Love and Aggressiveness in Freuds Civilization and Its Discontents

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Freud discusses the origins of our sentiments of aggression (especially as involved in feelings of guilt) in chapter seven of Civilization and its Discontents, and finds them to be intimately involved with feelings of love. equally, sentiments of love often originate from feelings of aggression. Finally, Freud deploys his concepts of love and aggression to show that civilized societies are bound to fail: they place restrictions on our natural sentiments of love and aggressiveness which are in many cases insupportable – in particular, he criticizes societies founded on the Christian principle of love and those founded on communist ideals.Freud’s discussion of the origins of our aggressiveness shows how strongly it is related to love, as he conceives it. The initial aggressive sentiment is directed inwards, at the child’s own ego, Freud claims, due to a frustration of the desires of the child’s ego. This ‘introjected’ aggressive impulse results in the formation of the super-ego, and so the initiation of feelings of guilt. For example, when a child is forbidden by a parent to do something which is desired by his ego, he initially feels aggressiveness towards that parent as a result of the frustration of his desires. However, since aggressiveness cannot be directed towards the parent, it is directed at the ego, the source of the frustrated desire. Why can aggressiveness not be directed at a parent (or another figure of authority)? Here, Freud shows how essential he believes the concept of love to be to the formation of aggressive impulses: the child directs aggressiveness towards his own ego rather than towards the figure of authority because of a fear of loss of love (p. 757). Thus, the need for love is instrumental in the formation of the super-ego, which results in aggressive impulses directed at the ego: self-hating feelings of guilt.In situations where aggressiveness is in fact directed towards the figure of authority, and not introjected, love is still essential to the changes in the individual’s psychological make-up.