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Freud - Death drive, reality principle, and pleasure principle

Sigmund Freud proposed several key psychoanalytic concepts. The pleasure principle refers to the desire for immediate gratification, while the reality principle accounts for the way people learn to consider the consequences of their actions. Freud also outlined two opposing drives: the life drive (Eros) and the death drive (Thanatos).

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Video transcript

- [Voiceover] When you were young and you saw a piece of candy, oftentimes you probably just immediately wanted it. You wanted to have that pleasure straightaway. The thought of waiting and delaying would absolutely terrify you. This is the type of behavior that Sigmund Freud, a psychoanalyst and neurologist, described as the pleasure principle. And what he means by that is that when we are young or immature, we immediately want to fulfill our needs and feel pleasure, and by that very token, we also want to avoid suffering. But the thing is that, over time, we grow older and we become mature and then we may also see that piece of candy again but this time, that piece of candy may not belong to us. It may be somebody else's. And we may get into trouble for taking it. It may just be socially inappropriate. We may have to wait. And what we're seeing here, we're seeing that pleasure starts to get replaced with reality. The reality of the situation is that you're gonna have to wait. You're gonna have to sacrifice that immediate reward, and replace it with this kind of long-term gratification. You have to realize that the outside world may not tolerate your pleasure-seeking behavior anymore, and you're not always gonna get what you want. You're gonna have to sit down and play your role in society with the real world, and now we've gone from the pleasure principle to the reality principle. And note that both of these principles actually fulfill the same overall task of that gratification but with the reality principle, you may have to wait. There may be a delay. And you're gonna have to get that gratification while still trying to adhere to the rules of engagement, let's say. The rules of society, the rules of the world. Whereas with the pleasure principle, this much more immature way of interacting, you almost expect to get what you want there and then, without any compromise. Much like what a baby may expect. It cries and it gets fed. That doesn't always apply as we get older. So these are two important principles that Freud outlined. Let's look at couple of other things that Freud also talked about. This time they will be called drives. And one of the things that he said was that we all have a drive towards life and this drive involves us being healthy, being safe, and also partaking in sex, reproducing for our species. So this is something that benefits our lives that we want to live and also we want to reproduce and allow our species to live. And he gave this life drive a name, and he called this Eros, or I should say, this was a drive that's now referred to as, often referred to as Eros. And it also comes with other commonly attached things such as love, cooperation, collaboration, so basically you're working with others to promote your own well-being and that of others. But one other thing that Freud also noticed was that some people get into these patterns of behavior that appear to be self-destructive or harmful to others, and he started to think about this as the death drive. And this also comes with some associated emotions. And these include things like fear, anger, hate, and these can be directed both inward at oneself or outward, outward towards other people. And this death drive also has a name and this death drive is commonly called Thanatos, and these two drives, as you can tell, are the opposites of each other. And one thing we have to understand about drives is that, he said that drives are these intrinsic, universal impulses and feelings that we all have, and these are drives that naturally come about. We don't need something from outside to shift us into having this life drive or this death drive. These are things that naturally develop in humans. And this is something that Freud had outlined. Now one thing we have to bear in mind is that Freud is now seen as somewhat of a controversial character, so whether we're talking about the pleasure and reality principles or the life and death drives, Eros or Thanatos, we have to bear in mind that many people may not agree or may argue against these points.