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Psychic energy

This article is about the Freudian concept of mental energy; for other uses see: psychic.

In psychodynamic psychology, psychic energy, or psychological energy, was believed to be a form of energy by which the work of the personality is performed.[1] The concept of mental energies moving or displacing between various adjoined, conscious and unconscious, mental systems was developed predominantly in Sigmund Freud's 1923 The Ego and the Id. In psychoanalytic theory the source of psychic energy was the id. Although this theory is now obsolete, it caused or contributed to an expectation that actual energy (such as electromagnetic vibrations) can emanate from people, and even ghosts, and that this energy is detectable by scientific sensory equipment (such as voltage and electromagnetic field detectors.) No empirical evidence to support such an expectation has yet been found.



The concept of psychic energy, or psychological energy, was developed in the field of psychodynamics, i.e. the thermodynamic study of mental systems, and was born with the 1874 publication of a work by German scientist Ernst von Brucke who supposed that all living organisms are energy-systems governed by the principle of the conservation of energy. During this year, at the University of Vienna, Brucke was also coincidentally the supervisor for first-year medical student Sigmund Freud who naturally adopted this new “dynamic” physiology. During these years, Freud argued that both the first law of thermodynamics and the second law of thermodynamics apply to mental process, and based on this logic posited the existence of mental energy or psychic energy set to function according to these laws. In 1928, Carl Jung published a seminal essay entitled: On Psychic Energy. Later, the theory of psychodynamics and the concept of "psychic energy" was developed further by those such as Alfred Adler and Melanie Klein.


According to Carl Jung, psychic energy cannot be measured quantitatively in terms of formulas as forms of physical energy can be. That is because the terms energy, force and work are scientific terms with specific definitions that are contrary to their use here. Still, few in this field object to the misuse of these scientific sounding terms because it lends credibility to this topic which is subject to considerable skepticism. Psychic 'energy' expresses itself in the form either of actual or of potential 'forces' (again, not scientific forces, rather coercions or tendencies) which perform psychological 'work' (again, not work in the scientific sense). Perceiving, remembering, thinking, feeling, wishing, willing, attending, and striving are psychological activities just as breathing, digesting, and perspiring are physiological activities. Potential 'forces' of the personality are such things as predispositions, latent tendencies, and inclinations. These potential or latent 'forces' may be activated at any time.

Current views

Presently, in psychology, the theory of psychic energy is now, in most circles, considered rather incorrect or obsolete. The term, however, is referenced or referred to quite frequently in an associative sort of way. While of course brains obey the laws of thermodynamics in their chemical processes, the modern scientific consensus has ruled against an energetic model of emotion and thought, because the 20th century's views on embodied adaptive behavior is not anymore based on early scientific mechanistic views from the 17th century with the Christiaan Huygens's invention of mechanical clock as the main metaphore, or the 19th century's steam engines (as in Freud's energetic view on psyche), but are mainly based on computers, software agents, and robots as in embodied cognitive science and its corresponding philosophy of embodiment of adaptive situated agents. Anger in current view is not getting "bottled up" like a pressurized gas as in steam engine, but is viewed rather as "pop-up" window computer users are familiar with (or more exactly a process behind the window) which is triggered by some combinations of perceived (input) data and the "internal state", and which - in stark contrast to "bottled-up" pressurized gas - can be cancelled in a split of a second by the user, or by the agent's own inner higher cybernetic level. The goal of the 21st century's affective computing in science and technology is to build software agents and robots guided by their own emotions and psychodynamics.

Essentially, the original concepts of mental energies, i.e. the work attributed to various human psychological activities, was developed and presented by Freud and Jung during the years approximately 1880 to 1950.

See also


  1. ^ Hall, Calvin S.; Nordby, Vernon J. (1999). A Primer of Jungian Psychology. New York: Meridian. ISBN 0-452-01186-8. 
  2. Jung, C.G. (1960). On the Nature of the Psyche. Princeton: Princiton University Press. ISBN 0-691-01751-4. 

Further reading

  • "The Language of Psycho-Analysis" , Jean Laplanche et J.B. Pontalis, Editeur: W. W. Norton & Company, 1974, ISBN 0-393-01105-4
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Psychic_energy". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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