4. The Two Classes of Instincts

Having distinguished between the id, ego and super-ego, we can also say that that, in general, perceptions have the same significance for the ego as instincts have for the id, yet at the same time the ego is also subjected to the influence of the instincts since it is only a specially modified part of the id.

Freud proposes two classes of instincts - one of sexual instincts or Eros, and another of a death instinct. Furthermore for this dualistic view, there must be a special physiological process associated with the two classes, however as yet very little light as been thrown on the manner in which the two classes of instincts are fused, blended etc. Moreover, Freud asks, what connections there may be between the id, ego and super-ego, and the two classes of instincts. Before answering this, though, Freud must first resolve critics of the theory of two classes of instincts. Some believe that the polarity of love and hate, opposes the idea of two classes of instincts, since they suggest that rather than being two separate instincts, they are rather opposite ends of a spectrum, and can indeed even turn into each other, as in fact is often the case. The mechanism of this transformation is unclear, despite observation of it in various neuroses, e.g. paranoia persecutoria where the changed are purely internal and an alteration in the behaviour of the object plays no part in them. Alternatively it has been suggested that the ambivalent attitude present from the outset, effects the transformation by means of withdrawing energy from the erotic impulse and adding it to the hostile one. This theory though in itself is assuming the existence of, in the mind, a displaceable energy, whose origin and significance are still unknown.

Freud proposes that this energy that is active in both the id and the ego, proceeds from the narcissistic store of the libido (desexualised Eros). From this, Freud proposes that this energy is employed in the service of the pleasure principle to get around blockages and facilitate discharge - hence as Rank (1913) showed examples of neurotic acts of revenge being acted against the wrong person, as the energy takes any oath to discharge - not necessarily the right one. Freud also proposes that this displaceable energy, in being desexualised libido, can also be described as sublimated energy, and since sublimation may take place regularly through the mediation of the ego, this implies an important amplification of the theory of narcissism, and again we are able to trace instinctual impulses back to derivatives of Eros.

To sum, the constant descent towards death (the death instinct) is fought against by the instinctual needs of Eros, resulting in fresh tensions. The id, guided by the pleasure principle (the perception of unpleasure) fends off these tensions in various ways. Finally, the ego, by sublimating some of the libido for itself and its purposes, helps the id in fending off the tensions.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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