Friday, October 01, 2010

Will to....

At the intersection of philosophy and psychology stand a group of thinkers who try to distill the main motivations of what moves an individual.  These thinkers believe that the prime motivation of what moves a person - whether he knows it or not - is the power of this one motivation.  And this prime motivation is always couched as "will to...."

Anything and everything else a person wants are secondary or reactionary needs to the demands of the prime motivation.  According to these theorists if you dig deep enough everything positive and negative, neurotic and healthy, can be found in this prime motivation.

There are many theories out there today, but the main ones are:

Will to Pleasure (aka the Pleasure Principle) - Freud
Will to Live - Schopenhauer
Will to Power - Nietzsche/Adler
Will to Relationships - Yalom
Will to Meaning - Frankl

To Freud and Adler, the purpose of therapy is to find the prime motivations through the subconscious and find how societal, family or other external constructs create conflict to the prime motivation (however the person defines "pleasure" or "power"), and thus create psychosis. 

Yalom, believing relationships are the prime mover to what drives people, believes in a therapy that simply provides an intimate relationship, famously saying that "the relationship IS the therapy".  Perhaps a better phrase for Yalom is "Will to intimacy".  By finding intimacy through therapy, the patient finds what he is looking for, and learns through the process how to find it out in the real world.

Frankl, taking a more classical, almost Platonic view, believes the drive to find meaning in life is the prime motivator of people.  In his theory, some can "will" to suffer, if that suffering provides meaning to one's life.  His therapy would be familiar to pastors or Rabbis trying to help individuals tease out the reasons of their existence.

Which one do you think is the right one?  Or do you have one of your own?


Rorschach said...

I find your philosophy posts fascinating as well as challenging. You are the seeker.
In the last ~15 years I have found Buddhist dharma lessons to resonate most deeply with framing the way I think and behave, teasing out meaning, and accommodating my own quest for self improvement. They are based around the four noble truths, which I will horribly maim here with my own interpretation:

1. there is suffering and impermanence (face it. It exists)
2. the cause of suffering is attachment (or leaning, or craving, or worrying etc.)
3. the cessation of suffering is “letting go” (free yourself from your attachments)
4. to end suffering follow the eightfold path (right view, right intention, right speaking, right action, right livelihood, right effort, mindfulness, concentration)

But one of the biggest “aha” moments for me in studying the Dharma is fantasy of self. There is no me. There is no you. All you have is this one moment. Right now. It all sounds very mystical, but the deeper you study it crystallizes into hard fact (for me at least.)

My favorite parable about “no self” is thus:
Would you grab a bucket of water from a great river and then tell everyone that you “have the river” ? Of course not. Likewise, all the things that have happened to you in life: good and bad, are the river. They are not you. You are not the river.

What I am right now is: “writing porrly about Dharma.” You are “reading friend’s confusing ramblings about Buddhism. “ only thus. ☺


Director Mitch said...

I am somewhat versed in Buddhist thought, and do believe it does provide excellent insight.

However, two tenants of the system I can't personally accept is the elimination of the ego/self (I am too married to Western thought to reject it entirely) and the belief of letting go of attachments. In this I agree with Yalom, who addresses Buddhist thought directly on this, who believes relationships (and therefore by definition attachments) are one of the keys for developing meaning and self-fulfillment. However, I agree totally that this will lead to "suffering" - you're dealing with other people after all. :-)

So I sort of trend towards the Existentialist philosophers who marry concepts of Eastern thought while keeping the concept of the ego.

Rorschach said...

Indeed agreed. I am a typical westerner who has adopted that which suits me from Buddhism and rejected any horrible ascetic portion of it (which personally I think Buddha would agree.) All I resonate in rejection of ego/self/attachement is that one should "hold such attachments lightly." As a devout capitalist I believe that "you have to want it" which seems to contradict Buddhism technically but I do not believe so. See also: Dave Ramsey and his Christian proof that wealthy people can give more and do more good.