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Raphling, D.L. (1998). Aggression: Its Relation to Desire and Self-Interest. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 46(3):797-811.

(1998). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 46(3):797-811

Aggression: Its Relation to Desire and Self-Interest

David L. Raphling

Aggression continues to be a problematic, ill-defined concept for most contemporary analysts. Questions about the nature and origin of aggression remain unanswered. On the one hand, aggression is conceived of as an instinctual drive; on the other, it is thought to originate as an instrument of reaction to external sources of frustration and environmental failures to meet developmental needs. Aggression has also been dichotomized as either the benign activity of assertiveness, or the darker destructive force of hostility, believed by many to arise from separate motivational systems. There is a problem with the view of aggression as largely an ad hoc reaction to deprivation or other environmental shortcomings leading to disappointment and frustration. This view understates the importance of the original expansive demands for pleasurable satisfaction made by the individual upon the environment. Desire itself seems to be responsible for an inward vulnerability to external sources of disappointment and frustration, so that what is not desired cannot be effectively frustrated. Though the prototypical object of aggression is taken to be an external source of frustration, danger, and narcissistic injury, the mobilization of aggression more accurately reflects a susceptibility to the disturbing pressure of psychic stimuli that are the inner desire for satisfaction. Aggression contributes its force to various constructive or destructive purposes, from love to mastery to vengeance. Its most immediate aims, primarily narcissistic, are not concerned with the needs of others. Aggression also makes important contributions to maintaining psychic equilibrium, to the psychic organization's stake in instinctual gratification, to ego function, and to superego operation.

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