Sigmund Freud defined inhibition as "the expression of a restriction of an ego-function. A restriction of this kind can itself have very different causes." This definition appears in the opening pages of Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety (1926d ).
Analogizing from a medical definition of the concept ("restriction of an organ function") does not perfectly express the psychopathological specificity of the notion of inhibition. Thus when Freud states that the "ego-function of an organ is impaired if its erotogenicity—its sexual significance—is increased," (1926d ) this mechanism, which is borrowed from the clinical psychoanalysis of hysteria, provides no psycho-pathological differentiation between the inhibition and the symptom.
In the same volume he also underlines the links between inhibition and the concept of anxiety: "Some inhibitions obviously represent a relinquishment of a function because its exercise would produce anxiety." In this way Freud tries to delineate the concept by comparing it with and distinguishing it from other notions that have been described by analytic theory, as indicated fairly clearly in the title of the work. Apart from the fact that they enable us to isolate a pure form of inhibition—"The libido may simply be turned away"—these efforts lead Freud to distinguish two types of inhibition "as a measure of precaution or brought about as a result of an impoverishment of energy." The study of these different mechanisms enables him to define the modalities of the opposition between inhibition and symptoms: unlike inhibition, "the symptom cannot any longer be described as a process that takes place within, or acts upon, the ego."
This opposition makes it possible to define inhibition as a simple relinquishment at the level of the ego, where the symptom accomplishes a veritable compromise between the ego and the instinctual demands of the id. Freud offers an illustration of this in relation to the horse phobia in the case of Little Hans. In this case, "the inability to go out into the streets was an inhibition, a restriction which his ego had imposed on itself so as not to arouse the anxiety-symptom." The phobic symptom cannot be described as such except when there has been "the replacement of his father by a horse. It is this displacement, then, which has a claim to be called a symptom."
Emphasizing the fundamentally imaginary status of inhibition, Jacques Lacan reviewed his study in the seminar devoted to anxiety by opposing it to the notion of an act. The latter appears as a response of the subject forced to adopt a position in relation to its splitting. Unlike inhibition, the act "après-coup" inaugurates a new transformed subject: "Only action engenders certitude in the subject." By means of this opposition, inhibition appears as an attempt on the part of the subject to defer an option, a choice to be made in relation to its desire. Like Freud's dissatisfied tone in relation to the theories developed in Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety, Lacan's proposed extensions confirm the difficulties of apprehending the concept of inhibition but also its heuristic value.
See also: Action-(re)presentation; Act, passage to the Allergy; Civilization and Its Discontents ; Drive/instinct; Facilitation; Friendship; Idealization; Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety ; Infantile sexual curiosity; Jokes; Knowledge or research, instinct for; Oedipus complex, early; Ontogenesis; Orgasm; Pleasure in thinking; Prepsychosis; Sexual theories of children; Smell, sense of; Thought.
Freud, Sigmund. (1926d ). Inhibitions, symptoms and anxiety. SE, 20: 75-172.
Lacan, Jacques. (1966).Écrits. Paris:Éditions du Seuil.
1. (in biochemistry) (enzyme inhibition) A reduction in the rate of an enzyme-catalysed reaction by substances called inhibitors. Competitive inhibition occurs when the inhibitor molecules resemble the substrate molecules and bind to the active site of the enzyme, so preventing normal enzymatic activity. Competitive inhibition can be reversed by increasing the concentration of the substrate. In noncompetitive inhibition the inhibitor binds to a part of the enzyme or enzyme–substrate complex other than the active site, known as an allosteric site. This deforms the active site so that the enzyme cannot catalyse the reaction. Noncompetitive inhibition cannot be reversed by increasing the concentration of the substrate. The toxic effects of many substances are produced in this way. Inhibition by reaction products (feedback inhibition) is important in the control of enzyme activity. See also allosteric enzyme.
2. (in physiology) The prevention or reduction of the activity of neurons or effectors (such as muscles) by means of certain nerve impulses. Inhibitory activity often provides a balance to stimulation of a process; for example, the impulse to stimulate contraction of a voluntary muscle may be accompanied by an inhibitory impulse to prevent contraction of its antagonist.
in·hi·bi·tion / ˌin(h)iˈbishən/ • n. a feeling that makes one self-conscious and unable to act in a relaxed and natural way: the children, at first shy, soon lost their inhibitions | a powerful tranquilizer that causes lack of inhibition. ∎ Psychol. a voluntary or involuntary restraint on the direct expression of an instinct. ∎ the action of inhibiting, restricting, or hindering a process. ∎ the slowing or prevention of a process, reaction, or function by a particular substance.
1. The complete abolition of, or the decrease in the extent or rate of an action or process.
2. During a succession, modification of the environment by a species in such a way as to reduce the suitability of that environment for a species that would otherwise become established in a later seral stage. It is the opposite of facilitation.
1. (in physiology) the prevention or reduction of the functioning of an organ, muscle, etc., by the action of certain nerve impulses.
2. (in psychoanalysis) an inner command that prevents one from doing something forbidden.
3. (in psychology) a tendency not to carry out a specific action, produced each time the action is carried out.
Inhibition ★ 1976
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