The drives in Freudian psychoanalysis

The drives in Freudian psychoanalysis

Freud studied the phenomenon of drives, or those motivating forces that make the individual tend towards certain objects or towards certain ends. In addition, they became very important elements within their theory.

The object of the drive can be very diverse: a person or thing. The objective is to release the tensions that give rise to unsatisfied impulses. Some characteristics of the drives indicate that they are internal stimuli from the body. They are permanent and generate a state of psychic tension.

Classification of the drives

These drives are classified into two groups:

  • Eros or sex (whose psychic energy was called Libido)
  • Thanatos or aggressiveness and death (a name for his psychic energy was not defined)

Both originate from It but they are under the control of I.

The instincts of life and death, two opposing drives

The Eros, or also known as the drive of life, It is characterized by the desires of satisfying needs such as eating, sleeping, drinking, expelling waste, reproduction, shelter or protection.

That is to say, seeks to satisfy the instincts that lead to the preservation and survival of organisms.

By cons, Thanatos or death drive It is characterized by aggressiveness. The individual gets rid of what he does not like or what does not benefit him. Similarly, it destroys what represents a threat to him.

The objective or goal of the sexual drive is pleasure, but not only to genital satisfaction, since Freud says that the body is almost entirely libido, especially areas such as the anus and mouth, which are called erogenous zones.

The drives and sexual pleasure

These areas have a special ability to produce sexual pleasure. Every activity that produces pleasure to the individual is attributed to sexual drive. Sex can take various forms such as narcissism, love, sadism and masochism.

A clear example of this drive is children, who radiate self-centeredness and their libido moves to their own self.

  • This state is completely normal in development and is known as primary narcissism It disappears as it grows and it begins to have more interest in others around it.
  • The libido is redirected towards the I once again in the adolescence stage. Teenagers care much more about their physical appearance and what is known as a secondary narcissism what It is not considered universal.

As for love, it emerges when individuals direct their libido to an object or person that is not themselves. For example, during childhood, the first object that causes a sexual interest is the person who takes care of them, which in most cases is usually the mother. This is known as sexual love

On the contrary, the love and feelings of affection that one has for the brothers and other family members, is considered inhibited love. As you can see, narcissism and love are closely related by the fact that both imply love, either to oneself or to another person.

Sadism and masochism

Sadism refers to the need for sexual satisfaction causing harm or humiliation to another person who, if it were to take to the extreme, it would be considered a sexual perversion. To some extent, sadism is common in sexual intercourse.

Masochism is also considered a common need, but it can become perversion when the Eros to the Thanatos and it becomes a destructive drive.

The goal of destructive drive or aggressiveness is to return the organism to an inanimate state, which would be death. It can be shown as the desire for mockery, sarcasm, humiliation and the enjoyment of one's own suffering on the part of others.

In the course of life, the drives of Eros Y Thanatos maintain a constant confrontation for control, but both must resign themselves to the principle of reality based on a rational equilibrium that interposes the I.


  • Freud, S. (1981). The drives and their destinies.Complete works4, 2039-2052.
  • Freud, S. (2015).Three tests for a sexual theory. FV Éditions.
  • Green, A. (2014). The intrapsychic and the intersubjective. Pulses and / or object relationships.Psychoanalytical Magazine, (71), 23-57.
  • Maldavsky, D. (2000).Language, drives, defenses: networks of signs, narrative sequences and rhetorical processes in the psychoanalytic clinic. New Vision.