The emotional release resulting when a patient remembers a painful experience he had “repressed” (forgotten) because he could nottolerate the memory. Sometimes the doctor or therapist provokes the abreaction, but frequently it bursts through in the proper treatment setting. Usually it occurs in patients whose problems have developed from a recent catastrophic experience such as war, fire, or accident. If the repressed material is not exposed, the patient may develop the disabling nervous symptoms of a “traumatic neurosis.”
In most cases, all that is needed for clinical success with a patient who has repressed certain facts about an upsetting experience, is the opportunity to remember his experience completely and to discover that he can live with that memory. To do this, he must learn to communicate “within himself” but first he must find another person with whom he can communicate. Thus, a battle casualty who reenacts the horrible event, recalls the forgotten details, discusses his fears and feelings of guilt, and finally discovers that he can remember” all the circumstances (even those in which he did seem to be the “hero” he would ike to consider himself), and still retain his self-respect.