When I termed one of the psychic processes in the psychic apparatus the primary process, I did so not only in consideration of the order of precedence and capability, but also as admitting the temporal relations to a share in the nomenclature. As far as our knowledge goes there is no psychic apparatus possessing only the primary process, and in so far it is a theoretic fiction; but so much is based on fact that the primary processes are present in the apparatus from the beginning, while the secondary processes develop gradually in the course of life, inhibiting and covering the primary ones, and gaining complete mastery over them perhaps only at the height of life. Owing to this retarded appearance of the secondary processes, the essence of our being, consisting in unconscious wish feelings, can neither be seized nor inhibited by the foreconscious, whose part is once for all restricted to the indication of the most suitable paths for the wish feelings originating in the unconscious. These unconscious wishes establish for all subsequent psychic efforts a compulsion to which they have to submit and which they must strive if possible to divert from its course and direct to higher aims. In consequence of this retardation of the foreconscious occupation a large sphere of the memory material remains inaccessible.
Among these indestructible and unincumbered wish feelings originating from the infantile life, there are also some, the fulfillments of which have entered into a relation of contradiction to the end-presentation of the secondary thinking. The fulfillment of these wishes would no longer produce an affect of pleasure but one of pain; and it is just this transformation of affect that constitutes the nature of what we designate as “repression,” in which we recognize the infantile first step of passing adverse sentence or of rejecting through reason. To investigate in what way and through what motive forces such a transformation can be produced constitutes the problem of repression, which we need here only skim over. It will suffice to remark that such a transformation of affect occurs in the course of development (one may think of the appearance in infantile life of disgust which was originally absent), and that it is connected with the activity of the secondary system. The memories from which the unconscious wish brings about the emotional discharge have never been accessible to the Forec., and for that reason their emotional discharge cannot be inhibited. It is just on account of this affective development that these ideas are not even now accessible to the foreconscious thoughts to which they have transferred their wishing power. On the contrary, the principle of pain comes into play, and causes the Forec. to deviate from these thoughts of transference. The latter, left to themselves, are “repressed,” and thus the existence of a store of infantile memories, from the very beginning withdrawn from the Forec., becomes the preliminary condition of repression.
In the most favorable case the development of pain terminates as soon as the energy has been withdrawn from the thoughts of transference in the Forec., and this effect characterizes the intervention of the principle of pain as expedient. It is different, however, if the repressed unconscious wish receives an organic enforcement which it can lend to its thoughts of transference and through which it can enable them to make an effort towards penetration with their excitement, even after they have been abandoned by the occupation of the Forec. A defensive struggle then ensues, inasmuch as the Forec. reinforces the antagonism against the repressed ideas, and subsequently this leads to a penetration by the thoughts of transference (the carriers of the unconscious wish) in some form of compromise through symptom formation. But from the moment that the suppressed thoughts are powerfully occupied by the unconscious wish-feeling and abandoned by the foreconscious occupation, they succumb to the primary psychic process and strive only for motor discharge; or, if the path be free, for hallucinatory revival of the desired perception identity. We have previously found, empirically, that the incorrect processes described are enacted only with thoughts that exist in the repression. We now grasp another part of the connection. These incorrect processes are those that are primary in the psychic apparatus; they appear wherever thoughts abandoned by the foreconscious occupation are left to themselves, and can fill themselves with the uninhibited energy, striving for discharge from the unconscious. We may add a few further observations to support the view that these processes designated “incorrect” are really not falsifications of the normal defective thinking, but the modes of activity of the psychic apparatus when freed from inhibition. Thus we see that the transference of the foreconscious excitement to the motility takes place according to the same processes, and that the connection of the foreconscious presentations with words readily manifest the same displacements and mixtures which are ascribed to inattention. Finally, I should like to adduce proof that an increase of work necessarily results from the inhibition of these primary courses from the fact that we gain a comical effect, a surplus to be discharged through laughter, if we allow these streams of thought to come to consciousness.