Instincts and the Psychoanalysts

Luther Lee Bernard
University of Minnesota

THE psychoanalysts are by no means the worst offenders in the use of "instincts," so far as variety of reputed instincts is concerned. But if we consider them from the standpoint of their naïve faith in the dominance of all human activity and thought by one or a few fundamental instincts we may find much to criticize. It can scarcely be said that the psychoanalysts, with a few exceptions, are at all interested in the question of instincts as such. Some of them scarcely use the term ill their writings, and few of them as yet adopt a schematized classification of instincts as a basis for the development of their theories. So far as I know, none of them has entered into the current controversy regarding the relative claims of instinct and habit to dominate character formation and human conduct. They, like most thinkers and technicians who build up a new science or art, have simply accepted the conventional ways of thinking and speaking in a popularly or professionally accepted terminology, content to leave this tangential question to others and to give their energies to the development of their own interests.

Consequently the psychoanalysts share in the popular fallacies regarding tile instinctive control of human action, accepting rather uncritically, for the most part, those "instincts" or activity and thought patterns which fit their needs of the moment. Thus their "instincts" represent great centers of conation or impulse, especially those which they find most commonly perverted or diverted in tile psychoses and neuroses with which they deal. This leads them into the rather common error of defining or thinking of instinct in terms of its end or function instead of in terms of the structure of the act. Their "instincts" therefore conform to the general classification of activities which they happen to make because of the needs of their problems or because of their prejudices of observation. Freud [1] appears to find only two dominant motives in life with several subsidiary motives organized in connection with them. These constitute his equipment of instincts. Tansley [2] finds three great coordinate motives and he elevates them into instinct controls. But it is evident in both cases that human

(351) activity has here been classified, not on the basis of the unity of the activity process (as must be the case where it is inherited), but from the standpoint of the importance of the acts for some social or personal ends. These ends are, in these cases, the survival of the individual and of the race and the satisfactions of the individual's ego or self.

The psychoanalysts have approached the question of instincts, in so far as they have considered it philosophically at all, from a metaphysical rather than from a scientific standpoint. They are dealing in abstract social and personal values instead of in neural stimulus-response processes, end organs and effectors. On the other hand they are concerned, in practice, with the development of a technique or an art. They select those terms which apply most closely to the adjustment values which they wish to control, for purposes of diverting or strengthening them, and assume them to be identical with unit activity processes effecting these values; which they are not. In this . respect the psychoanalysts are not essentially different from other theorists and technicians dealing with organized and directed human conduct in adaptation to the demands of a social environment. The social and the educational psychologists, the business psychologists, the specialists in advertising psychology, the theorists of public opinion and the "dopsters" of "what the public wants" generally have fallen into the same errors of procedure. They have taken social and individual value terminology, which sometimes corresponds to actual habit complexes of organized activity and which sometimes does not, and have assumed these to represent inherited unit organizations of conduct selected into the individual by phylogeny and (lave called them instincts.[3] They have not yet followed the lead of Thorndike [4] in splitting these acquired activity complexes up into their constituent native impulses and learned adjustments. This would necessitate their giving up their crude makeshift of all-embracing instinct-controls and would force them to turn to a more careful analysis of environmental pressures to ascertain the true sources of character formation and conflict in personality traits which lead to the development of the neuroses and psychoses which constitute their chief concern. As yet environment is a vague, relatively unanalyzed concept with them, even less penetrated logically than is the concept of instinct. They find little

( 352) constructive use for it in their theory. Yet, like all other technicians and theorists concerned with the organization of individual conduct in harmony with a previously adjusted social environment or system, they cannot ignore it.

In this vague sense they, perhaps, make more room for environmental influences or pressures than the snore systematic biological psychologists who have worked out their theory of instincts with enough detail and logical precision to become aware of the conflicts of interpretation which may arise between the theory of instinctive control and that of environmental control. Freud, in criticizing the method of the psychiatrists in dealing with neuroses and psychoses, points out that they are prone to assign every condition to heredity. He says,[5] "Instead of first seeking out more specific and immediate causes, psychiatry refers us to the very general and remote source-heredity." Freud appears to hold that both heredity and experience (environment) play parts in the production of obsessions and other psychoses. Heredity is the underlying, stable factor, probably the source of the strength of the sex impulse, which is brought into conflict With environmental restraints through experience. In this way a psychosis results. All this is equivalent to saying that tile immediate and effective, the characteristic, cause of the psychosis is the environmental one. Yet Freud nowhere speaks of the environment by name as playing a significant rôle. The concept of the environment as an etiological factor apparently has not gained definition in his mind. White states pretty much the same viewpoint in explaining how the individual repeats the "history of the parent of the same sex, going through a similar course of development, developing tile same illnesses, exhibiting the same weaknesses," all front the influence of suggestion. "This is all generally explained by heredity, but heredity is still only a word, in hypothesis, and while perhaps it has much truth to its credit, still this other way of looking at the facts gives the values that always come front a new point of view and serves to explain many of the more subtle nuances in a much more satisfactory way."[6] Suggestion here obviously stands for environmental pressures. Adler's theory of organ inferiority [7] must in large measure if not primarily, he regarded as a theory of environmental influence in the pro-

(353) -duction of psychoneuroses. For a reading of pathology makes it sufficiently clear that the chief source of organ inferiority is unfavorable environment. White affirms the influence of organic states upon the psychic or emotional content in referring to "the hopefulness of pulmonary tuberculosis, the hypochondriacal depression associated with diseases below the diaphragm-the anxiety that goes with aortic disease and the dulness associated with initial deficiency and defective aëration of the blood,"[8] to mention only a portion of the correlations between organic and mental condition. Tansley implies the superior directing power of the environment when he states that whether nationalism or internationalism will win out as the form of the "herd instinct" which will dominate in the future "will largely depend no doubt, on economic factors, on the rate of economic recovery of western and central Europe, on the success of the efforts that will be made to bring about a more equal distribution of wealth . . . "[9] He also tells us that "we must not underrate the effect of ideals on the human mind, or the influence of great men -- the herd-leaders -on the herd mind."[10]

All this is a tacit recognition of the dominating influence of environment over instinct in determining types of activity or concrete adjustments on particular occasions. Yet not one of these writers, or several others who might be cited to similar effect, has anything like as completely defined or elaborated the theory of environmental influences as they have that of instinctive control. All of them make use of specific instincts or pseudo-instincts while none of them speaks of environment except by implication or in very general terms.[11] The term, as a causative and etiological factor, is still vague and unanalyzed. Tansley makes reference to instinct 479 times in the volume cited, but does not appeal specifically and distinctly to the environmental explanation as the dominant one in any situation. Freud has, in the major work here cited, 82 references to instinct and not one specifically to environment as a dominantly causative factor. White has eighteen references to instinct and almost as many nominal appeals to environment, but none that is clear cut and unequivocal in making it the major factor. The same may be said of Jung with this thirteen references to instinct in his Psychology of the

( 354) Unconscious and the eleven in his Analytical Psychology. Brill makes twelve appeals to instinct in his Fundamental Conceptions of Psychoanalysis and much less definite, although frequent, use of environment. Yet all of these Writers, and their confrères generally, repeatedly describe tile etiology of cases in which it is obvious that environmental situations were the immediate and actual causes or occasions for the psychoneuroses.

Freud recognizes two fundamental instincts or classes of instincts, the sexual and the ego or self-preservative.[12] These are fundamentally opposed to each other and are basic to tile serious conflicts which produce the psychoneuroses.[13] Other instincts mentioned by Freud are hunger, thirst, life-preservative, to eat, to watch, (each of these occurring once), and "to mastery" (twice). Instincts of self-preservation and ego-instincts each occur eleven times, while sex instincts are mentioned about four times as frequently as either. Apparently all the secondary instincts, except "to watch" and "to mastery" (which may also serve sex ends), are retarded as ego-instincts exclusively. Hunger and thirst are referred to as the two most elementary of the instincts of self-preservation.[14] From this summary it play be seen that Freud illustrates quite clearly our criticism of the psychoanalysts, to the effect that they seize upon large individual or social valuations of life processes which have no unit organization within the human biological organism and call them instincts. By definition instinct is inherited, and it must therefore have a unit organization of biological structure if it is a true instinct. It cannot be merely an abstraction, a valuation which is synthesized in consciousness but is lacking in a corresponding unity of biological organization within the individual.[15] If Freud were always logically consistent in his employment of this concept and classification of instincts the result would be more serious than it is. As a matter of fact he is quite uncritical psychologically. He depends upon introspection and a rather crude observation-analysis for his conclusions and principles. His method is highly empirical without being adequately critical inductively. [16] It is usually impossible to ascertain from the context whether he is thinking from an inheritance or an environmental standpoint and it is safe to say he is not consciously organizing Ills material from

(355) either viewpoint. His highly empirical method has led him into two major errors. First, it has resulted in tile oversimplification of his data, especially on the causative or etiological side; and, second, it has led him into certain vagaries, such as overemphasis of the sex element ill conflict, which unnecessarily lessen the value ally acceptability of his work. It seems scarcely necessary to repeat here that there call be no general sex instinct or ego-instinct or instinct of self-preservation. These are abstract value expressions with highly variable and constantly changeable activity content; they are not concrete biological activity units, such as true instincts must be .[17]

Both Adler and White accept this general division of the native tendencies or libido, as set forth by Freud in his general theoretical summary. While Adler is content with the general terminology of Freud, speaking of sex and self-preservative tendencies and interests, White modifies this terminology and speaks of the sex "libido" and the nutritional "libido," although he recognizes the ends of these two "libidos" as race-preservation and self-preservation respectively.[18] White is inclined to accept the Freudian view of the dominance of the sex motive over the nutritional or self-preservative in directing conduct, although at times he approaches closely to the general or energy concept of the "libido" as set forth by Jung, admitting of a transference of this energy to whatever activity complex is ready to make use of it.[19] Adler, on the other hand, is inclined to emphasize the self-preservative side of activity as the basis of conflict and psychoneuroses.[20] He finds that the psychoneurosis arises from some organic inferiority which induces all inferiority complex and an overdevelopment of compensatory processes and complexes. Thus an abnormal sex psychosis would arise within this general concept of organic inferiority and self-preservative compensation, not outside of it. Jung does not conceive of the psychic energy or "libido" as irrevocably attached to any one type of organic expression or adjustment need, but he does not minimize the importance of the sex and nutritional or self-preservative channels of outflow or expression in the problem of adjustment in life. He regards the function of nutrition as at least as primitive as that of sex and equally as likely to dominate the discharge of the psychic energy.


Jung says that the first manifestations of libido in the suckling is in the instinct of nutrition ,[21] but this in time ripens into a reproductive interest under the guidance of the sex instincts. He says, "It can be a surprise only to those to whom the history of evolution is unknown to find how few things there really are in human life which cannot be reduced in the last analysis to the instinct of procreation. It includes very nearly everything, I think, which is beloved and dear to us.’[22] He makes the contrast of libido vs. hunger equivalent to the antithesis between the instinct of the propagation of the species and the instinct of self-preservation.[23] Although the two great basic instincts, according to Jung, are the two just mentioned, from a descriptive standpoint he recognizes a multiplicity of instincts, the sex instinct among them. In the Analytical Psychology he mentions egoistic instincts three times, altruistic instincts twice, animal instincts once, the instinct of nutrition and the herd instinct each once. In the Psychology of the Unconscious he refers once each to procreative instincts, desexualized instincts, nonsexual instincts, instincts of art, the instinct of the preservation of the species, the instinct of procreation the procreative instinct, the instinct of self-preservation, the Hunger instinct, the religious instinct, and twice to the sexual instinct. Out of this total of twenty instances in both volumes, six references are directly to set or reproductive instincts and six as directly to the ego or self-preservative type. Four times there is reference to some sort of definitely social or religious instinct.

Jung also recognizes certain affluxes of libido to nonsexual instincts: He says, "Quite otherwise is the genetic standpoint. It regards the multiplicity of instincts as arising from a relative unity, the primal libido; it recognizes that definite amounts of the primal libido are split off, as it "-ere, associated with the newly found functions acid finally merged in them."[24] Jelliffe follows Jung very closely in this line of interpretation. He says, "Our formulations have taken us thus far to posit the instincts of reproduction and self-preservation as the essential and fundamental symbols underlying the process of living. From this point of view all other so-called instincts are only combinations, amplifications or partial elaborations of these. In their last analysis they are reducible to these. In many recent works on, character traits, etc., a number of instincts have been described

( 357) Thus in McDougall's interesting Introduction to Social Psychology and in Shand's Foundations of Character, one finds that there are the instincts of fear, repulsion, pugnacity, curiosity, self-abasement, self-assertion, tenderness, reproduction, gregariousness, acquisitiveness, constructiveness, hunger, sympathy, suggestion, play and imitation. While it may be thoroughly practical to use these instinct definitions in those settings for which they are adapted, yet for the psychoanalyst they are compounds, capable of reduction to the fundamentals which have been recognized for centuries. "[25] Brill's attitude is equally definite and is closely comparable to that of Jung and Freud, especially to that of Freud. He says, "Indeed, everything in life may be reduced to two fundamental instincts: hunger and love; they are the supreme rulers of the world. "[26] The specific instincts of which Brill makes use are mating instincts (twice) and sex instincts, animal instincts, love instinct, mating instinct, hunger instinct and feminine instinct of desire for children, each occurring once.

Jung brings into play the herd instinct as a factor in the process of socialization. He asserts that the child works out his adjustment to the world under the direction of this instinct between the years of one to five, approximately.[27] Indeed, Jung has the viewpoint of social psychology more clearly in mind than has Freud, for he declares, according to Dr. Loy that altruism is innate in man and that the altruistic instincts are more primary than the egoistic.[28] Jelliffe has developed this point regarding the social nature of control even further than Jung. He dwells upon the manner in which the various anarchistic and egoistic libidos are organized into a social pattern through sublimation and repression.[29] Of repression he says, "Repression therefore leas for its function the locking up of energy-of libido-until such time as it may be used at a higher, i.e., socially permitted level."[30] Of the process of socialization as a whole he says, "It cannot be too strongly insisted upon that this process of repression is going on all the time below the levels of consciousness in the developing child; and that by the age of five, which age limit as has already been expressed is purely arbitrary, the work of repression, so far as these primitive ego strivings are concerned, has

(358) resulted in creating a social animal. That is, antisocial trends can be satisfied in fantasy, rather than in reality." [31]

Neither Adler nor White [32] develops a classification of instincts as a theoretical basis for the distribution of the "libido" and the origin and control of conflicts with their resultant psychoneuroses. In fact, White, in his earlier work, mentions only one instinct specifically, the "herd" instinct, to which he refers on two occasions, each time placing the term in quotation marks. In his Outlines of Psychiatry [33] he adds the ego, self-preservative and sexual instincts and also speaks of a self-regarding instinct. These "instincts" are, of course, quite consistent with his theory of the "libido," but he does not develop diem ostensibly as a psychological or neurological support to that theory. In two of his later and more popular works [34] he makes use of a large number of instincts. These include the "instincts" of cruelty, to fight, to hate, to kill, of love, the acquisitive instinct, the pleasure-pain instinct, the instinct of gregariousness, the herd, maternal, parental, paternal, ego and self-preservative instincts, the instinct to yield at once, the instinct of domination, "the instinct of overcoming our enemy- in the primitive and final way," the race-preservative and sex instincts, the instincts of sexuality, the instinct to build, of curiosity and the creative instinct. He also speaks of instinct expression, fundamental instincts, primitive arid prime instincts. The parental instinct is mentioned fourteen times, the ego instinct thirteen and the sex instinct (in various forms) twenty-three times, in these two volumes. The other instincts do not in any case occur more than three times each. While the writings from which these instincts are taken are not works on psychoanalysis the distribution of emphasis on these instincts play properly be held to indicate the author's view of tile actual correlation between instinct and conflict and psychosis. The ego, parental and sex instincts are the outstanding ones in White's usage. Perhaps the parental instinct would partake somewhat of the nature of both the ego and the sex instincts. It may be regarded as significant that the herd instinct does not receive serious recognition in this treatment. Adler concerns himself (won loss, with instincts. As was remarked above, his is essentially all environmental theory, since the psychoneuroses result as

(359) compensations for inferiority complexes arising because of organic insufficiency, which may be either inherited or acquired. In The Neurotic Constitution he mentions congenital, criminal, sadistic, murder and gynecokratic instincts (the last one twice). Obviously these "instincts" constitute no attempt at a classification intended to serve as an explanation of psychoses and neuroses. They are apparently thrown into the text at random and relatively uncritically because they are in the writer's vocabulary and represent to him, more or less, ideas serving as tools for his thinking.

In Tansley the psychoanalytic technique, previously more of an art than a science, attempts to become systematic. This tendency towards systematization was already at work in a number of other advocates of psychoanalysis. As the psychoanalytic method began to attract more attention, criticisms and questions arose regarding its underlying principles which had to be met by further study and research. These questions were met in the characteristic way in which most arts, developed beyond their theoretical supports, meet such questions when their practitioners are forced to think them into a system. They tie them up with a philosophic system or scientific theory already in existence, which has prestige and with which the practitioners are fairly familiar. Freud's theorizing about his method had been characterized equally by brilliancy of conception, ignorance of modern psychology and a predilection for a mystical metaphysics. No one but the reverent psychoanalyst has been able to reconcile himself to the lack of psychological knowledge of Freud. The newer psychoanalysts have frequently shown a snore satisfactory acquaintance with the fundamental sciences in whose fields they operate. This is particularly true of White, who apparently is widely read and has embodied some of the most valuable general concepts of psychology and logic in his book. But his work still bears the earmarks of a relatively crude empiricism and of a too great attachment to Freudian dogmas and prejudices. He lacks largely a systematic adaptation of the concepts and methods of psychoanalysis to the demonstrated facts of psychology and neurology.

This fusion or adjustment has been attempted by Tansley, but his method wee ,lot in all respects the best one. He began with tile metaphysical concept of instincts instead of utilizing the new experimental data regarding reactions, coördination, the building and transference of percepts to concepts, learning and habit formation, association, reasoning and imagination. Psychoanalysis needs to build its system upon neurology and experimental psychology rather than upon metaphysical concepts such as the

(360) "libido," infantilism, regression, the struggle to regain lost omniscience, anal emotions, and the like. A theory of ready made metaphysical entities such as the prevailing classifications of instincts, can offer only a formal and deceptive aid. Doubtless the adoption of the theory of the instincts as a systematic basis for psychoanalysis represents a real logical advance from the old empirical or relatively disconnected generalizations of the Freudians, but it does not mark the achievement of a scientific content for the theory or a scientific method for the practice of psychoanalysis.

Tansley accepts the classification of the instincts of McDougall, including the seven which MeDougall regards as established instincts (flight, pugnacity, repulsion, curiosity, self-assertion, self-abasement and the parental instinct) and the five which he regards as doubtful or indefinite (reproduction or sex, feeding, gregariousness, acquisition and construction). [35] In this procedure Tansley attempts a fusion of psychoanalysis with conventional psychology, especially in its more popular aspects. For the psychologies based oil the theory of instincts, such as those of McDougall and his numerous followers, do not represent really serious attempts at scientific synthesis and experimental investigation but consist of ingenious systematizations and elaborations of popular beliefs about the origins and control of human conduct. It is perhaps to be expected that a subject like psychoanalysis, just emerging from crude empirical generalization and more under the influence of metaphysical concepts and analogical reasoning than the rigors of scientific method, should turn first to a pseudoscientific and metaphysical psychology based oil popular beliefs rather than to a scientific psychology based on demonstrated facts. A single leap to the exactness of rigorous logic and scientific method was perhaps too much to expect.

However, Tansley has not succeeded very well in his attempted fusion of psychoanalytic theory with the conventional psychology through the channel of McDougall's classification of instincts. In holding oil to tile psychoanalytic tradition of dominant native urges, the repression of which brings on psychoneuroses, he himself faces n conflict -- in this, case between two acquired impulses. Freud and his followers offer No of those urges, so general in character and so obviously abstract and acquired valuations of adjustment processes, that they are neither instincts nor unit action patterns. On the other hand McDougall presents twelve

(361) such urges, which to be sure are open to the same objections in general. Tansley therefore makes a compromise and selects two of the urges or "instincts" of the Freudians (the self or ego and sex instincts) and adapts one from Jung, or perhaps from McDougall. He transforms the gregarious instinct of McDougall into the herd instinct of Jung, made popular among the metaphysicians of the mental and social sciences by Trotter,[36] and adopts it as the third in his trinity of the fundamental urges basic to human nature and activity. These three urges he calls "the great dominant instincts" to distinguish them from the twelve "simple instincts" of McDougall.[37] Around these three "great dominant instincts" are built up complexes as the result of the necessity of acting in an environment. "Psychologically the complexes corresponding with these three instincts bear by far the greater part of the affect of the mind, contain the psychical causes of all tile major conflicts, and determine the greater part of human conduct. [38] This same classification was assumed in a recent "Symposium oil the Relative Rôles in Psychopathology of the Ego, Herd and Sex Instincts," engaged in by Bernard Glueck, Sanger Brown, 2nd, C. Macfie Campbell and John T. MacCurdy.[39]

In justification of this selection of three "great dominant instincts," Tansley says, "Biologically it is clear that these filings must represent the most fundamental concerns of the individual, since the first corresponds with his own existence as an individual, the second with his existence as a gregarious animal, while the third conditions his power of reproducing the race.[40] Perhaps these do constitute the three most important interests in the life of man, but if it is true it is more obvious sociologically and psychologically than biologically. That is to say, these interests are only secondarily biological facts, because they are not instinctive, but acquired psychically and socially. They are great habit complexes built upon more or less immediate or remote instinctive mechanisms as a result of the interaction of the individual with his environment, especially his psycho-social environment.[41] It is true that individuals possessing intelligence above a certain low level do build up, as a result of making the necessary adjust-

( 362) -ments to the world in which they live, a more or less active self-consciousness. They come to act, to make judgments and to value relationships and to project ends of future action with reference to this ego or self as if it were a unit. It actually does acquire an integration and definiteness which render host simple activities referred to it practically automatic. Hence these activities, judgments and valuations, valued in the light of the self and made to conform to the demands of the ego, are called instinctive when they should be regarded as for the most part merely habitual.

The same may be said of acts, judgments, valuations and ideals with regard to the social or herd interests, with the exception that it is more difficult for the individual to integrate the social interests into a unified conscious whole. The process of integrating one's Social consciousness is much more abstract, because the foci of social interest, especially in modern complex society, are much more scattered and do not always lie in the same plane of interest. Consequently our social consciousness necessarily is more or less dominated by the interests of that institution or those institutions which lie nearest to our interests or, with which we are most closely identified. Only the more philosophic or detached persons, those who can in a large measure abstract their egos from the complex of social interests and view them abstractly, are able to approximate an evenly balanced social consciousness in which the interests of all competing institutions are justly valued- Such an achievement also requires a degree of knowledge of society which most people do not possess. But neither the herd-consciousness nor the self-consciousness, however well integrated and stabilized they nay be, is inherited or even inborn. They develop as poles of the salve adjustment process; are complements of each other. They change as the individual changes; as he grows older, as he accumulates experience, as he changes his location and hence as he changes his relationship to facts, changes his viewpoint. They change also as the environment changes. New inventions which modify industrial technique and production, resulting changes in social relationships, the accumulation of knowledge, the achievements of science in transforming all aspects of life, inevitably modify our self and social consciousness and the logic of our activities with reference to self and society. The unity of our activity processes with reference to self and the herd is logical--social and psychic--rather than biological, except on a merely vegetative plane of existence into which constructive and consciously purposive adjustment scarcely enters.

But even where the organism reacts to its environment in a

(363) self-preservative way, and primarily on a physiological and vegetative plane, it does not respond in all cases collectively as a unit process. That is, eating, digestion, assimilation, breathing, avoiding danger, etc., when instinctively performed, lave their several separate mechanisms. Even when each one of these mechanisms individually is instinctive, they do not together possess the unity and permanency of organization which would constitute them a single ego or self instinct. The only inherited unity they possess is a certain mutual responsiveness through the sympathetic nervous system, but this does not approach closely the degree of integration necessary to constitute them collectively an Instinct of self. Furthermore, those who make use of the term ego or self instinct in connection with psychoanalytic theory are not so much concerned with these vegetative and primitive defense processes which come into consciousness but vaguely, if at all, as they are with the higher psychic or self-conscious processes. These we have already shown to be acquired and to be highly fluid in character, undergoing constant modification as they do.

Whatever comfort the advocates of the ego or self instinct might obtain from the facts of the organic self-protective and vegetative processes-and it is slight-no similar data can be brought forward in .support of a herd instinct. Certainly we have no organic processes devoted, either severally or in unity, to the service of the herd. Our responses to the herd are mainly psychic and they are, except in the most rudimentary forms, acquired; and the integration is not permanent, and it is abstract rather than concretely physiological. Sex activity has a much more concrete and immediate basis in definite instinctive processes. But even here the organization of sex activity is dominated by external factors, such as convention, tradition and custom, and somewhat by science. This organization is acquired, not instinctive. The environmental pressures seize the sex instincts and mold them into a form of organized expression, or repress them, to suit the ends set by society itself. We cannot speak of a sex instinct in this general sense, although there are sex instincts which consist of much more localized and specific physiological processes. These may severally come into conflict with the psycho-social environment or be utilized by it; they may serve as the bases of psychoneuroses; but when they so function collectively and in an organized capacity we are dealing usually with an organization from without, dictated by the psycho-social environment, which is in its integrated form acquired rather than instinctive.

It should be clear from the argument that the three "great

(364) dominant instincts" of Tansley are not instincts at all. They are habit complexes possessing an abstract and acquired character. They are usually more in the nature of psychic and social abstract values than concrete physiological or biological structures. But this fact does not prevent these abstract value completes, which have more of a mental and social than a physiological existence, from being functional in a world which is capable of being directed by thought, or even by tradition and convention, which are lower forms of conscious social direction than the rational. It may be that these three social psychic value complexes represent a fairly successful and appropriate selection of those which are most important to the human race. But we should not suppose that they are the only value complexes. There are as many as there are interests which can be abstracted into a fair degree of stable integration by the human mind or by social policy. The "instincts" of such classifications as those set forth by McDougall are really such value complexes as these, instead of physiological or structural activity mechanisms. That is, their unity is mental and social or abstract, rather than biological or physiological. They are acquired in the form in which we apprehend them rather than inherited. They- are changeable rather than fixed. They are abstractions rather than concrete realities. To them ewe might add many more of the same character, as some writers do; but they would probably represent abstracted interests or evaluations less integrated or more fluid in character than the ones already cited.

Nor must it be supposed, because these "interests" or abstract value complexes which Tansley and the Freudians and the psychiatrists who follow their lead call instincts are acquired instead of inherited, that there call be no conflicts and consequent psychoneuroses arising out of them. Conflicts may occur between habits, even habits of thinking or abstractions, quite as swell as between instincts or instincts and environment (which really consists of habits of thinking). When we build up abstract values rooted in our self anti social consciousness and the correlated habits of action and thought, these cannot be violated, overridden or disregarded by new values arising within or coming from the outside without mental struggle and the consequent liability to neurosis and psychosis. I t' these valuations slave ill(- sanction of tradition mid custom the conflict may be all the stronger and the abnormal psychic consequences of it the more intense. If, moreover, the valuations are supported by underlying instincts, especially if these instincts are near the surface of the acquired valuation complex, as in the case of sex attitudes, the conflict will be stronger and

(365) the psychoneuroses the more persistent and troublesome, other things being equal. This is because the value complex is so deeply rooted when its roots are instincts, or even customs and traditions, that it holds on with great persistency. In a certain degree, this fact justifies Freud's empirical generalization regarding the dominance of sex in psychoneuroses. It does not, however, warrant his maintaining that sex is the only element here concerned. [42]

It may even be doubted if a bare, unmodified instinct ever comes directly in conflict with environment or abstract value complexes, although this may happen in connection with some of the vegetative and sex instincts. Among men who have a grade of intelligence sufficient to enable them to assimilate social values and practices, these native instincts early become so conventionalized through habit modification that they cease to exist as instincts and the actual conflict arises between habit complexes. This conflict is primarily on the abstract valuational plane, and therefore is not actually between native or inherited processes at all, but between our abstract reflective processes arising out of these or overlying habit processes. The psychoanalysts themselves maintain that a conflict cannot be resolved and the psychoneurosis be dissipated without raising the conflict into the reflective centers where it can be rationalized away.[43]

The most significant conclusion to be drawn from this brief discussion of the employment of the instinct concept by the psychoanalysts seems to the writer to be that it is now time for the psychoanalysts to advance from the naive biological and inheritance interpretation of conflict and psychoneuroses to a snore sophisticated and analytical environmental analysis. It can scarcely be questioned that the psychoanalysts have brought to the attention of tile psychologists and especially the psychiatrists some extremely valuable data. They have emphasized a phase of consciousness of the utmost importance individually and socially Which, because of the strong predilection for all intellectualistic interpretation of social and individual action regnant in the nineteenth century, had been neglected or overlooked.[44] Whether their contribution is to rank as one of the three great discoveries of

(366) method in science, comparable, as Freud seems to think, [45] to the work of Darwin, remains yet. to be determined. Nor can it be determined until the theory becomes dominantly scientific and drops its metaphysical preconceptions. We have dealt with but one of these in this paper, that of the instincts. It must be admitted that the instinct interpretation has been forced upon psychoanalytic theory largely as a short cut method of making it square with the approved biological and psychological interpretations of action and attitude, of conduct. But the psychologists and biologists are coming to see that the individually and socially significant phases of conduct, in members of the human type at least, are not inherited, but are determined by environmental pressures. The most significant of these pressures are embodied in the psycho-social environment and consist of institutions, traditions, customs, conventions, laws, beliefs, scientific data and principles.[46]

While it is important to analyze the so-called instincts of the psychoanalysts and the social and educational psychologists into true inherited action patterns (where these can be isolated) as a method of arriving at the actual original nature of man, it is of even more importance to account for the large residue remaining from these so-called instincts which must be attributed to an environmental origin. The acquired element in most human action patterns is much larger than the instinctive. It is necessary to study and classify the types of environment which produce these action patterns if they are to be controlled and adjusted. Only thus can we understand adequately the genesis of conflict and the production of psychoneuroses, and only thus can we so harmonize environmental pressures, that is, organize our adjustments in society, as to diminish the production of psychoneuroses. At present, due to the chaotic character and constantly increasing complexity of our economico-social environment, conflicts and psychoneuroses are increasing. While a further analysis and better understanding of the inherited nature of man -- especially if it results in getting down to the fundamental and inherited activity units-will help in solving this problem, the chief aid must come from an understanding and control of the environmental pressures which are overtaxing man's native equipment. Such an analysis of environment mid its influence ill producing conflicts will constitute a more scientific approach to an explanatory psychoanalytic theory.


  1. A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis (1920), 356. Brill follows Freud's lead in this respect. Cf. Fundamental Conceptions of Psychoanalysis, 32.
  2. A. G. Tansley, The New Psychology and Its Relation to Life (1920), 177.
  3. See, for example, w. McDougall, Introduction to Social Psychology; D. Starch, Educational Psychology; Hollingworth and Poffenberger, Applied Psychology; S. S. Colvin, The Learning Process; E. A. Kirkpatrick, Fundamentals of Child Study, etc.
  4. Original Nature of Man.
  5. Introduction to Psychoanalysis, 219; also p. 216. Compare Selected Papers on Hysteria and Other Psychoneuroses translated by A. A. Brill, 1912, p. 193.
  6. White, W. A., Mechanisms of Character Formation, 164.
  7. Adler, The Neurotic Constitution; also various studies on organ inferiority, such as Studie über Minderwertigkeit von Organen (1907) and Myllodysplasie oder Organminderwertigkeit? (1909).
  8. Op. cit., 245.
  9. Op. cit., 214.
  10. Ibid., 216. See also his discussion of the influence of environment upon the occupation of women, p. 233.
  11. White, so far as I have been able to observe, employs the term environment more frequently than any of the other leading writers on psychoanalysis.
  12. Introduction to Psychoanalysis, 356 ff.
  13. Ibid., 358.
  14. Ibid., 356.
  15. Cf. Bernard, The Misuse of Instinct in the Social Sciences. Psy. Rev., March, 1921.
  16. Compare C. G. Jung, Analytical Psychology.
  17. For a more adequate discussion of these points see article by Bernard, cited above.
  18. White, Mechanisms of Character Formation, 153, 196, 319.
  19. Ibid. 320.
  20. The Neurotic Constitution, 62, 90, passim.
  21. Analytical Psychology, 231.
  22. Psychology of the Unconscious, 145.
  23. Ibid.
  24. Ibid., 150.
  25. The Technique of Psychoanalysis, 66-67.
  26. Op. cit., 32.
  27. Analytical Psychology, 160.
  28. Ibid., 263, 269.
  29. Op. cit., 42 ff.
  30. Ibid., 44.
  31. Ibid., 44-15.
  32. Reference is here made to White's more fundamental and earlier work, Mechanisms of Character Formation (1916).
  33. Eighth edition, 1921.
  34. The Mental Hygiene of Childhood and Thoughts of a Psychiatrist on the War and After (1919).
  35. Tansley, A. G., The New Psychology and Its Relation to Life (1920), 180.
  36. The Instincts of the Herd in Peace and War (1916,).
  37. The New Psychology, 177.
  38. Ibid.
  39. Cf. The Journal of Abnormal Psychology and Social Psychology, XVI: 217-208 (October-November, 1921).
  40. Op. Cit., 177.
  41. See Bernard, "The Significance of the Environment as a Social Factor," in Publications of the American Sociological Society, 1921.
  42. Freud does admit the theoretical possibility of there being psychoneuroses arising from other than sexual sources, but maintains that he has not met them. See Selected Papers on Hysteria and Other Psychoneuroses, 120, 141, 190-193; General Introduction to Psychoanalysis, 304, 315, 324, passim.
  43. White, Mechanisms of Character Formation, 274.
  44. See remarks on this subject, American Journal of Sociology, XXVII: 395-398 (1921).
  45. General Introduction to Psychoanalysis, 247.
  46. See Proceedings of American Sociological Society (19.21), previously cited, for an outline classification of these.

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