The Scope of Psychoanalysis, 1921-1961: Selected Papers

By Franz Alexander | Go to book overview

Adventure and Security in a Changing World
1957

Man's behavior is governed by two opposing trends, the one toward stability and security, and the other toward adventure, exploration of the unknown and creation. The trend toward security is the manifestation of a basic biological principle, that of self-preservation. It is expressed in the striving to secure the basic necessities for survival. The expansive or progressive trend toward new ventures into the unknown is the manifestation of an equally basic biological principle, that of growth and propagation.

It would be futile to argue which of these two trends is more fundamental. Together they constitute life. It can be said, however, that growth and procreation are the manifestations of that surplus energy which remains over and above what is needed for survival. The organism grows when it takes in from the environment more than it expends. Life being a dynamic equilibrium, energy is expended for extracting from the environment the amount of energy which is needed to maintain the life process itself. Whatever is left over is retained in the form of growth. Growth, however, has its limitations; every organism, as we know, stops growing when maturity is reached. From then on, the surplus of intake can be expended in the form of producing a new organism. Biological procreation, however, is not the only form of creativity. In his social activities man manifests many other creative functions which are above and beyond the utilitarian functions of maintaining his existence. Art, literature, the scientific exploration of the environment, are other examples of sublimated manifestations of the procreative urge. The lust for adventure, the urge to meet the challenge of obstacles, not for survival but merely for its own sake, are equally pure manifestations of the surplus energy which is not needed for survival.

In literature, where man allows free flow to his imagination, both

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