Partially as a result of his unhappy experiences during World War I and partially as a consequence of the death of his beloved daughter Sophie, Freud (1920/1955a) wrote Beyond the Pleasure Principle, a book that elevated aggression to the level of the sexual drive. As he did with many of his other concepts, Freud set forth his ideas tentatively and with some caution. With time, however, aggression, like several other tentatively proposed concepts, became dogma.
The aim of the destructive drive, according to Freud is to return the organism to an inorganic state. Because the ultimate inorganic condition is death, the final aim of the aggressive drive is self-destruction. As with the sexual drive, aggression is flexible and can take a number of forms, such as teasing, gossip, sarcasm, humiliation. humor, and the enjoyment of other people's suffering. The aggressive tendency is present in everyone and is the explanation for wars, atrocities, and religious persecution.
The aggressive drive also explains the need for the barriers that people have erected to check aggression. For example, commandments such as "Love thy neighbor as thyself" are necessary, Freud believed to inhibit the strong, though usually unconscious, drive to inflict injury on others. These precepts are actually reaction formations. They involve the repression of strong hostile impulses and the overt and obvious expression of the opposite tendency.
Throughout our lifetime, life and death impulses constantly struggle against one another for ascendancy, but at the same time, both must bow to the reality principle, which represents the claims of the outer world. These demands of the real world prevent a direct, covert, and unopposed fulfillment of either sex or aggression. They frequently create anxiety, which relegates many sexual and aggressive desires to the realm of the unconscious.
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