Primary and Secondary Repression
He later distinguished between primal repression (a "mythical" forgetting of something that was never conscious to begin with, an originary "psychical act" by which the unconscious is first constituted) and secondary repression (concrete acts of repression whereby some idea or perception that was once conscious is expelled from the conscious).
Since repression does not destroy the ideas or memories that are its target, but merely confines them to the unconscious, the repressed material is always liable to return in a distorted form, in symptoms, dreams, slips of the tongue, etc. (the return of the repressed).
What is it that is repressed?
This latter view seems to correspond more closely to Freud's view that what is repressed is not the "affect" (which can only be displaced or transformed) but the "ideational representative" of the drive.
Primary and Secondary
"From the moment he speaks, from that precise moment and not before, I understand that there is repression."
Lacan does not see primary repression as a specific psychical act, localisable in time, but as a structural feature of language itself - namely, its necessary incompleteness, the impossibility of ever saying "the truth about truth."
Secondary repression is structured like a metaphor, and always involves 'the return of the repressed', whereby the repressed signifier reappears under the guise of the various formations of the unconscious (i.e. symptoms, dreams, parapraxes, jokes, etc.).
- Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977.} p.55
- Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book XI. The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, 1964. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Hogarth Press and Institute of Psycho-Analysis, 1977. p. 218
- Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p. 286
- Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p. 314
- Lacan, Jacques. Le Séminaire. Livre XX. Encore, 1972-73. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Paris: Seuil, 1975. p. 53
- Lacan, Jacques. Écrits. Paris: Seuil, 1966. p. 868