In geology, subduction is the process that takes place at convergent boundaries by which one tectonic plate moves under another tectonic plate... (Wikipedia)

Now I understand that quite literally, subduction is a process whereby one thing goes underneath another; and while figuratively an emotional state being subdued by another state or a more pressing need as enforced by the superego might be considered a careful use of literary license, I would like to know if there is a less grandiose word for this state.

How can I describe the mind state of when one emotion is subdued, perhaps subverted, by another? In particular, this is in reference to the state where one wants to become aggressive, but ends up despondent because the vulnerability of aggression subverts its exercise.

  • 1
    I have no doubt psychologists have defined and adopted a term for this. Voting to close as off-topic.
    – Kris
    May 3, 2012 at 14:38
  • 3
    @Kris if there is a term for this please let me know, that would obviously be an acceptable answer. As this is a question about word-choice ultimately, and not about diagnostics I would assert that your off-topic vote is ill-placed. Do not be misled by the emotional/psychological content; insofar as this could also be answered by subduction, this is not a question for geologists.
    – mfg
    May 3, 2012 at 14:44
  • Neither of us could be said to be qualified to do so, I'm neither into geology nor psycology. You are expected to ask on a relevant SE for an authoritative/ reliable answer and not speculate. You can migrate the Q. for a better and qualified response. I do that myself all the time.
    – Kris
    May 3, 2012 at 14:51
  • 2
    I don't get it. The verb of subduction is subduct, not subdue. Subduction speaks of one thing putting itself under another; subduing speaks of one thing putting another under itself.
    – zpletan
    May 3, 2012 at 15:10
  • 1
    There is undoubtedly a proper clinical term for this, and a subject matter expert is in a better position to respond. Terms like "repression" and "suppression" come to mind, but these mean something very specific in the field. May 3, 2012 at 16:49

3 Answers 3


The term sublimation is related:

In psychology, sublimation is a mature type of defence mechanism where socially unacceptable impulses or idealizations are consciously transformed into socially acceptable actions or behaviour, possibly converting the initial impulse in the long term.
... The substitution might not be quite what we want, but it is the only way that we can get part of our satisfaction and feel secure, too.

As suggested in a comment, to "be in a state of sublimation" is of questionable form. Yes, one may experience sublimation, and one may say an emotion was sublimated.

More generally, sublimation might be a defense mechanism.

In Freudian psychoanalytic theory, ... defense mechanisms are unconscious psychological strategies brought into play by various entities to cope with reality and to maintain self-image

Or it might be a coping strategy:

Coping is ... expending conscious effort to solve personal and interpersonal problems, and seeking to master, minimize or tolerate stress or conflict. Psychological coping mechanisms are commonly termed coping strategies or coping skills. Unconscious or non conscious strategies (e.g., defense mechanisms) are generally excluded.

  • Does one 'be in a state of sublimation'? Or one experiences a process of sublimation?
    – Kris
    May 3, 2012 at 15:10
  • @Kris - see edit May 3, 2012 at 15:14

You may speak of the suppression of emotions.

  • 1
    Thank you. I was just waiting for you to give me the go-ahead.
    – Robusto
    May 3, 2012 at 15:47

If you are not looking for a technical answer, as you say in your comment, then an alternative to suppressed would be muted, meaning reduced in intensity (or silenced, metaphorically).

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.