Drive and structure: Reconsidering drive theory within a formalized conception of mental processes<sup>1</sup>

Cordelia Schmidt-Hellerau

in From the Couch to the Lab

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780199600526
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754753 | DOI:
Drive and structure: Reconsidering drive theory within a formalized conception of mental processes1

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Based on an in-depth analysis of Freud's metapsychology I present a psychoanalytic model of the mind built with the two basic concepts, drive and structure. Drive and structure are concepts that organize all psychoanalytic data, providing potential access to the theoretical achievements of 100 years of psychoanalytic research. A revised drive theory is presented, integrating Freud's first drive theory (self-preservative and sexual drives) with his second drive theory (life and death drives); in this context a new theory of aggression is presented, conceptualizing aggression as a goal- and success-dependent intensification of the two primal drives. The two primal drives activate the mental structures by investing them with drive energy, namely libido (sexual-(life-)drive) and lethe (preservative-(death-)drive).

The function of the structure is homeostatic regulation, that is to balance the energies/excitations coming from within (the drives) or from the outside (via the perceptual system). The mental structures contain, store, and thus represent the experiences and perceptions of events occurring during learning processes via the interaction with the environment. Their activation/activity regulates and modulates all states and levels of psychic excitations and processes resulting in unconscious and conscious fantasies, thoughts, feelings, and actions. Each mental activity is conceptualized as a unit integrating Drive (D), Perceptual (P), and Motor (M) components on different, hierarchically organized levels. Psychic representations and somatic representations differ in complex ways, and at times do so substantially or even dramatically. Thus research data explaining normal somatic and brain functioning may not fully explain individual normal psychic functioning. To put it another way: a neuroscientific theory of the working brain cannot replace a psychoanalytic theory of the working mind. However, both theories can fruitfully relate to, inspire, and modify each other. The chapter closes with some suggestions regarding possible connection with the neuroscientific essays in this book

Chapter.  11859 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Psychiatry

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