THE FACT that the sensitive cortical layer has no protective barrier against excitations emanating from within will have one inevitable consequence: viz. The most trustworthy knowledge we have of these processes comes peculiarities of game activity development of young children the study of dreams.
The expressions of a repetition-compulsion which we have described, both in the early activities of infantile psychic life and in the experiences of psychoanalytic treatment, show in a high degree an instinctive character, and, where they come into contrast with the pleasure-principle, a daemonic character. In what way is the instinctive connected with the compulsion to repetition? This conception of instinct strikes us as strange, since we are accustomed to see in instinct the factor urging towards change and development, and now we find ourselves required to recognise in it the very opposite, viz. But we may first be tempted to follow to its final consequences the hypothesis that all instincts have as their aim the reinstatement of an earlier condition. 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.
At one time or another, by some operation of force which still completely baffles conjecture, the properties of life were awakened in lifeless matter. Perhaps the process was a prototype resembling that other one which later in a certain stratum of living matter gave rise to consciousness. If these conclusions sound strangely in our ears, equally so will those we are led to make concerning the great groups of instincts which we regard as lying behind the vital phenomena of organisms. The postulate of the self-preservative instincts we ascribe to every living being stands in remarkable contrast to the supposition that the whole life of instinct serves the one end of bringing about death. But we must bethink ourselves: this cannot be the whole truth.
The sexual instincts, for which the theory of the neuroses claims a position apart, lead us to quite another point of view. Not all organisms have yielded to the external compulsion driving them to an ever further development. There is a group of instincts that care for the destinies of these elementary organisms which survive the individual being, that concern themselves with the safe sheltering of these organisms as long as they are defenceless against the stimuli of the outer world, and finally bring about their conjunction with other reproductive cells. These are collectively the sexual instincts.
Let us now retrace our steps for the first time, to ask whether all these speculations are not after all without foundation. Are there really, apart from the sexual instincts, no other instincts than those which have as their object the reinstatement of an earlier condition, none that strive towards a condition never yet attained? I am not aware of any satisfactory example in the organic world running counter to the characteristic I have suggested. Many of us will also find it hard to abandon our belief that in man himself there dwells an impulse towards perfection, which has brought him to his present heights of intellectual prowess and ethical sublimation, and from which it might be expected that his development into superman will be ensured. But I do not believe in the existence of such an inner impulse, and I see no way of preserving this pleasing illusion. I have little doubt that similar conjectures about the nature of instinct have been already repeatedly put forward.