Dr. Conrad W. Baars and Dr. Anna A. Terruwe refer to obsessive-compulsive “neurosis” in their writings. The term “neurosis” has been replaced with “repression” in recent book revisions to keep in line with current psychological terminology and more accurately reflect an understanding of their diagnostic terminology. Their diagnosis of obsessive-compulsive neurosis does not equate exactly to the current DSM diagnosis of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Terruwe and Baars’ diagnostic terminology is based on the basic etiology of the disorder or “the nature of the illness and the kind of person who develops it.”1 The concept of repression is discussed extensively in their book Psychic Wholeness and Healing (meaning psychological wholeness), especially in Chapter II.
An obsessive-compulsive repressive disorder is one that develops fundamentally from the repression of one’s emotions. Repression is a subconscious process that “is the result of two factors: an emotion which arises in the psyche and a force which opposes and represses this emotion. The emotion does not, however, disappear completely as a result of this repression; having been buried alive, so to speak, it continues to exert its influence in the subconscious life and manifests itself in symptoms which may be called pathological.”2 Three major diagnostic categories of repressive disorders are distinguished by these psychiatrists—fear-based, energy-based, and fear-based camouflaged by energy (originally called fear neurosis, energy neurosis, and fear neurosis camouflaged by energy).
It is important to understand that all emotions are good and necessary to healthy emotional development and psychic wholeness. (The term psychic wholeness includes the intellectual, emotional and spiritual aspects of the human person as well as the life of the will. It is not referring to the mystical, magical or telepathic.)
When an individual considers even one emotion or feeling unacceptable or dangerous, then the stage is set for repression. When an emotion (e.g., love, hate, desire, aversion, joy, sadness, fear or anger) is repressed by fear, that emotion is pushed into the subconscious or is buried alive where the person can no longer deal with it. Instead, this emotion exists in a state of tension or anxiety which the person cannot “get rid of.” Fear influences the entire psychic life including the imagination and motor activity. As the person does not know the reason for the anxiety, he or she may try unsuccessfully for years to figure out the cause. Over time the repressed emotion will try to come into awareness and when that happens the person becomes obsessed with the things that he or she has repressed over time (e.g., if sexual matters have been repressed, the person will now become obsessed with sex—thoughts, pornography, fantasies, masturbation, etc.).3
Similarly, in energy-based repression, a person uses energy (i.e., courage, daring, hope, fearlessness, etc.) to get rid of unacceptable emotions or feelings. This person may seem to be well-balanced, self-controlled and efficient but he or she is forcefully keeping control over the unacceptable emotions by preventing them from being felt (i.e. repressing them). This person will have no spontaneity—instead the person seems inflexible, cool or aloof. Natural reactions like smiling or laughing are replaced by stiff, unnatural reactions. The repressed emotions persist in a generalized tension or even in aggressive outbursts if an emotional conflict is aggravated.
Briefly, a fear-based repressive neurosis camouflaged by energy is essentially fear-based repression. In this disorder, repression begins by fear but is maintained by energy. Please see Psychic Wholeness and Healing for additional information.
Therapy for the different repressive disorders is one which must be based on trust of the therapist. It is the therapist’s task to guide the patient into a proper understanding of the emotional life and guide the patient into a more affective way of living. The therapist teaches about the eleven basic emotions of hope, despair, courage, fear and anger (the “assertive” emotions) and love, hate, desire, aversion, joy and sadness (the “pleasure” emotions) and the nature of the emotions to be guided by reason.4 The therapist helps the patient mortify his or her fear or energy so that the repressed emotions can gradually emerge and be restored to their “proper place and function.” In this process the therapist does not purposefully stimulate repressed emotions—rather, he or she allows these emotions to emerge gradually. For healing to take place, the patient must learn to trust his or her feelings. It is the task of the therapist to be a support and guide during this process.
Please consult Psychic Wholeness and Healing for an in-depth discussion on the emotional life and the therapeutic process used in treatment of these disorders.
1. Baars, Conrad W. Feeling & Healing Your Emotions. Rev. ed. Suzanne M. Baars and Bonnie N. Shayne (eds.). Plainfield, NJ: Logos International, 1979. Gainesville, FL: Bridge-Logos, 2003, p. 141. Back to text
3. Baars, 2003, op. cit., p. 140. Back to text
4. Aquinas, Thomas. Summa Theologica: St. Thomas Aquinas. Trans. Fathers of the English Dominican Province. Westminster, Md.: Christian Classics, 1981. Back to text