"Reading at the Roche Limit"

Brook Aidan Rosini


A necessity for some

Notes on compulsory involuntary repetition

  • Unintended recurrence of same
    • involuntary repetition
    • seek to ascribe meaning to coincidence
      • “omnipotence of thoughts”: fend off prohibitions of reality (wish fulfillment)
      • return to animistic conception of universe (recalls oceanic feeling from Civilization and Its Discontents, return to time of psychic development during which ego perceives no difference between self and external world)
    • compulsion to repeat

I.  Freud’s “Beyond the Pleasure Principle” and the Compulsion to Repeat

  • Repetition: by purposely repeating a situation that raises feelings of unpleasure, a person turns a passive situation into one over which he has control by playing an active part – instinct for mastery (Freud Reader, 600).
  • See a similarity from “Theme of the Three Caskets,” in which individuals attempt to attain dominance over necessity of death by substituting for it a choice of love.
  • Compulsion to repeat locates repressed material as actively in the present, rather than as a memory that belongs to the past (602).
  • Unconscious, or repressed, offers no resistance and wants to “force its way either to consciousness or to a discharge through some real action.  Resistance during treatment arises from the same higher strata and systems of the mind which originally carried out repression” (602).
  • In other words, resistance arises from the ego, while the compulsion to repeat must be ascribed to the unconscious repressed.  The conscious attempts to protect itself from the unpleasure that would be produced by the liberation of the repressed content (603).


Sigmund Freud, “Beyond the Pleasure Principle,” Section II.  From The Freud Reader, edited by Peter Gay.  New York, NY: W.W. Norton and Company, Inc., 1989.