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In psychoanalysis, anticathexis, or countercathexis, is the energy used by the ego to bind the primitive impulses of the Id.[1] Sometimes the ego follows the instructions of the superego in doing so; sometimes however it develops a double-countercathexis, so as to block feelings of guilt and anxiety deriving from the superego, as well as id impulses.[2]

Repression and isolation[edit]

Freud saw the establishment of a permanent anticathexis as a prerequisite for successful psychological repression.[3] He also saw countercathexis as playing a central role in isolation.[4]

In a late work, Freud further distinguished between the external anticathexis of repression and what he called “internal anticathexis" (i.e. alteration of the ego through reaction formation).[5]


Anticathexis has also been linked to the phenomenon of figure-ground, in that it may entail the suppression of the margin or ground of a perceptual field.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Otto Fenichel, The Psychoanalytic Theory of Neurosis (London 1946) p. 42
  2. ^ Fenichel, p. 132 and p. 479
  3. ^ Anticathexis
  4. ^ Fenichel, p. 155
  5. ^ Sigmund Freud, On Psychopathology (PFL 10) p. 318
  6. ^ R. Boothby, Freud as Philosopher (2001) p. 77

Further reading[edit]

  • J. Laplanche/J.-B. Pontalis, The Language of Psychoanalysis (2012)