemnation" (569). Freud believes repression happens in a somewhat backwards way--because the satisfaction of desire is always pleasurable, the patient should want to satisfy the desire. But for some reason, satisfaction of the desire would bring displeasure, and the patient's only recourse is repression.
Repression requires a divide between conscious and unconscious mental activity, wherein the patient wants to keep something away from the conscious. The instinct that is denied access to the conscious establishes a fixation in the unconscious, and this is evinced through the 2nd stage of repression, wherein there is a push and pull of the unconscious pushing out and the conscious pushing back. The fact of repression does not mean that the fixation has been dealt with, but that it continues toward "putting out derivitatives and establishing connections" within the unconscious. The process of psychoanalysis is to get at the impulse through such derivitives and connections such that it can pass the censorship of the conscious. Through associations, dream analysis and the talking cure, the patient encounters the repressed idea and attempts to repress it again, or must confront it via the conscious. Repression requires a continual expenditure of force to keep the desire at bay from the conscious. As the repressed presses against the conscious, the conscious presses back. If the analyst can aide in the removal of the repressed, then energy and force are saved. While Freud wanted to create a more general model of repression, he found it to be particularly individualized.
This theory is noteworthy in the development of philosophies of human consciousness, as it suggests that we exist under conditions that are not apparent to us and which we have little control over; the development of theories of repression coincides beautifully with Marx's theorization of historical materialism and commodity fetishism, in which the worker is under conditions they are not in control of on a large-scale historio-economic level.