It is useful to know simple information about THE PSYCHOANALYTICAL APPROACH TO HUMAN MOTIVATION

It is impossible to tackle the most controversial aspect of human motivation without making extensive reference to the research of Sigmund Freud again. Psychoanalysis was largely founded on Freud’s concept of the instinct or drive. (Note: the German word ‘treib’ covers both terms when translated however the term ‘drive’ is preferred because it is generally more accurate and less misleading in English).

Freud’s interest in psychology began when he was studying medicine and thus, he was working in a highly scientific, positivist framework. The result was that he often used biological processes as metaphors to explain psychological processes. It must be emphasised that he did not perceive human psychology to be the result of biological makeup, as has often been misinterpreted. The term ‘treib’, for instance, led people to interpret Freud as yet another biological determinist, harping on about innate instincts as the cause of human behaviour. Contemporary psychoanalytical theorists, such as Jaques Lacan, conducted careful readings of Freud’s work and discovered that his theories have been misunderstood and misquoted.

According to Freud, human behaviour is motivated by a ‘pool’ of drives that operate on an unconscious level. He proposed that these drives could be divided into two opposing groups: The life drive which he calls the libido, The death drive.

Freud believed that the main life drive was sexuality, while the main death drive was aggression. During childhood these drives are censored through socialisation, and thus repressed in the unconscious. The result is that the libido becomes organised into three systems: id, ego and superego.

According to psychoanalytical theory, when an impulse is continually repressed, it can strengthen in intensity and threaten to overwhelm the personality. Society’s constant repression of aggressive behaviour – turning a natural drive into taboo – was, according to Freud, responsible for world-wide perversion of aggressive impulses. Later, theorists in the Freudian tradition rejected the idea that aggression was an innate drive and claimed that aggression was produced by frustration (i.e. the frustration-aggression hypothesis).