Death Instinct & Life Instinct

I have been delving into good old Sigmund Freud and enjoying his thought process very much, thank you. Not that I agree with every thought, as much psychological thought since then has been has been advanced in one way or another, but he began with that age old principle of self-study. In case you are interested in pursuing some of his topics yourself, I have occasionally found these now classical books of thought on Kindle often for as little as $ ONE $. Amazing!

The reason for my interest is my own book in process. Since 2013 the Norns and Hela have been working with me on an Underworld journey for my own psychic healing, and as far as I know, Freud is the only one who considered a death-principle to accompany the pleasure-principle, and I wanted to follow his thinking on the matter. Hela is a Death Goddess, and to that end, yesterday I downloaded Freud’s Beyond the Pleasure Principle onto my Kindle e-reader. I am still reading, but I have gotten to the heart of the matter on pages 49-50.

“If then all organic instincts are conservative, historically acquired, and are directed towards regression, towards reinstatement of something earlier, we are obliged to place all the results of organic development to the credit of external, disturbing and distracting influences. The rudimentary creature would from its very beginning not have wanted to change, would, if circumstances had remained the same, have always merely repeated the same course of existence. But in the last resort it must have been the evolution of our earth, and its relation to the sun, that has left its imprint on the development of organisms. The conservative organic instincts have absorbed everyone of these enforced alterations in the course of life and have stored them for repetition; they thus present the delusive appearance of forces striving after change and progress, while they are merely endeavoring to reach an old goal by ways both old and new. This final goal of all organic striving can be stated too. It would be counter to the conservative nature of instinct if the goal of life were a state never hitherto reached. It must rather be an ancient starting point, which the living being left long ago, and to which it harks back again by all the circuitous paths of development. If we may assume as an experience admitting of no exception that everything living dies from causes within itself, and returns to the inorganic, we can only say, ‘The goal of all life is death’, and, casting back, ‘The inanimate was there before the animate.’

Sigmund Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle

I have long sensed within myself, and I believe I have observed similar in other people, that the distress we cause ourselves from unconscious impulses could result from something within us that I have labelled, strictly within my own thought processes, “the seed of our own death.” Let me explain my own thought processes a bit further, since it is not my intention to cause discomfort here, but perhaps to bring insight.

These two forces balance within us – the hunger and thirst for life, and the hunger and thirst for the peace of death. Am I speaking gruesomely? Then may it shake up your world until you live with more presence in the time you have left on Earth.

Freud knew, and many aboriginal/indigenous shamans/healers/curanderos know, that trauma that is repressed seeds “death-within-life” as people try to repress memories that keep arising, as these memories need expression and resolution. I’m not getting into the treatment of trauma here, as I am not a trained trauma specialist, but I have done my own work on self, and I know that deeply buried incidents create potentially toxic emotions that are stored in the body.

When not dealt with, these toxic emotions can, over time, turn into body-mind disorders such as cancers, fibromyalgia, neurosis, et cetera. This is what I wanted to suggest, that the seed of our own death may be inherently within us buried along with these repressed emotions, but that it does not have to remain unconscious and unexamined. With these two forces constantly pulling at us, we have the choice to rise up from the death bed that we will eventually and inevitably occupy to find reason, purpose, and genuine passion for life.

Self-examination does not always cure us from fatal illnesses, but it can heal us. I have been privileged to know people dying of various cancers who took on this work of exploring the repressed emotional aspects of the self, and while this work helped one or two survive their disease, and the others did eventually pass, that work of self-examination did indeed add years to their life beyond the original diagnosis and contributed priceless levels of appreciation for their life and grew their spirit. Testimony of their lives continues among those they loved and left behind as a witness to LIFE. When we know such people we want to be better folks ourselves.

To conclude, as fearsome as it may be to someday consider our own demise, finding the courage to admit “Someday I will die”, adds depth and purpose to one’s existence, and contributes to one’s strength of presence to life while we yet have it.

May you find your own sense of purpose and presence, and long may you live!

Published by susanofthenorth

Susan Hintz Epstein is an author, Rune diviner, healer, non-academic scholar, and former Methodist Lay Speaker who was called by the Runes in 2013. The time since then has been a serpentine shedding of one skin for another, as Susan's spiritual practice with the Runes and the World Tree, Yggdrasil, deepened. Susan keeps company with the Norns and other like-minded women.

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