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Freud’s Libido Theory and Jung’s criticism


1.        Introduction

2.        The Theory of the Instincts by Sigmund Freud (Psychoanalytic Theory)

3.        Analytical Psychology by Jung (Jungian Theory)

4.        Psychic Energy

5.        Psychic Values

6.        Conclusion

7.        Bibliography


1.        Introduction

Sigmund Freud, the creator of psychoanalytic theory, is the most comprehensive and influential theory of personality created. Psychoanalytic theory paints a portrait of human nature as basically evil, also our personalities are determined by inborn drives and by events in our environment during the first five years of life. For the following paragraphs, we are going to discuss the libido theory by Freud and criticisms in psychoanalytic theory by Jung


2.        The Theory of the Instincts by Sigmund Freud

The power of the id expresses the true purpose of the individual organism’s life. This consists the satisfaction of its innate needs. The ego, whose business is to discover the most favorable and least dangerous method of obtaining satisfaction, taking the external world into account. The super-ego may bring fresh needs to the fore, but its main function remains the limitation of satisfactions.

The forces which we assume to exist behind the tensions caused by the needs of id are called instincts. They represent the somatic demands upon the mind. Although they are the ultimate cause of all activity, they are still conservative nature. Freud saw all human behavior as motivated by the drives or instincts, which in turn are the neurological representations of physical needs. At first, he referred to them as the life instincts. These instincts perpetuate (a) the life of the individual, by motivating him or her to seek food and water, and (b) the life of the species, by motivating him or her to have sex. The motivational energy of these life instincts, the "oomph" that powers our psyches, he called libido, from the Latin word for "I desire."

Freud's clinical experience led him to view sex as much more important in the dynamics of the psyche than other needs. We are, after all, social creatures, and sex is the most social of needs. Anyway, libido has come to mean, not any old drive, but the sex drive.

Later, Freud began to believe that the life instincts did not tell the whole story. Libido is a lively thing; the pleasure principle keeps us in perpetual motion. And yet the goal of all this motion is to be still, to be satisfied, to be at peace, to have no more needs. The goal of life, you might say, is death! Freud began to believe that "under" and "beside" the life instincts there was a death instinct. He began to believe that every person has an unconscious wish to die.

This seems like a strange idea at first, and it was rejected by many of his students, but I think it has some basis in experience: Life can be a painful and exhausting process. There is easily, for the great majority of people in the world, more pain than pleasure in life -- something we are extremely reluctant to admit! Death promises release from the struggle.

The day-to-day evidence of the death instinct is in our desire for peace, for escape from stimulation, our attraction to alcohol, our penchant for escapist activity, such as losing ourselves in books or movies, our craving for rest and sleep. Sometimes it presents itself openly as suicide and suicidal wishes. And, Freud theorized, sometimes we direct it out away from ourselves, in the form of aggression, cruelty, murder, and destructiveness.

The aim of the first of these basic instincts is to establish greater unities and to bind together. On the contrary, the aim of second is to undo connections and to destroy things. In biological functions the two basic instincts operate against each other or combine with each other. For example, the act of eating is a destruction of the object with the final aim of incorporating it, and the sexual act is an act of aggression with the purpose of the most intimate union. However, the proportions of the fusion, which means the combination of the two instincts have the most tangible results. Such as a surplus of sexual aggressiveness will turn a lover into a sex murderer, also the sadism and masochism are two excellent examples of a mixture of two classes of instinct.

In biological psychology, ‘ego-instincts’ and the ‘sexual instincts’ were introduced into psychoanalysis. We included the former one is to do with preservation and assertion of the individual. To the latter one is included infantile and perverse sexual life. Basically, instinct has a source, object and aim. Its source is a state of excitation in the body, its aim is the removal of that excitation and the aim is instinct becomes operate psychically, libido presses in a particular direction through the three processes. Freud stated that energy may be changed into different forms but is neither created nor destroyed.

3.        Analytical Psychology by Jung

Jung begins from the human interaction in analysis or from observation of life, develops a theory that is then illustrated by comparative material or further observation. Only then could the mass of imagery and data from many sources be organised. The organization itself then helps to understand one aspect or other of human behavior. Thus the process is circular: human material - theory - illustration - application to human behavior. Although some of Jung's structural terms were drawn from the Freudian psychoanalytic theory, they are not necessarily used in the same way.

In the Freudian conceptualization, ego refers to a psychic structure which mediates between society (superego) and instinctual drives (id). Jung's usage is in contrast to this. For Jung the ego can be understood in a much more dynamic, relative, the way as a complex, a feeling-toned group of representations of oneself that has both conscious and unconscious aspects and is at the same time personal and collective. Simply perhaps, the ego is how one sees oneself, along with the conscious and unconscious feelings that accompany that view (Hopcke, 1989, p. 77). The ego is not seen by Jungians as the goal of psychological development. As the carrier of the individual's consciousness, it is the task of the ego to become aware of its own limitations, to see its existence as only a small island -- though an essential one -- in the much greater ocean of the personal and collective unconscious.

A major part of the ego's task -- and a major goal of psychotherapy -- is to develop an appropriate relationship with what Jung termed the Self, the archetype of wholeness. The Self can be understood as the central organizing principle of the psyche, that fundamental and essential aspect of human personality which gives cohesion, meaning, direction, and purpose to the whole psyche.

Jung's notion of psychic energy is also broader than Freud's. Libido is an energy that oscillates between instinct and what he called archetype -- between body and spirit -- two sides of the same coin. So the image of sex in a dream could represent the basic instinct of sexual desire itself or, at the other end of the spectrum, the ultimate image of connectedness and a union of opposites. Jungian's speak of "big dreams," meaning dreams filled with a sense of the numinous. These are psychologically powerful dreams that lift the dreamer into a deeply felt sense of the spiritual. We might think of strong sexual dreams, especially the so-called wet dream, as the "big dreams of the body." Instead of lifting the dreamer into the spirit they serve to embody the dreamer. Their strong effect is precisely in their ability to bring the body into "play."

4.        Psychic Energy

The energy by which the work of the personality is performed is called psychic energy. Jung also used the word libido for this form of energy, but it is not to be confused with Freud’s definition of libido. Jung did not restrict libido to sexual energy as Freud did. In fact, this is one of the essential differences in the theories of two men. Libido in its natural state is appetite, according to Jung – the appetites of hungry, thirsty, and sex, as well as the emotions. Libido is manifested consciously as striving, desiring, and willing.

Psychic energy cannot be measures quantitatively in terms of formulae as forms of physical energy can be. For example, radiation can be measured in rads or electricity in volts. Psychic energy expresses itself in the form either of actual or of potential forces which perform psychological work. Psychic energy, as we have said, originates from the experiences that a person has. Just as food is consumed by the physical body and is converted into biological or life energy, so experiences are ‘consumed’ by the psyche and are converted into psychic energy.

Jung points out that it is impossible to prove scientifically that there is a relationship of equivalence between physical and psychical energy. However, he believes that there is some sort of reciprocal action between the two systems. That is to say, psychic energy is converted into physical energy. It is certainly true, for example, that drugs which produce chemical effects in the bogy also produce changes in psychological functioning. And thoughts and feelings appear to affect physiological functions. This is the whole basis on which psychosomatic medicine is found. Jung may be regarded as one of the forerunners of this important new conception in medicine.

5.        Psychic Values

One of Jung’s most important dynamic concepts is that of value. A value is measure of the amount of psychic energy that is committed to a particular psychic element. When a high value is placed upon an idea or feeling it means that this idea or feeling exerts considerable force in influencing and directing one’s behavior.

The absolute value of psychic energy that is invested in a psychological element cannot be determined, but its value relative to other values can be. We can weigh or compare our psychic values against one another and determine their relative strengths. We may ask ourselves whether we prefer beauty, power, or knowledge, wealth or friends … … etc. A person with a weak value for the goal will easily give up.

The psyche as a dynamic system, which means various amounts of energy are assigned to various psychological activities. The amounts assigned vary from time to time. Today we may have a lot of energy to studying for an examination, tomorrow we may devote a lot of energy to playing games. One’s scale of values does not remain in a constant pattern.

In all, libido can flow in either of two directions, progressively toward adapting to external situations, and regressively toward activating unconscious material. Instinctual energy can be diverted into a new activity when it is like the instinctual activity. This is called canalization.

The psyche is a relatively closed energy system. It derives its energy (libido) primarily from experiences which enter the psyche by the way of the sense organs. A secondary source is instinctual energy, but most of this energy is used for purely instinctual or natural life activities. The amount of energy invested in an element of the psyche is called its value. The intensity of a value can be estimated relatively, but it cannot be measured absolutely.

6.        Conclusion

A more general criticism of Freud's theory is its emphasis on sexuality. Everything, both good and bad, seems to stem from the expression or repression of the sex drive. Many people question that, and wonder if there are any other forces at work. Freud himself later added the death instinct, but that proved to be another one of his less popular ideas.

Actually Freud's emphasis on sexuality was not based on the great amount of obvious sexuality in his society -- it was based on the intense avoidance of sexuality, especially among the middle and upper classes, and most especially among women. What we too easily forget is that the world has changed rather dramatically over the last hundred years. Freud's mistake was more a matter of generalizing too far, and not taking cultural change into account. It is ironic that much of the cultural change in sexual attitudes was in fact due to Freud's work! The key concepts in Jungian psychodynamics is psychic energy or libido. The distribution of energy throughout the psyche is determined by two principles. The principle of equivalence states that when energy is lost from one psychic component an equivalent amount of energy will appear in another component or components. The principle of entropy states that energy will tend to move from a component of high value to one of low value until the two values are equalized.

7.        Bibliography

1.         Calvin S.Hall & Vernon J. Nordby, A Primer of Jungian Psychology, 1973 Edn. 1, The New American Library, Inc., USA.

2.         Fordham & Frieda, An Introduction to Jung’s Psychology, 1953 Edn. 1, Penguin Books, London.

3.         Jung, C.G.,  The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche, Vol.8, Princetion, N.J., Princeton University Press.