In George Orwell's 1984, a great deal of space is devoted to explaining "Double-think," part of The Party's method of "reality control." Here's a particularly clear passage:

Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them. The Party intellectual knows in which direction his memories must be altered; he therefore knows that he is playing tricks with reality; but by the exercise of doublethink he also satisfies himself that reality is not violated. The process has to be conscious, or it would not be carried out with sufficient precision, but it also has to be unconscious, or it would bring with it a feeling of falsity and hence of guilt. Doublethink lies at the very heart of Ingsoc, since the essential act of the Party is to use conscious deception while retaining the firmness of purpose that goes with complete honesty...

Another really good passage describes the practice of doublethink. O'Brien, a member of the inner party, produces a photograph of some people who are supposed to have never existed. But then he destroys it.

"It exists!" he [Winston, the protagonist] cried!

"No," said O'Brien... "Ashes," he said. "Not even identifiable ashes. Dust. It does not exist. It never existed."

"But it did exist! It does exist! It exists in memory. I remember it. You remember it."

"I do not remember it," said O'Brien.

It's interesting (and terrifying), but I suspect it isn't possible.

As I understand, in Freudian theory, repression is an unconscious process that happens to traumatic or unacceptable memories. That's clearly different from doublethink, even if it were possible (and there doesn't seem to be any evidence that it is.)

Is doublethink actually possible? Are there any documented examples of it? Is there anything similar to it, possible or otherwise?


1 Answer 1


When double-think is explained to mean

the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.

It can be seen to be the same as repression in a sense, whereby one version of events is known, but repressed in favour of an alternative version of events, but it isn't repression in the true sense of the word when referring to the Freudian theory of ego-defence mechanisms.

When you look at my other answer today regarding the defence mechanisms, I pointed out that they can involve both unconscious and conscious thought processes and actions.

As for repression, it is a powerful ego defence mechanism whereby it can prevent a thought or memory which can be psychologically damaging from reaching the conscious.

When mentioning the interaction between O'Brien and Winston in your question, where O'Brien was trying to instil in Winton that some people didn't really exist when they did, I can see where the confusion lies when linking that to repression. The knowledge of these people's existence is trying to be altered by O'Brien and Winston was wanting to have nothing to do with it.

The key to the whole idea of repression is that it is a completely unconscious defence mechanism. When we deliberately and consciously try to push away thoughts, this is suppression.

Although some claim that suppression is a psychoanalytical myth with no scientific support, fMRI data suggest otherwise. For more on that, you can read Defense Mechanisms: Neuroscience Meets Psychoanalysis in Scientific American


Anderson, M. C., Ochsner, K. N., Kuhl, B., Cooper, J., Robertson, E., Gabrieli, S. W., ... & Gabrieli, J. D. (2004). Neural systems underlying the suppression of unwanted memories. Science, 303(5655), 232-235. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1089504


Bailey R, Pico J. (2020) Defense Mechanisms. In: StatPearls. Treasure Island, FL: StatPearls Publishing. Available free from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK559106/


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