The Will To Be and Do



imageOne of many things Freud and Jung split over was the nature of psychic energy. We might call this ‘will’, ‘desire, ‘motivation’ or ‘decision’. Jung called psychic energy ‘libido’, Freud attributed only sexual drive to psychic energy and this is where they parted ways. Both agreed that psychic power was instinctive and beyond just physical rational ‘choice’.

Jung states: ‘Instinct is a very mysterious manifestation of life, partly psychic and partly physiological by nature. It is one of the most conservative functions in the psyche and is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to change’. (Jung, (1956) Symbols of Transformation, p. 139).

The idea that humans make instinctive choices driven by psychic energy is evident in unconscious ‘drives’ like: hunger, thirst, power, panic, religion, anger, love and hate. From the moment we are born we instinctively seek to suck, to find nourishment and find comfort and security in the trust to our mother.

We all recognise that ‘drives’ and instincts can override rational and logical controls, resulting in conflict, attraction and alienation in relationships. However, no human is driven by individual libido alone but is rather situated in a social context and these also play a profound part in what orients human psychic energy. No human decision making sits in isolation even when one is alone. All psychic forces interact with social forces as our Mind/Person is directed by instinctive needs and wants.

One of the concerns of psychology is the study and support for humans who lose touch with reality and the world. This usually surfaces in some form of neuroses often evident in amplification of fixations or withdrawal/distortion of the world. We witnessed this often in various forms of substance abuse where people use whatever substance, most commonly alcohol, to get off the bus of living. This is also evident in forms of bi-polar disorders, drug addiction or instinctive compulsions like obsessive compulsive disorders where psychic energies distrust normal functioning in the real world. Even depression is defined by its withdrawal from the world. I know someone who has OCD and is so irrationally fearful of having an accident and dying that it takes them several minutes to get into a car and drive, for all the superstitious processes they must undertake before they can start the car and go. Generally a neurosis that fears harm withdraws from the world.

Neuroses are often associated with fixations and how one ‘frames’ living in the world. Most humans don’t get up from their ‘safe’ bed, go to their ‘safe’ bathroom to have a ‘safe’ shower and then eat a ‘safe’ breakfast. Framing the world in such a way is evidence of a neurotic fixation on safety. Our psychic energy needs to be directed to living not framed through safety. Human psychic energy is oriented towards learning and therefore towards risk. If safety is your adjective then your noun becomes evidence of a neurosis.

Of course when one denies fallibility and frames one’s identity through zero such as describing work as ‘zero harm prevention’ one has already entered into a neurotic focus on safety. You simply cannot live and learn if you frame living through the fear of harm and risk.

Safety neurosis freaks out over petty risks that have warped views of substance and consequence. Safety neurosis attributes effectiveness to bow ties, matrices, drops calculators, hierarchies of controls, curves and pyramids. Safety neurosis uses the word ‘safety’ as an adjective for everything eg. ‘Safety’ Tom’, ‘Safety Jane’, ‘safety work’, ‘safety culture’ or ‘safety systems’. Safety neurosis usually manifests itself in things like ‘safety moments’ and ‘safety minutes’ before meetings, very similar to prayers of sanctification in religion.

One thing is for sure, once the safety fixation is locked in to the sacralisation of safety, there is a total disconnect from the world and any will to be or do, is lost.

Dr Rob Long

Dr Rob Long

Expert in Social Psychology, Principal & Trainer at Human Dymensions
Dr Rob Long

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Dr Rob Long
PhD., MEd., MOH., BEd., BTh., Dip T., Dip Min., Cert IV TAA, MRMIA Rob is the founder of Human Dymensions and has extensive experience, qualifications and expertise across a range of sectors including government, education, corporate, industry and community sectors over 30 years. Rob has worked at all levels of the education and training sector including serving on various post graduate executive, post graduate supervision, post graduate course design and implementation programs.

4 Replies to “The Will To Be and Do”

  1. I have to say, I just found your blog today and I absolutely love it. Mainly because I am addicted to the psychology of safety. This is an interesting article. One thought was I have seen many safety managers use that ‘safety neurosis’ terminology; I admit, I have myself. But what it drives home to me is the importance of understanding that to get a safety culture, you need to understand the balance between the operation and working safely; both are equally important. If you took the word safety out of the meeting – it emphasizes that it is part of operations.

    1. Yes, spot on. It’s about work and living not the sacrament of safety. I had a conversation yesterday with a Manager who is trying to get rid of ‘safety walks’, ‘safety talks’ and ‘ safety observations engagements’ and just walk, talk and engage. Unfortunately, the agenda of safety changes everything to an evangelical exercise.
      He’s having no luck, safety people (ha!) find it hard to let go of rites and rituals.

  2. The sacrament of safety is underpinned by a confected grief, which is embedded into the safety evangelist’s psyche and quite evident in most of its rituals. This includes many of the national or regional safety conferences, which are no better than sitting through and episode of MasterChef, The Voice, My Kitchen Rules or Backyard Blitz.

    The blind faith ideology is redolent of the sepulchral city in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. An alabaster exterior of perfection disguises a crypt of rotting flesh with the ganglions of blame, fear, retribution, anomie and despair festering below the surface.

    Point me out the happy man and I will show you either extreme egotism, selfishness, evil – or else an absolute ignorance – Graham Greene (The Heart of the Matter)

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