Freud's core interest in the psyche was the dynamic unconscious: that part of the psyche which is unconscious due to conflict (Freud, 1923/1961). Over the course of his career, Freud variously described conflict as an opposition to the discharge of activation (Freud, 1950), opposition to psychic activity due to the release of unpleasure (Freud, 1990/1991), opposition between the primary principle and the reality principle (Freud, 1911/1963), structural conflict between id, ego, and superego (Freud, 1923/1961), and ambivalence (Freud, 1912/1963). Besides this difficulty of the shifting description of conflict, an underlying question remained the specific shared terrain in which emotions, thoughts, intentions or wishes could come into conflict with one another (the neuronal homolog of conflict), and most especially how they may exist as quantities in opposition within that terrain. Friston's free-energy principle (FEP henceforth) connected to the work of Friston (Friston et al., 2006; Friston, 2010) has provided the potential for a powerful unifying theory in psychology, neuroscience, and related fields that has been shown to have tremendous consilience with psychoanalytic concepts (Hopkins, 2012). Hopkins (2016), drawing on a formulation by Hobson et al. (2014), suggests that conflict may be potentially quantifiable as free energy from a FEP perspective. More recently, work by Friston et al. (2017a) has framed the selection of action as a gradient descent of expected free energy under different policies of action. From this perspective, the article describes how conflict could potentially be formalized as a situation where opposing action policies have similar expected free energy, for example between actions driven by competing basic prototype emotion systems as described by Panksepp (1998). This conflict state may be avoided in the future through updating the relative precision of a particular set of prior beliefs about outcomes: this has the result of tending to favor one of the policies of action over others in future instances, a situation analogous to defense. Through acting as a constraint on the further development of the person, the defensive operation can become entrenched, and resistant to alteration. The implications that this formalization has for psychoanalysis is explored.