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Freud ( Instincts: The Driving Forces in Personality )

  • Instincts: The Driving Forces in Personality 
Rooted in the unconscious are the instincts, which, in Freud’s view, largely govern our behavior. Instinctual drives are initiated when bodily needs motivate people to seek gratification so that bodily processes can return to their prior state of equilibrium or homeostasis. Painful feelings are associated with instinctual stimulation, and pleasurable feelings are associated with a decrease in this stimulation.

Instincts have four basic characteristics: 

  • (1) a source in some bodily deficit,
  •  (2) an aim—gratification of the need, 
  • (3) an impetus that propels the person to act, 
  • (4) an item through which the instinct attain it's aimed.

The Concept Of Gratification

 As Freud perceived it, many objects in the external world can provide the gratification of our biological needs. That is, instincts can move from object to object in their attempt to gain maximum gratification. For example, a college man may find a new girlfriend to love if his relationship with his current companion is not satisfying; a woman who has hostile feelings toward her boss, but is unable to express them because she fears the loss of her job, may come home and behave aggressively toward her family. Instincts can even turn inward on the individual, as when a person’s aggressive feelings toward others are turned toward self and result in acts of self-mutilation or even suicide. Sexual impulses can also be turned inward, as when an individual becomes self-absorbed and narcissistic and utilizes masturbation as the primary sexual outlet.

Life instincts 

Freud theorized that each person has life instincts or eros. These instinctive urges seek to preserve life. Each of us is motivated to satisfy our hunger, thirst, and sexual needs. Without food and water, we could not survive; the typical consequence of efforts to achieve sexual satisfaction is procreation, which helps perpetuate the species. The energy associated with these instincts he termed libido. Originally, Freud maintained that libido was associated only with the sexual instincts; later, revising his position, he viewed libido as the psychic and pleasurable feelings associated with the gratification of the life instincts.

Death instincts 

 In addition to the life instincts, Freud postulated the existence of opposing death instincts or Thanatos. He believed that “the goal of all life is death” that human beings attempt to return to an inorganic condition of balance that anteceded life, in which there is no throbbing struggle to satisfy biological needs. The life instincts operate, however, to ensure that death is delayed as long as possible so that human beings can obtain many other satisfactions before attaining this nirvana. A major derivative of death instincts is aggression, whereby individuals try to destroy others or themselves. Freud believed these aggressive impulses to be very strong; accordingly, his view of human nature was extremely negative.

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