together we can change ourself

together we can change ourself

Life instincts and the death instinct -Freud

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Life instincts and the death instinct

Freud saw all human behavior as motivated by the drives or instincts, which in turn are the neurological representations of physical needs. At first, he referred to them as the life instincts. These instincts perpetuate (a) the life of the individual, by motivating him or her to seek food and water, and (b) the life of the species, by motivating him or her to have sex. The motivational energy of these life instincts, the “oomph” that powers our psyches, he called libido, from the

Latin word for “I desire.”

Freud’s clinical experience led him to view sex as much more important in the dynamics of the psyche than other needs. We are, after all, social creatures, and sex is the most social of needs. Plus, we have to remember that Freud included much more than intercourse in the term sex! Anyway, libido has come to mean, not any old drive, but the sex drive.

Later in his life, Freud began to believe that the life instincts didn’t tell the whole story. Libido is a lively thing; the pleasure principle keeps us in perpetual motion. And yet the goal of all this motion is to be still, to be satisfied, to be at peace, to have no more needs. The goal of life, you might say, is death! Freud began to believe that “under” and “beside” the life instincts there was a death instinct. He began to believe that every person has an unconscious wish to die.

This seems like a strange idea at first, and it was rejected by many of his students, but I think it has some basis in experience: Life can be a painful and exhausting process. There is easily, for the great majority of people in the world, more pain than pleasure in life — something we are extremely reluctant to admit! Death promises release from the struggle.

Freud referred to a nirvana principle. Nirvana is a Buddhist idea, often translated as heaven, but actually meaning “blowing out,” as in the blowing out of a candle. It refers to non-existence, nothingness, the void, which is the goal of all life in Buddhist philosophy.

The day-to-day evidence of the death instinct and its nirvana principle is in our desire for peace, for escape from stimulation, our attraction to alcohol and narcotics, our penchant for escapist activity, such as losing ourselves in books or movies, our craving for rest and sleep. Sometimes it presents itself openly as suicide and suicidal wishes. And, Freud theorized, sometimes we direct it out away from ourselves, in the form of aggression, cruelty, murder, and destructiveness.

Written by Bhushan Kulkarni

May 25, 2007 at 7:41 am

Posted in Freud

Tagged with , ,

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