Dynamic point of View

views updated


Alongside the topographical and economic points of view, the dynamic point of view is one of the three major axes of metapsychology. It studies the way in which the forces that run through the mental apparatus come into conflict, combine, and influence each other.

The model for mental dynamics was present in Freud's thought from the beginning: it is a direct extrapolation from the dynamic theory of physics in the nineteenth century. It is based on the idea that the mind, with different forces running through it, is the seat of conflict between them. In order to decrease or eliminate the displeasure occasioned by these conflicts, the mental apparatus uses different mechanisms, repression being the prototype. By means of repression the mental apparatus changes the topographical location of the ideational representatives of the instincts. It thus protects itself from the painful or displeasing aspects of its conflicting desires by making some of them or some of their aspects unconscious. The analysis of the dynamics of how mental conflicts are processed is thus an essential component in the practice of psychoanalysis and in metapsychology, which attempts to describe them.

Freud later put forward the idea that, in addition to the defenses that work against but within the conflict, the psyche can implement defense processes that no longer aim at organizing the means to process the conflict but at preventing the conflict itself from appearing. Thus, in addition to repression, which nevertheless retained a generic value in his mind, Freud and many of his successors described forms of projection, denial, even splitting and foreclosure, that attack the very possibility of the existence of a mental conflict by trying to expel from the psyche the existence of one of the components of the conflict.

However, it is also one of the fundamental characteristics of Freud's thinking, as well as that of his principal successors, to simultaneously affirm that in spite of the intensity of the expelling forces that can come to bear on conflicts and their mental representatives, the psyche keeps a trace of what it has tried to expel from itself in this way. That which is expelled tends to come back, in one form or another, often in negative form. Therefore the analysis of mental dynamics must also focus on the measures implemented in order to face up to the internal or external return of what it has sought to remove from representation.

RenÉ Roussillon

See also: Conflict; Metapsychology; Repression; Resistance; Wish fulfillment.


Freud, Anna. (1936). The ego and the mechanisms of sefence. London: Hogarth, 1937.

Freud, Sigmund. (1915d). Repression. SE, 14: 141-158.

Green, André. (1993). Analité primaire dans la relation anale. La Névrose obsessionnelle. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.

Le Guen, Claude, et al.(1986). Le refoulement (les defenses). Revue française de psychanalyse, 50 (1), 23-370.

Rosolato, Guy. (1988). Le négatif, figures et modalités. Paris: Dunod.

Further Reading

Meissner, William W. (1999). Dynamic principle in psychoalysis. Psychoanalysis and Contemporary Thought, 22, 2-84.