Category Archives: death instinct
In pyschodynamic theory, the individual’s drive to obtain mastery over the feelings of distress associated with traumatic material is through repetition-compulsion. Repetition complusion is an instinctual drive that propels inividuals to reneact experiences and is synonymous with the ‘death instinct’. This counter intuitive complusion to repeat the distress goes against the pleasure seeking drive of what Freud termed ‘the pleasure principle’. The death drive describes the drive towards death and inorganic state as in death ultimately all tensions are released.
In “New Introductory Lectures to Psychoanalysis” (1933/32), Freud wrote, “And now the instincts we believe in divide themselves into two groups—the erotic instincts, which seek to combine more and more living substance into ever greater unities, and the death instincts, which oppose this effort and lead what is living back into an inorganic state. From the concurrent and opposing action of these two proceed the phenomena of life which are brought to an end by death”.
To successfully process the material at the point of trauma an individuals has to have a balanced ego defence system with sufficient ego resources to process the traumatic material. Those with maladaptive ego systems, individuals are more likely unable to ameliorate the effects of the trauma and carry on to develop conditions such as PTSD. As such, there is a great possibility that these factors also play a part in a therapist’s predisposition to suffer from vicarious trauma