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Mills, J. (2006). Reflections on the Death Drive. Psychoanal. Psychol., 23(2):373-382.

(2006). Psychoanalytic Psychology, 23(2):373-382

Reflections on the Death Drive

Jon Mills, PSYD, Ph.D., ABPP

Freud's thesis on the death drive is one of the most original theories in the history of ideas that potentially provides a viable explanation to the conundrums that beset the problems of human civilization, subjective suffering, collective aggressivity, and self-destructiveness. Contemporary psychoanalytic theorists tend to view the death drive as fanciful nonsense, an artifact of imagination, but I wish to argue otherwise. Freud accounts for an internally derived motivation, impulse, or activity that is impelled toward a determinate teleology of destruction that may be directed toward self and others, the details of which are multifaceted and contingent upon the unique contexts that influence psychic structure and unconsciously mediated behavior. Although Freud largely believed that his ideas on the death drive were “left to future investigation,” he was committed to the notion that mind seeks “a return to an earlier state,” a notion that is verifiable through clinical observation. Despite the psyche's inherently evolutionary nature, death becomes the fulcrum of psychic progression and decay.

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