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Article
July 1961

Unconscious Mechanisms of Magical Repair

Author Affiliations

NEW YORK
From the Psychoanalytic Clinic for Training and Research, Department of Psychiatry, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University.
Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University (Dr. Karush); Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University (Dr. Ovesey).

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1961;5(1):55-69. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1961.01710130057007
Abstract

The defensive maneuvers in neurosis can be broken down into 2 general categories, the inhibitory and the reparative. Inhibition leads to restricted function and to symptomformation. Repair strives for the gratification that has been impounded by inhibition and can be either healthy or magical in its integration. Healthy repair consists of resolution of the neurotic conflict, removal of the inhibition, and restoration of healthy function. Magical repair, on the other hand, attempts to obtain the gratification without undoing the inhibition that stands in the way. It involves faulty substitution and displacement to maladaptive goals. Inevitably, these attempts only sharpen the repressed conflict between the motivating wish and the fear of the consequences. The end result is both the intensification of old symptoms and the formation of new ones.

It is the rare patient who at some point in a psychotherapy does not resort to the wish

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