1. Instincts and Their Vicissitudes (1915)

Freud begins his papers on metapsychology with the 'instinct'. He beings by trying to clarify the obscurity surrounding this concept. He looks at the relation of 'instinct' to 'stimulus', that it can be subsumed under the class of stimuli, however it seems that there are obviously other stimuli other than the instinctual kind - more physiological ones. A further distinction is that a stimulus can be said to act in a single impact, so can be disposed of by a single expedient action. An instinct on the other hand, never operates as a force giving a momentary impact but always as a constant one. Furthermore, the origin of a source of stimulation for an instinct is within the organism, rather than either inside or outside for more general, physiological stimuli.

Freud then discusses certain terms used in reference to the concept of an 'instinct' - its 'pressure', its 'aim', its 'object' and its 'source'.

The pressure (Drang) of an instinct, refers to its motor factor, or amount of force or the measure of the demand for work which it represents - the pressure exercised on an activity is the essence of an instinct - in passive instincts, strictly speaking, only the aim is passive.

The aim (Ziel) of an instinct is always satisfaction, which can only be obtained by removing the state of stimulation at the source of the instinct. However different paths can lead to the same aim, so an instinct may be found to have various intermediate aims.

The object (Objekt) of an instinct is the thing in regard to which or through which the instinct is able to achieve its aim - the most variable thing about an instinct, only connected to it to make satisfaction possible. A particularly close attachment of the instinct to its object is distinguished by the term 'fixation'.

The source (Quelle) of an instinct means the somatic process that occurs in an organ/part of the body, whose stimulus is represented in mental life by an instinct. Whether this is a chemical or mechanical process remains unclear, and the study of the sources of instinct really lies outside the scope of psychology.

Are instincts (originating in the body and operating in the mind) distinguished by different qualities? It seems that they probably are not, but simply vary according to the amount of excitation they carry, and its sources. Further to this problem, is the one of how many instincts there are and what they are.

Freud proposes two groups of primal instincts - the ego, or self- preservative instincts and the sexual instincts. Whilst this hypothesis arose with psychoanalysis, Freud argues that few decisive pointers for classification and differentiation of instincts can be arrived at from working over psychological material. Biology though does support the distinction between sexual and ego instincts. Furthermore, the Ehrlich school of chemistry could be seen to postulate a chemical basis for this distinction.

However the main source of knowledge about instinctual life remains the study of mental disturbances - since sexual instincts precisely can be observed in isolation in psychoneuroses. Therefore inquiry into the vicissitudes that an instinct may undergo, is confined to the sexual instincts, the vicissitudes (or modes of defence against instincts) proposed being:

a) Reversal into its opposite.
b) Turning round upon the subject's own self.
c) Repression.
d) Sublimation.

On looking at the first - it can be split into (a) a change from activity to passivity (sadism-masochism and scopophila-exhibitionism) of aims and (b) a reversal of its content (i.e. of love to hate).

The second vicissitude reflects the fact that in exhibitionism and masochism, the object is changed to include the self. Freud then goes on to discuss these two examples in more depth, leaving the description of repression to his next essay, and sublimation until a later date. Furthermore, he notes the observation of an instinct's passive form, alongside its active - and refers to this as 'ambivalence' (Bleuler).

Freud then looks at the change of content of an instinct into its opposite, and that this is observed in a single instance only - the transformation of love into hate: their co- existence being the most important

  By PanEris using Melati.

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