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Meissner, W.W., S.J. (2009). The Question of Drive vs. Motive in Psychoanalysis: A Modest Proposal. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 57(4):807-845.

(2009). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 57(4):807-845

Original Papers

The Question of Drive vs. Motive in Psychoanalysis: A Modest Proposal

W. W. Meissner, S.J.

This essay explores the possibility of an alternative hypothesis to the prevailing psychoanalytic instinctual drive theory whose theoretical and clinical validity has been variously critiqued and challenged. Arguments are suggested in support of the concept of motive as a viable alternative theory to the drive theory and as a replacement for the traditional instinctual drive model. Issues discussed include the understanding of the mind-body relation, the meaning of psychic determinism and overdetermination, the opposition of drive vs. motive (and the related distinction of cause vs. motive), the meaning of psychic energy, and the difference between the concept of drives as the source of all mental energy and the concept of personal agency. The discussion concludes with some observations on the clinical implications of these concepts.

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