Self-destructive habits include:
- smoking whilst being aware of the effects
- not exercising whilst knowing that it is healthier to do so
- taking one more hit of a drug "for the last time, really"

Is there any truth to the following statement?:

Freudian repressed unconscious is what allows us to be in conflict with our emotions. If System 1 were consciously aware of these hidden things, self-destructive behavior wouldn't exist.

This question is inspired by the following book:
O'Connor, Richard - Rewire: Change Your Brain to Break Bad Habits, Overcome Addictions, Conquer Self-Destructive Behavior - Penguin Group US.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Welcome to cogsci.SE! As it stands, this question is hard to answer usefully; if you do some background research, it will help readers understand and answer your question. What kind of relationship? What kind of self-destructive behavior? What kind of input are you interested in--a Freudian theorist's answer, or a modern empiricist's answer? $\endgroup$ – Krysta Dec 1 '14 at 13:41
  • $\begingroup$ @jiniyt, Freudian analysis is not current in any useful sense. Please see this answer: cogsci.stackexchange.com/a/8368/2926 $\endgroup$ – blz Dec 1 '14 at 16:14
  • $\begingroup$ Most of the Freudian ideas have been discredited over time, some people even want to recognize him as a literature figure, instead of psychology researcher $\endgroup$ – Alex Stone Dec 2 '14 at 2:05

It has been a while, but I've always understood the theory to say that the superego, the internalization of values and rules, can cause us to repress ideas that aren't inline with our values. Basically, as we continue to do things that we 'know' are 'wrong' there is a resultant feeling of anxiety, which we often seek to avoid.

There are better ways to explain this type of phenomenon though; I would suggest some basic cognitive behaviourism. For instance, if we suggest that a person's thoughts of guilt, let's say around exercise, create a punishing effect, then we can in turn come to associate exercise with the negative feeling of guilt. If we expand out and include the further associations of obesity/guilt and their close association with exercise, we can start to build a theoretical model of why neurotic behaviors develop around exercise.


I'll do a quick edit to respond to the a comment about sources. I was doing some research after I posted this, I managed to find an article discussing how attitudes relate to the avoidance of exercise:


I'm having a harder time finding anything specifically talking about exercise and the types of avoidance/escape you see in high anxiety behaviour. Here's an article talking about how avoidance and escape can serve as reinforcing mechanism for phobias:


  • $\begingroup$ Would you have some citations to back your theories up? $\endgroup$ – AliceD Dec 3 '14 at 0:23
  • $\begingroup$ None of this addresses the specifically Freudian concept of the unconscious in relation to anxiety--probably because very little current research is done using Freudian definitions of anything, really. $\endgroup$ – Krysta Dec 3 '14 at 14:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Krysta I never said that it addresses Freudian concepts of anxiety; besides trying to maybe formulate a small Freudian'ish statement about how the superego may play some role. It's a tough line to walk though, when people ask for sources and to try and give an explanation of 'neurotic behaviour'; as you say, very little current research gives the ideas much credence. Rather, I wanted to try and suggest a different approach to understanding the issue, as I feel it will be more fruitful at the end of the day. $\endgroup$ – ParanoidPenguin Dec 3 '14 at 15:08
  • $\begingroup$ True! Freudian questions are always tough to answer: do you take the Freudian approach on its own terms (in which case there is next to no current empirical research), or try to translate the terms into more currently-applicable concepts? Neither quite answers the question, of course, but your question makes a good stab at the latter approach. $\endgroup$ – Krysta Dec 3 '14 at 15:11

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