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  Compulsion (from Latin compulsum, ‘driven together’) suggests the act of an irresistible compelling force, or an involuntary action which is the result of constraint: something not chosen by free will. Its Latin root suggests more than one hidden source for an action.

In psychoanalysis, compulsive thoughts and actions are those which the person feels compelled to carry out, or otherwise risk anxiety; involuntary actions are the result of the failure of the mechanism of unconscious repression, or, alternatively, a manifestation of feeling of alienation, as the person feels that the actions are not part of themselves. Although compulsion seems to happen spontaneously, it cannot be defined as a spontaneous act because there is no element of creativity or growth involved.

An example of a compulsion (given by D.W. Winnicott) is that of a young boy who ties objects in his home together with string. This worries his family especially when he eventually ties the string around his sister\'s throat. The compulsion is analysed as covering up his anxiety and fear of separation. He has been separated from his mother many times, for example when she has been ill in hospital and when she gave birth to his sister. MJ



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