IPA Inter-Regional Encyclopedic Dictionary of Psychoanalysis

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DRIVE(S) Tri-Regional Entry Inter-Regional Editorial Board: Joseph Fernando and Jerome Blackman (North America), Josef Triest (Europe) and Serapio Marcano (Latin America) Inter-Regional Coordinating Co-Chair: Arne Jemstedt (Europe) Advisor: Eva D. Papiasvili, Chair, IRED


“The whole flux of our mental life and everything that finds expression in our thoughts are derivations and representatives of the multifarious instincts [ trieben = drives] that are innate in our physical constitution” (Sigmund Freud, 1932, p. 121).

Perhaps more than any other concept, drive exemplifies ever-evolving character of Freud’s process of concept formation and theory construction, which “does not allow for any rigidity of definitions” and must preserve “a degree of indefiniteness”, and which involves constant interplay between theoretical thought and progressively accrued clinical experience, as described, fittingly, in his paper “Instincts and Their Vicissitudes” (Freud 1915a, p.17). Drive has a central, if exceedingly complex, controversial and fomenting role in psychoanalytic theory. As one of the fundamental concepts of psychoanalytic metapsychology, drive ( Trieb ), in a broadest sense, is a mental representation of an endogenous dynamic force, a persistent bio-psychological thrust at the root of all mental activity. Historically described by Freud as “a concept on the frontier between the mental and the somatic, as the psychical representative of the stimuli originating from within the organism and reaching the mind, as a measure of the demand made upon the mind for work in consequence of its connection with the body” (1915a, pp.121-122), drive depicted a dynamic linkage between physiological stimuli within the body and their psychic representation within the mind, instilling the pressure to seek satisfaction from an object. Even though drive as a concept and as a part of increasingly complex drive theory underwent successive transformations in Freud´s thinking from 1892 through 1939, the new meanings did not necessarily abolish older definitions. In particular, the characteristic interaction between two opposing forces was retained throughout. As Freud maintained (1920), the dualism of his evolving drive theory reflected the fundamental conflictual nature of the human condition. The succeeding formulations of Freud’s dualistic drive theory reflected evolving classification of opposing drives. They included:


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