Conflict Between Different Motivational Systems

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Although inner conflict has generally been understood in terms of an id-ego or drive defense model, the fact is diat other conflicts between different motivational systems play an important role in biological and psychological life. An obvious mundane example is the conflict between hunger and the desire to avoid obesity. Another example among animals as well as humans is the conflict between aggression and competition on the one hand and cooperation and friendship on the other.

A prominent example of a conflict between different motivational systems in the psychoanalytic context is one between what Freud (1912) referred to as love and desire {which he also referred to as the "affectionate and sensual currents"). Freud attributed the conflict between love and desire to the persistence of incestuous wishes so that the person one loves cannot also be the object of sexual desire. As Freud {1912| put it, "|W|herc they love, they cannot desire and where they desire, they cannot love" (p. 183). One consequence of this conflict, Freud observed; is "psychical impotence" in men, sexual frigidity in women, and in both a failure to experience pleasure from the sexual act.

Quite apart from the question of the persistence of incestuous wishes, one can understand the conflict between love and desire, between the "affectionate and sensual currents," in terms of the conflicting demands made on the individual by the sexual and attachment motivational systems. Whereas sexual arousal and excitement is stimulated by unfamiliarity, novelty, and the exotic, these characteristics arc inimical to the establishment of attachment that requires familiarity and predictability.

Another way to put it is to note that whereas prolonged propinquity dampens the intensity of sexual interest and excitement—possibly through straightforward habituation (Fralcy and Marks 20101—it heightens the attachment bond. There is evidence that novelty plays a greater role in sexual arousal in males than in females, both in animals and humans |Symons 1979|. In any case, insofar as in long-term relationships one's attachment figure is generally also one's sexual partner, the conflicting dynamics of the two motivational systems present an integrative challenge that individuals meet with varying degrees of success (see Eagle 2007 for further discussion of these issues}.

Other examples of conflict between different motivational systems found in the psychoanalytic literature include conflict between relatcdncss and self-definition (Blatt 2008} and between "the regressive lure of identification and the progressive urge toward separation" (Fairbairn 1952, p. 43), which bears a strong family resemblance to the conflict between symbiosis and sepa-ration-individuation JMahler 1968).

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