the self and the world

drawing & research


personal project


... the true source of religious sentiments. ... a sensation of 'eternity', a feeling as of something limitless, unbounded - as it were, 'oceanic'. The feeling ... is a purely subjective fact, not an article of faith; it brings with on assurance of personal immortality, but it is the source of the religious energy ...

... originally the ego includes everything, later it separates off an external world from itself. Our present ego-feeling is, therefore, only a shrunken residue of ... all embracing - feeling which corresponded to a more intimate bond between the ego and the world about it. ... the ideational contents appropriate to it would be precisely those of limitlessness and of a bond with the universe ... the 'oceanic' feeling.


Wer wissenschaft und Kunst besitzt, hat auch Religion;

Wer jene beide nicht besitzt, der habe Religion!

[He who possesses science and art also has religion; but he who possesses neither of those two, let him have religion!] - Goethe, Gedichte aus dem Nachlass.

Life, as we find it, is too hard for us; it brings us too many pains, disappointments, and impossible measures. We cannot do without auxiliary construction, as Theodor Fontane tells us. There are perhaps three such measures: powerful deflections, which cause us to make light of our misery; substitutive satisfactions, which diminish it; and intoxicating substances, which make us insensitive to it. 

What do they demand of life and wish to achieve in it? The answer to this can hardly be in doubt. They strive after happiness; they want to become happy and to remain so. 

We are threatened with suffering from three directions: from our own body, which is doomed to decay and dissolution and which cannot even do without pain and anxiety as warning signals; from the external world, which may rage against us with overwhelming and merciless forces of destruction; and finally from our relations to other men. ... But the most interesting methods of averting suffering are those which seek to influence our own organism. ... all suffering is nothing else than sensation; it only exists in so far as we feel it, and we only feel it in consequence of certain ways in which our organism is regulated.

... satisfaction is obtained from illusions, which are recognized as such without the discrepancy between them and reality being allowed to interfere with enjoyment. The region from which these illusions arise is the life of the imagination; ... At the head to these satisfactions through phantasy stands the enjoyment of works of art - an enjoyment which, by the agency of artist, is made accessible to those who are not themselves creative. 

This aesthetic attitude to the goal of life offers little protection against the threat of suffering, but it can compensate for a great deal. The enjoyment of beauty has a peculiar, mildly intoxicating quality of feeling. Beauty has no obvious use; nor is there any clear cultural necessity for it. Yet civilization could not do without it. ... All that seems certain is its derivation from the field of sexual feeling. The love of beauty seems a perfect example of an impulse inhibited in its aim. 'Beauty' and 'attraction' are originally attributes of the sexual object.

It is a question of how much real satisfaction he can expect to get from the external world, how far he is led to make himself independent of it, and finally, how much strength he feels he has for altering the world to suit his wishes. In this, his psychical constitution will play a decisive part, respectively of the external circumstances. The man who is predominantly erotic will give first preference to his emotional relationships to other people; the narcissistic man, who inclines to be self-sufficient, will seek his main satisfaction in his internal mental processes; the man of action will never give up the external world on which he can try out his strength. 


... the newly-won power over space and time, this subjugation of the forces of nature, which is the fulfillment of a longing that goes back thousands of years, has not increased the amount of pleasurable satisfaction which they may expect from life and has not made them feel happier. From the recognition of this fact, we ought to be content to conclude that power over nature is not the only precondition of human happiness, just as it is not the only goal of cultural endeavor; we ought not to infer from it that technical progress is without value for the economics of our happiness. ... the voice of pessimistic criticism makes itself hard and warns us that most of these satisfactions follow the model of the 'cheap enjoyment' extolled in the anecdote ...

We shall therefore content ourselves with saying once more that the word 'civilization' describes the whole sum of the achievements and regulations which distinguish our lives from those of our animal ancestors and which serve two purposes - namely to protect men against nature and to adjust their mutual relations.

... the control over fire stands out as a quite extraordinary and unexampled achievement, ... [It is as though primal mad had the habit when he came in contact with fire, of satisfying an infantile desire connected with it, by putting it out with a stream of his urine. ... The first person to renounce this desire and spare the fire was able to carry it off with him and subdue it to his own use. .. This great cultural conquest was thus the reward for his renunciation of instinct. Further, it is as though woman had been appointed guardian of the fire which was held captive on the domestic hearth because her anatomy made it impossible for her to yield to the temptation of this desire. It is remarkable, too, how regularly analytic experience testifies to the connection between ambition, fire, and urethral erotism. ] 

... In the photographic camera, he has created an instrument which retains the fleeting visual impressions, just as a gramophone disc retains the equally fleeting auditory ones; both are at bottom materializations of the power he possesses of recollection, his memory. ... Writing was in its origin the voice of an absent person; and the dwelling-house was a substitute for the mother's womb, the first lodging, for which in all likelihood man still longs, and in which he was safe and felt at ease. 

... Long ago he formed an ideal conception of omnipotence and omniscience which he embodied in his gods. To these gods he attributed everything that seemed unattainable to his wishes, or that was forbidden to him. One may way, therefore, that these gods were cultural ideals. ... Man has, as it were, become a kind of prophetic God. ... we will not forget that present-day man does not feel happy in his Godlike character.

... We soon observe that his useless thing which we expect civilization to value is beauty. We require civilized man to reverence beauty wherever he sees it in nature and to create it in the objects of his handiwork so far as he is able. ... Order is a kind of compulsion to repeat which, when a regulation has been laid down once and for all, decides when,, where and how a thing shall be done, so that in every similar circumstance one is spared hesitation and indecision. ... It enables men to use space and time to the best advantage while conserving their psychical forces. ... on the contrary, human beings exhibit an inborn tendency to carelessness, irregularity, and unreliability in their work, and that a laborious training is needed before they learn to follow the example of their celestial models. 

... to characterize civilization ... his intellectual scientific and artistic achievements ... religious systems, ... the speculations of philosophy; ... man's 'ideals' - his ideas of a possible perfection of individuals, or of peoples or of the whole of humanity, and the demands he sets up on the basis of such ideas. 

... the relationships of men to one another their social relationships, ... relationships which affect a person as a neighbor, as a source of help, as another person's sexual object, as a member of a family and of a State. ... Human life in common is only made possible when a majority comes together which is stronger than any separate individual and which remains united against all separate individuals. ... the members of the community restrict themselves in their possibilities of satisfaction, whereas the individual knew no such restrictions. ... justice - that is, the assurance that a law once made will not be broken in favor of an individual. 

... Sublimation of instinct is an especially conspicuous feature of cultural development; it is what makes it possible for higher psychical activities, scientific, artistic, or ideological, to play such an important part in civilized life. ... it is impossible to overlook the extent to which civilization is built up upon a renunciation of instinct how much it presupposes the non-satisfaction (by suppression, repression, or some other means?) of powerful instincts.


... Eros and Ananke [Love and Necessity] have become parents of human civilization too. 

The love which founded the family continues to operate in civilization both in its original form, in which it does not renounce direct sexual satisfaction, and in its modified form as aim-inhibited affection. ... Genital love leads to the formation of new families, and aim-inhibited love to 'friendships' which become valuable from a cultural standpoint because they escape some of the limitations of genital love, as, for instance, its exclusiveness. 

...Women represent the interests of the family and of sexual life. ... Since a man does not have unlimited quantities of psychical energy at his disposal, he has to accomplish his tasks by making an expedient distribution of his libido. What he employs for cultural aims he to a great extent withdraws from women and sexual life. 

... [Man is an animal organism with (like others) an unmistakably bisexual disposition. ... this may be, if we assume it as a fact that each individual seeks to satisfy both male and female wishes in his sexual life, we are prepared for the possibility that those [two sets of ] demands are not fulfilled by the same object, and that they interfere with each other unless they can be kept apart and each impulse guided into a particular channel that is suited to it. 


... sexual love is a relationship between two individuals in which a third can only be superfluous or disturbing, whereas civilization depends on relationships between a considerable number of individuals.

If civilization imposes such great sacrifices not only on man's sexuality but on his aggressivity, we can understand better why it is hard for him to be happy in that civilization. ... Civilized man has exchanged a portion of his possibilities of happiness for a portion of security. We must not forget, however,, that in the primal family only the head of it enjoyed this instinctual freedom; the rest lived in slavish suppression. ... As regards the primitive peoples who exist to-day, careful researches have shown that their instinctual life is by no means to be envied for its freedom.


... I took as my starting-point a saying of the poet-philosopher, Schiller, that 'hunger and love are what moves the world'. Hunger could be taken to represent the instincts which aim at preserving the individuals; while love strives after objects, and its chief function, favored in every way by nature, is the preservation of the species. Thus, ... eg-instincts and object-instincts confronted each other. ... sadism was clearly a part of sexual life, in the activities of which affection could be replaced by cruelty. 

... as well as Eros there was an instinct of death. ... a portion of the instinct is diverted towards the external world and comes to light as an instinct of aggressiveness and destructiveness. ... In sadism, long since known to us as a component instinct of sexuality, we should have before us a particularly strong alloy of this kind between trends of love and the destructive instinct; ... masochism, would be a union between destructiveness directed inwards and sexuality. 

This aggressive instinct is the derivative and the main representative of the death instinct which we have found alongside of Eros and which shares world-dominion with it. ... the meaning of the evolution of civilization is no longer obscure to us. It must present the struggle between Eros and Death, between the instinct of life and the instinct of destruction, as it works itself out in the human species. This struggle is what all life essentially consists of, and the evolution of civilization may therefore be simply described as the struggle for life of the human species. 


... What means does civilization employ in order to inhibit the aggressiveness which opposes it, to make it harmless, to get rid of it, perhaps? ... His aggressiveness is introjected, internalized; it is, in point of fact, sent back to where it came from - that is, it is directed towards his own ego. There it is taken over by a portion of the ego, which sets itself over against the rest of the ego as super-ego, and which now, in the form of 'conscience', is ready to put into action against the ego the same harsh aggressiveness that the ego would have liked to satisfy upon other, extraneous individuals, The tension between the harsh super-ego and the ego that is subjected to it, is called by us the sense of guilt;

... What is bad is often not at all what is injurious or dangerous to the ego; on the contrary, it may be something which is desirable and enjoyable to the ego. ... what is bad is whatever causes one to be threatened with loss of love. For fear of that loss, one must avoid it. This, too, is the reason why it makes little difference whether one has already done the bad thing or only intends to do it. 

This state of mind is called a 'bad conscience'; but actually it does not deserve this name, for at this stage the sense of guilt is clearly only a fear of loss of love, 'social' anxiety.

A great change takes place only when the authority is internalized through the establishment of a super-ego. ... the distinction, moreover, between doing something bad and wishing to do it disappears entirely, since nothing can be hidden from the super-ego, not even thoughts.

... First comes renunciation of instinct owing to fear of aggression by the external authority. ... After that comes the erection of an internal authority, and renunciation of instinct owing to fear of it - owing to fear of conscience. 

... This remorse was the result of primordial ambivalence of feeling towards the father. His sons hated him, but they loved him, too. After their hatred had been satisfied by their act of aggression, their love came to the fore in their remorse for the deed. ... it created the restrictions which were intended to prevent a repetition of the deed. ... One is bound to feel guilty in either case for the sense of guilt is an expression of the conflict due to ambivalence, of the eternal struggle between Eros and the instinct of destruction or death. This conflict is set going as soon as men are faced with the task of living together. ... If civilization is a necessary course of development from the family to humanity as a whole, then as a result of the inborn conflict arising from ambivalence, of the eternal struggle between the trends of love and death - there is inextricably bound up with it an increase of the sense of guilt, which will perhaps reach heights that the individual finds hard to tolerate.




... it corresponds faithfully to my intention to represent the sense of guilt as the most important problem in the development of civilization and to show that the price we pay for our advance in civilization is a loss of happiness through the heightening of the sense fo guilt.  ['Thus conscience does make cowards of us all...' That the education of young people at the present day conceals from them the part which sexuality will play in their lives is not the only reproach which we are obliged to make against it. Its other sin is that it does not prepare them for the aggressiveness of which they are destined to become the objects. ...]


... The super-ego is an agency which has been inferred by us, and conscience is a function which we ascribe, among other functions, to that agency. This function consists in keeping a watch over the actions and intentions of the ego and judging them, in exercising a censorship. The sense of guilt, the harshness of the super-ego, is thus the same thing as the severity of the conscience. It is the perception which the ego has of being watched over in this way, the assessment of the tension between its own strivings and the demands of the super-ego. ... the need for punishment, is an instinctual manifestation on the part of the ego, which has become masochistic under the influence of a sadistic super-ego; it is a portion, that is to say, of the instinct towards internal destruction present in the ego, employed for forming an erotic attachment to the super-ego. ... Remorse is a general term for the ego's reaction in a case of sense of guilt. ... it is itself a punishment and can include the need for punishment. 

... When an instinctual trend undergoes repression, its libidinal elements are turned into symptoms, and its aggressive components into a sense of guilt. 

... the development of the individual seems to us to be a product of the interaction between two urges, the urge towards happiness, which we usually call 'egoistic', and the urge towards union with others in the community, which we call 'altruistic'. ... But in the process of civilization, ... the most important thing is the aim of creating a unity out of the individual human beings. ... It almost seems as if the creation of a great human community would be most successful if no attention had to be paid to the happiness of the individual. 

Just as a planet revolves around a central body as well as rotating on its own axis so the human individual takes part in the course of development of mankind at the same time as he pursues his own path in life. ... So, ... the two urges, the one towards personal happiness and the other towards union with other human beings must struggle with each other in every individual; ... It is a dispute within the economics of the libido, comparable to the contest concerning the distribution of libido between ego and objects;

text from Sigmund Freud, Civilization and its Discontents, 1962

 © 2023 by Agatha Kronberg. Proudly created with

  • Grey Facebook Icon
  • Grey Instagram Icon
  • Grey Vimeo Icon