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Undoing

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The sleepwalking Lady Macbeth

The sleepwalking Lady Macbeth (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Undoing is a defense mechanism proposed by Sigmund and Anna Freud in which an unpleasant thought or action is blotted out from consciousness.

Undoing differs from – or could be seen as a subtype of – repression because negativity is repressed through obsessive ritual activity.

Lady Macbeth‘s repeated hand washing “Out, damned spot!” after the murder of King Duncan in Act V of Macbeth could be taken as a loose literary example of undoing.

It’s loose because she still talks about blood, death and hell during her late-night washing ritual. In short, she goes a little off base in an attempt to deal with her guilt and anxiety.

Recent psychological studies suggest that undoing can be brought about by replacing negativity with positive emotions.¹

¹ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Undoing_%28psychology%29#The_undoing_effects_of_positive_emotions

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