Point of View: The Psychic Origins of War
Sigmund Freud, the Father of Psychoanalysis, postulated that the human psyche is driven by two forces... the life force (Eros) and the death drive. Certainly, an examination of our society supports Freud’s view that these psychic forces supersede all others in their power and significance.
The death drive expresses itself in acts of hostility, in hate, in cruel behavior and in violence committed on an individual and/or collective level. Eros, expresses itself in feelings of love, gratitude and appreciation and in acts of assistance, support and charity. Within individuals, and indeed within groups of individuals, these forces are always dynamically interacting with one another in ways that profoundly impact human behavior, and by extension, the conduct of nations.
The powerful desire to be loved represents the child’s overwhelming and constant needs that can never be fully met. The loved child learns to tolerate small amounts of frustration which can be increased as the child grows. As the child learns to delay gratification and tolerate frustration while receiving unconditional love and support, the child grows into a mature, giving adult who can empathize with others. Thus, the child gives up the insatiable need for love that is the cornerstone of childhood narcissism.
Regrettably, few adults have been reared in this manner, so we see them continuously searching throughout their adult lives to fulfill the unmet needs of early childhood. These needs now deeply imbedded in the unconscious of the adult, drive behavior that results, directly and indirectly, in enormous human suffering as striving for power and conquest replace the unmet need for love. Jealousy and envy, hatred and prejudice, cruelty, violence and ultimately war are individual and collective results.
In their wish to satisfy these immature needs, people often devastate the world. These unmet and immature needs often manifest themselves in destructive behavior toward others, which in turn leads to acts of cruelty and violence. If a person’s immature and insatiable need to be loved is sufficiently frustrated that individual may ultimately (driven by rage) turn to acts of wanton violence. If that person happens to rise to a position of power, he or she may ultimately enlist an entire nation to their “psychological crusade” and plunge that nation and other nations into war.
A recent example of this mechanism can be seen in the acts of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein which superficially appear irrational. A review, however, of Hussein’s history will demonstrate that his adult behavior is merely an extension of a major unfulfilled need in his childhood, when he was brought up by a military uncle.
No better example of this mechanism exists, however, than in the life of Adolf Hilter, whose childhood and his emotional reaction to it, coupled with peculiar historical developments, plunged the entire world into war. This process has been exhaustively researched and convincingly presented in a book by Dr. Alice Miller which we would recommend to our readers: “For Your Own Good; Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing and The Roots of Violence” (New American Library, New York, New York, 1983).
Hypothetically, if the human need for insatiable love is satisfied, the destructive force can be modified in its expression and a fusion of these two psychological forces can be achieved. Our cultural drive for self-determination and growth would then correspond with our biological drive for development toward independence and self reliance.
A moral society where each child would be assured of loving, caring and attentive parents during its first three or four years of live - unhampered by the needs of other siblings - may very well be the cornerstone that is needed to prevent a continuation of our heritage of war and conflict.
World Information Transfer, Inc.
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