Aggression: theory of aggression-frustration and psychoanalytic: Arif Azam

Aggression is defined as behavior that is primarily intended to cause harm and that is carried out with the expectation of causing harm to an individual who is motivated to avoid that harm.

And frustration is the feeling we get when we do not get what we want, when something interferes with our gaining a desired and expected goal. It can be physical (a flat fire), our own limitations (paralysis, after an accident), our choices (flunked exam), and the injustice of the society (born into poverty finding no way out).1

When we are intentionally hurt, insulted, cheated, deceived or made fun of———– all these things arouse anger and aggression and distrustful people have more of these experiences.

In each case we hoped for more——– for more consideration, more fairness, and more understanding.

Further, we were frustrated, i.e. prevented from achieving some desired goal and some theorists believe that anger just naturally results from frustration called frustration-aggression theory. Interestingly, our frustration will be more intense if our goal is highly desirable and if we get close to goal and expect to get it, if the barrier to our goal unexpectedly appears and seems unjustified or unfair, and if we take things personally. There are several psychological reactions that accompany frustration, including higher blood pressure, sweating, and greater energy.

Psychosomatic symptoms, such as heart disease, occurs more often people who are cynics and distrustful but hold in their anger our blood pressure sometimes goes up more when we explode, at other times it goes up more when we swallow the feelings, depending on the situation.2

The occurrence of aggressive behavior always presupposes the existence of frustration, and contrariwise, that the existence of frustration always leads to some form of aggression.

Frustration, in this context, was specified as the thwarting of a goal response, and a goal response, in turn, was taken to mean the reinforcing final operation in an ongoing behavior sequence.

At times, however, the term frustration is used to refer not only to the process of blocking a person’s attainment of a reinforce, but also to the reaction to such blocking.3

Consequently being ‘frustrated’ means both that one’s access to reinforcers is being thwarted by another party and that one’s reaction to this thwarting is one of the annoyances.

Aggression is always based in frustration and frustration always leads to aggression and any hostile or aggressive behavior that occurs is caused by frustration.

Frustration is not a sufficient, but a necessary condition for hostility and aggression.

A significant element of frustration-aggression theory concerns the reduction or displacement of aggression. Dollard proposed that a particular frustration instigates aggression primarily against the source of the frustration but also instigates aggression against targets that are to some degree related to that source.4

The strength of the instigation was seen to vary as a function of associative ties between the actual source of frustration and the alternative target.

According to theory, aggression can be displaced; attacks upon alternative targets are seen to reduce the instigation to aggression against the actual factors.

For example, a wife is scolded by the husband, but the wife cannot show any action against her husband, but she displaces her aggression by beating the child.

The aggressive behavior of frustrated people is not necessity the result of their frustrations, and the account of their actions on the basis of frustrations is usually open to alternative explanations.

Violent youths, for example, may behave aggressively, not because of remote childhood frustrations, but because they have developed aggressive dispositions through the modeling of their typically more aggressive parents and because they have become to experience less intense guilt feelings regarding aggression.

There is considerable evidence supporting the view that frustration becomes a potent inducer of aggression when it is associated with personal attack.

The behavior of the children gives the impression of aggression back to an earlier development stage.

However, frustration leads to aggression, here it is not clear whether frustration is declared to be a necessary or a sufficient, or both necessary and sufficient condition of aggression.

If frustration is a necessary but not sufficient condition, then aggression cannot occur unless first frustration occurs but need not occur even after frustration.

If frustration is a necessary and sufficient condition, then aggression occurs if and only frustration occurs.5

Further, aggression will only result if there are aggressive cues or provocative stimuli in the environment, for example, which frustrated individuals showed greater aggression if they were in the presence of guns than neutral objects.

Psychoanalytic theory is the theory of personality organization and the dynamics of personality development that guides psychoanalysis, a clinical method for treating psychopathology.

First laid out by Freud in the late 19th century.
This theory believes that human behavior is deterministic and it is governed by irrational forces, and the unconscious, as well as instinctual and biological drives.

Due to this deterministic nature, psychoanalytic theorists do not believe in free will.

Psychoanalytic theory is a method of investigating and treating personality disorders and is used in psychotherapy.

Included in this theory the idea that the things that happen to people during childhood can contribute to the way they later function as adult.

Freud believed that the mind is made of two parts_ the conscious and the unconscious mind_ and that the unconscious mind often prompts people to make certain decisions even if they do not recognize it on a conscious level.6

In approaching the topic of aggression from the prospective of psychoanalytic it is important to recognize that contemporary psychoanalysis is not a unified theory.

As the original theory has been modified and expended, it has gradually developed into several distinctive approaches.

A basic disagreement exists between structural theorists, who tend to see aggression as an innate drive or instinct, and self-psychologists, who tend to view aggression secondary to narcissistic injury.7

However, Freud initially sought to drive all manifestation of human behavior from one basic life instinct, designated as Eros. Conceived of as a force, this life instinct was referred to as libido which functioned to enhance, prolong, and reproduce life.

Freud showed very little interest in aggression in his early writing in 1920; however, he proposed a dual-instinct theory in which the life instinct was matched by a death instinct, termed thanatos.

The relationship between the life and death instinct is polarized and destructive or non-destructive activity can be construed as the specific interaction of the antagonistic forces.

Freud also claimed that feelings of anger and hostility result in conflict and unconscious guilt in the same manner that sexual wishes do, and that these effects initiate defensive activity.

Further, he observed that many impulses contain both sexual and aggressive components, that many clinical manifestations, including sadism, masochism, and ambivalence, can be explained in terms of varying degrees of conflict between these drives or their fusion.

In Freud’s view, the death instinct forces the individual to direct aggressive act against the social and physical environment in order to save themselves from self-destruction.8

Displacement and sublimation were introduced central dynamic agents in the conversion of the potential attack on the self into an outward redirection.

This inner dynamic process was instrumental to very different behavioral outcomes, such as coping, creativity, self-destruction, and aggression towards inanimate objects and living beings.

According to dual-drive theory, if the aggressive impulses are not combined with or adequately ‘bound’ or fused with love, then increase aggression and destructiveness can be expected.

Deprivation, object loss, or child abuse are all the traumas that can interfere with attachment and the normative fusion of love and aggression.
In case of such failure, destructive energy will accumulate and, in its primitive form, result in destructive behavior.

Freud entertained the notion of the catharsis or tension reduction in connection with destructive energy. Catharsis refers to a process in which the affective, nondestructive display or hostile and aggressive inclinations can discharge destructive energy and thereby reduce the strength of these inclinations.

Freud’s theory of aggression was heavily attacked by contemporary psychoanalysts and psychologists.

In particular, the notion of spontaneity in aggression, that is, the endogenous build-up of aggressive energy has been dismissed. Still, in the late 1930s the energy concept was re-labeled ‘the drive concept’ by the Yale researchers Dollard, Miller, Mowrer and Sears (1959) in their formation of frustration-aggression hypothesis.

This was motivated by a wish to translate the Freudian instinct propositions into more objective behavior terms which could be put to empirical test.

Inspired by Fairbairn, John Bowlby developed the attachment theory, located at the other extreme of psychoanalytical theories of aggression. Within this perspective, human are essentially social animals that need relationships for survival, and who first relationships with parental figures have unique characteristic.9 The child’s expression of distress normally elicits a helpful response than the caregiver.

A consequence of this is that the child will most likely develop and generalize a strategy of seeking pronimity to the caregiver when distressed.

Conversely, when the child’s expression of distress results in further rejection or conflict, the child’s most adaptive strategy is to control the distress by either attempting to inhibit it, or by amplifying and exaggerating it.

Psychoanalytic understanding of aggression has moved from medically and psychiatrically dominated strategy with a focus on the individual child and his or her pathology to include social interactionist perspectives on the etiology and treatment of aggression.10

A social interactionist approach is critical to the view that aggression is ‘pushed out’ or ‘compelled’ by inner forces such as death instinct or aggressive energy.

Aggression is defined as an intrapsychological phenomenon. The death instinct is its basic source of energy, but this energy can also result in creativity, coping, or self-injurious behavior.
The definition of aggression is wide and different human behavior and emotion such as sarcastic language, passive-aggressive responses and murder are understood to be expressions of one unifying concept.11

If a child is criticized from his or her childhood, surely when that child turns into ad adult and especially in their professional life they will not be happy with their performance. Since they think they cannot satisfy the people consequently the presence of this disturbing thought will frustrate them over and over again.

A girl was adopted into a loving family when she was five. However, for years she displayed aggressive behavior towards her adoptive parents and siblings, even though they were incredibly kind to her.

The adoption specialists advised the family not to take her behavior personally, explaining that her anger was really directed at her birth parents and former foster families for the way she had been treated.

Elaboration of this example in frustration-aggression theory and psychoanalytic

The girl had been emotionally hurt by her birth parents, so her aggression turned into frustration this comes into frustration-aggression theory and she was unintentionally expressing her anger towards her adoptive parents this is considered psychoanalytic behavior of her.

1 Berkowitz, Leonard, Frustration-aggression Hypothesis, (University of Wisconsin, America), 1989

2 Ziillman, D, Hostility and Aggression, (Lewrence Erlbaum Associate), 1979

3 C., Dill and Cralg, A. Anderson, Effects of frustration on hostile aggression, in pdf

4 Op.cit

5 Ibid

6 Freud, S., Beyond the pleasure principle, (Vol.18), (Hogarth Press, London), 1920

7 Buss, A.H, The psychology of aggression, (Wiley, New York), 1961

8 Op.cit

9 M.G., Johan, Frustration and aggression theory, available in pdf

10 Schwartz, W., Essential of psychoanalytic theory and practice, 2013, available in pdf

11 Okey, J.L, Human aggression, journal of Humanistic, 1992, in pdf



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