Did you know that everyone harbors a negative force that drives them towards failure, self-destruction, and even death? Sigmund Freud described this innate dark force as your “death drive.” Freud defined the “death drive” as a person’s natural opposition to any positive or life sustaining action. I call it man’s eternal commitment to destroying himself.
But how can anyone become happy if it is human to naturally seek failure?
Joy Ride (making bad decisions)
Realize that all of your bad decisions are aligned with your pleasure principle. The pleasure principle states that all thoughts and actions are defined by the need for pleasure and reward. People may make self-destructive choices, but they are still searching for comfort or pleasure. A person might engage in heavy drug use, but they are looking to cover up flaws, hide pain, or just have fun. Youth and adolescents often oppose authority, but they are actually validating their own existence and points of view. Some patients who’ve survived multiple suicide attempts even described death as a pleasurable “cure for life.”
Society obviously defines drug use, political disobedience, and suicide as life threatening acts. However, the ironic relationship between bad decision-making and happiness can take us on a misleading joy ride. We have the feeling of free will and seeking happiness, but we’re just moving with no direction or purpose.
The Death Drive (natural tendency to self destruct)
The “death drive” presents something deeper than a choice or bad decision. The “death drive” is the opposite of the pleasure principle. This drive is an omnipotent energy that pushes us away from anything positive or pleasurable. It represents the part of us that not only accepts pain, but also expects it.
Mankind can’t comprehend an existence without hardship or strife. Therefore, mankind unknowingly adapts to a negative world by succumbing to everything that is negative. This negativity becomes so ingrained in our thoughts that self-destruction becomes a way of life. Therefore, the “death drive” isn’t a choice- but simply a part of who we are.
The “death drive” is the part of us that says, “I’m in a bad relationship- so I’ll stay.” Or, it might reason, “I hate my job- so I’ll just stick around for another 30 years.” We also think, “I’ll eat whatever I want since we’re all gonna die anyway.” Extreme cases show that people who’ve suffered through rape, assault, and emotional abuse tend to identify and even sympathize with their attacker. All scenarios show how pain becomes tolerable once it becomes normal. Or even worse- pain becomes normal once it becomes tolerable.
That little voice in our heads constantly telling us that we’re not smart enough, good looking enough, motivated enough, or even special enough becomes accepted as our everyday reality and life. This activates our “death drive” and can ultimately lead to our demise.
Putting Yourself in Park (going forward while standing still)
You can beat your “death drive” by stopping and putting yourself in park. Simply sit there and do absolutely nothing before making another move. Your first reaction isn’t always correct and your gut can lie to you. Sometimes there is no ultimate right way, but just a better way to do something. Moving forward is not always progression and moving in reverse is not necessarily failure. You can be moving forward, but still heading in the wrong direction. Motion is movement, but happiness is the mental state that can guide your movement.
You’ll be happy once you realize that you’re not battling haters, gossip queens, luck, the man, rich people, or even destiny. The things you’re fighting aren’t even external. Instead, you are battling yourself and the way you perceive the world around you. Consequently, you have to know when to slam on the brakes and stop yourself from doing harm.
Pop culture says it best, “check yourself before you wreck yourself.” Your death drive will always be present, but only you can stop and put it in park.
You have to know where you are before you can know where you’re going.
Standing still can be a vital part of moving forward.