Like Freud and Jung, Sullivan (1953b) saw personality as an energy system. Energy can exist as either tension (potentiality for action) or as actions themselves (energy transformations). Energy transformations transform tensions into either covert or overt behaviors and are aimed at satisfying needs and reduchig anxiety. Tension is a potentiality for action that may or may not be experienced in awareness. Thus, not all tensions are consciously felt. Many tensions, such as anxiety, premonitions, drowsiness, hunger, and sexual excitement, are felt but not always on a conscious level, hi fact, probably all felt tensions are at least partial distortions of reality. Sullivan recognized two types of tensions: needs and anxiety. Needs usually result hi productive actions, whereas anxiety leads to nonproductive or dishitegrative behaviors.
Needs are tensions brought on by biological imbalance between a person and the physiochemical environment, both inside and outside the organism. Needs are episodic—once they are satisfied they temporarily lose then power, but after a time, they are likely to recur. Although needs originally have a biological component, many of them stem from the interpersonal situation. The most basic interpersonal need is tenderness. An infant develops a need to receive tenderness from its primary caretaker (called by Sullivan "the mothering one"). Unlike some needs, tenderness requires actions from at least two people. For example, an infant's need to receive tenderness may be expressed as a cry, smile, or coo, whereas the mother's need to give tenderness may be transformed mto touching, fondling, or holding. In this example, the need for tenderness is satisfied through the use of the infant's mouth and the mother's hands.
Tenderness is a general need because it is concerned with the overall well-being of a person. General needs, which also include oxygen, food, and water, are opposed to zonal needs, which arise from a particular area of the body. Several areas of the body are instrumental in satisfying both general and zonal needs. For example, the mouth satisfies general needs by taking hi food and oxygen, but it also satisfies the zonal need for oral activity. Also, the hands may be used to help satisfy the general need of tenderness, but they can likewise be used to satisfy the zonal need for manual activity. Shnilarly, other body zones, such as the anus and the genitals, can be used to satisfy both kinds of needs.
Very early in life, the various zones of the body begin to play a significant and lasting role hi interpersonal relations. While satisfyhig general needs for food, water, and so forth, an infant expends more energy than necessary, and the excess energy is transformed into consistent characteristic modes of behavior, which Sullivan called dynamisms.
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