Civilization and Its Discontents

Civilization and Its Discontents Glossary


The investment of libido in objects.


Originally, displacement referred to the phenomenon in dreams in which emotionally dangerous information is expressed in less dangerous images and feelings. It also refers to a redirection of libidinal energy from one object to another.


Freud uses this term broadly to denote the manner in which libidinal energy is distributed in a given instance.


The conscious self. More broadly, the thoughts and behaviors of the self that can potentially be conscious.


The life-drive. It binds humans together and is most potently seen in instances of love.


Freud views the Judeo-Christian God as a father figure derived from the ambivalent "primal father." This all-powerful, all-giving, all-punishing entity infantalizes believers, in Freud's view, as he encourages an attitude of helpless obedience in the face of Fate.


The unconscious self and the source of our libidinal drive. The id is an amoral agency which is expressed in eros and thanatos, the life and death drives.


The energy latent in the id. It obeys laws of economy - we only have so much libido: if we invest it in one area, we draw it away from another. Libido is often associated with sexual objects but, in instances of sublimation or displacement, it can be directed at any activity.


Derived from the Greek mythological figure, Narcissus, who fell in love with his own reflection. Narcissism is the libidinal energy that we invest in ourselves.


A psychological conflict between one's conscious and unconscious selves. Results in psychological discomfort and often in specific neurotic symptoms that are related to the underlying problem.

Oedipal Complex

The primary psychological drama from which we derive our personality. The exact nature of the complex changes depending on the essay in question. In general, this refers to a desire for the mother and a desire to replace the father in her esteem. When successfully repressed, the Oedipal complex gives rise to the super-ego.


A measure taken for the prevention of a disease or condition.


The process by which the ego rids itself of unacceptable desires by consigning them to the unconscious. These repressed desires sometimes return, causing neuroses.


A psychological process that occurs when sexual energy is redirected toward a different, often "higher" aim, such as painting or writing.


The "higher self," an agency that oversees and censors the actions and thoughts of the ego. This is an internalized parental representative, the result of a successfully resolved Oedipal drama.


The death drive (identified in this text most often by that name). This drive seeks destruction and violence. It is in permanent tension with the life drive, Eros.