Triebe were, however, for Freud not just abstract constructs or concepts in a theory of motivation or personality, to be sorted out from other forces of motivation, to be classified and distinguished from affects, perceptual and cognitive processes, and somatic needs. Triebe, instincts, were – much more than scientists, doctors, ministers, judges (“the educated circles”) wanted to admit or know – what made the human world go around, what drove people to act and think and feel the way they do, in excess as well as in self-constriction, inhibition, and fear, in their daily lives in the family and with others, and in their civilized and professional occupations and preoccupations as well. They dominated their love life and influenced their behavior with children and authorities. They made people sick and made them mad. They drove people to perversion and crimes, made them into hypocrites and liars as well as into fanatics for truth and other virtues, or into prissy, bigoted, prejudiced, or anxious creatures. And their sexual needs, preoccupations, and inhibitions turned out to be at the root of much of all this. Rational, civilized, measured, “good” behavior, the noble and kind deeds and thoughts and feelings so highly valued were much of the time postures and gestures, self-denials, rationalizations, distortions, and hideouts – a thin surface mask covering and embellishing the true life and the real power of the instincts.
The life of the body, of bodily needs and habits and functions, kisses and excrements and intercourse, tastes and smells and sights, body noises and sensations, caresses and punishments, tics and gait and movements, facial expression, the penis and the vagina and the tongue and arms and hands and feet and legs and hair, pain and pleasure, physical excitement and lassitude, violence and bliss – all this is the body in the context of human life. The body is not primarily the organism with its organs and physiological functions, anatomical structures, nerve pathways, and chemical processes.
If Freud had not had all this in view, and the vagaries and foibles of people, his own and those of his patients, he would never have been able to write his case histories and to create a scientific psychoanalysis as distinct from both neurology and academic psychiatry and psychology. He would not have been able to understand dreams and jokes and neurosis and the psychopathology of everyday life. He created, partly in spite of his inclinations and not without grave misgivings, an entirely new method and standard of scientific investigation which went counter to scientific principles and methods derived from or devised for a different realm of reality – principles and methods that stultified an appropriate approach to and grasp of psychic life. He could do this because he was unwilling to accept the narrow limitations imposed on science by the science of his day, whose child he remained nevertheless. He broke out of those limits and widened the field of scientific action, while loath to accept the consequences of such a venture in all its implications. But had he not in such a way brought science and life as it is lived together again, psychoanalysis would never have had the impact on modern life and scientific thought that we see today.
Instincts and the life of the body, seen in the perspective sketched above, are one and the same. They become separate only when we begin to distinguish between soma and psyche. But once this is done – and without this distinction there is neither physiology–anatomy nor psychology – instinct in psychoanalysis must be understood as a psychological concept. I believe it means reintroducing the psyche into biology and physics if one speaks of Eros and Thanatos as universal cosmic tendencies. Whether this is legitimate or not remains, in my opinion, an open question; this psyche, however, would in any event not be psyche or mind in terms of human psychology. Within the framework of psychoanalysis as a science of the human mind we must, if we accept the Eros-Thanatos conception (or its less “metaphysical” form, the duality of libido and aggression), speak of instincts as psychic representatives, and of life and death instincts as such representatives.
Hans Loewald – The Essential Loewald: On Motivation and Instinct Theory p.125