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Pleasure Principle – Reality Principle


Both the pleasure principle and the reality principle are two psychoanalytic principles proposed by Sigmund Freud (father of psychoanalysis)  in his theory of psychoanalysis. These two unconscious processes were suggested by Freud -among many others- to explain the behavior of the human mind.

Pleasure principle

According to the pleasure principle, the purpose of psychic activity as a whole is to avoid displeasure and to seek pleasure . This principle was used by Sigmund Freud to characterize the tendency of people to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Since displeasure is linked to an increase in amounts of excitement and pleasure to a decrease, the pleasure principle constitutes an economic principle in energy matters.

In psychoanalytic theory the pleasure principle is linked to the part of the unconscious dedicated to satisfying the individual’s pleasure impulses and libidinal desires – the id. Such a process strives to gain pleasure, therefore, psychic activity withdraws from any event that may cause displeasure.

The “it” will try at all costs to satisfy the instinctual impulses that generate pleasure and allow psychic energy to flow freely, but the “I” does not allow it, knowing that there is a cultural and social context to which it must conform; that’s where the reality principle comes into play

Example of the pleasure principle:  One of the clearest examples that shows the dominance and power of this process are dreams  and our tendency to wake up from distressing impressions.

Reality principle

The reality principle is exactly the opposite of the pleasure principle; it is  governed by the ‘I’ , which controls the instant gratification mentality of the ‘it’.

In this principle something is presented to the mind that is not only pleasant, but what is real, although it can become unpleasant.

From birth, children tend to seek immediate gratification . They only want the things that give them pleasure and avoid pain as much as they can. However, as children grow they begin to understand that sometimes they must tolerate pain and delay gratification, they become more realistic about their desires and begin to understand that life has its limitations, at this point they begin to operate under the orders of the reality principle.

You may also be interested in:   Sensory-motor period

The “I” stops the instinctual “id” impulses and molds them to real situations , for it knows that the pleasure impulses sent by the “id” from the unconscious mind will not always be well received by the outside world and context. cultural in which the subject is. The pleasure principle is mainly governed by morality and is part of the conscious mind of the individual.

From the economic point of view, the principle of reality corresponds to a  transformation of free energy into bound energy , from the topical point of view it essentially characterizes the PRCC-CCC system and from the dynamic point of view it is based on a certain type of drive energy that it would be found more especially at the  service of the self.

Example: A clear example of the pleasure principle can be violence. For example, if in a crossword the subject is governed by the pleasure principle and is dominated by anger , he will tend to react violently towards the other person, regardless of the consequences of his actions; On the other hand, when it is governed by the reality principle, the subject knows that reacting violently will not be well seen, and will not achieve anything, he will even feel pleasure for a few minutes and then feel remorse, therefore he decides to solve the situation in another way than conforms to reality. Another example may be sexual urges; a person with high sexual desire must learn to control his impulses, as it would be impractical and socially unacceptable to have sex every time he wanted to.

The search for satisfaction and the outside world …

Both principles form a pair , modifying the principle of reality to that of pleasure to the extent that it manages to impose itself as a regulating principle. The search for satisfaction is no longer carried out by the shortest paths as when you drink but by detours and postpones its result depending on the conditions imposed by the outside world. For example, if a baby wants to urinate, he does it at the moment, while being adults and if we are in a meeting, we postpone the urge to urinate, for other purposes.

These two principles can be compared to the triumph of reason over passion, the head over the heart, and the rational mind over emotional .


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Hello Readers, I am Nikki Bella a Psychology student. I have always been concerned about human behavior and the mental processes that lead us to act and think the way we do. My collaboration as an editor in the psychology area of ​​Well Being Pole has allowed me to investigate further and expand my knowledge in the field of mental health; I have also acquired great knowledge about physical health and well-being, two fundamental bases that are directly related and are part of all mental health.

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