In this work, Freud reassesses his own earlier theories. Initially Freud argued that the id, the largest part of a human mind, compels the human mind to seek pleasure at all costs and avoid any form of pain. Freud concluded that there must exist another drive after working with patients who displayed odd behavior. Throughout the course of his work, Freud observes that individuals were compelled to engage repetitively in behavior that did not appear to be a source of pleasure. Consequently, Freud had to reflect on his own earlier theories and come up with an explanation for this mysterious behavior.
However, it is important to note that Freud does not deny that most human behavior is driven by desire for self-fulfillment. However, Freud observes that there must exist other drivers of human action that tend to be in conflict with this primary driver of human actions. For instance, Freud points to the drive he calls reality. Because of this principle of reality, Freud argues it causes the superego to deny or postpone the needs of the id. This is in a bid to ensure its own survival and prosperity. The first part of the book ends with Freud stating his intention to study how the human mind reaction to perils, which Freud identifies as man's primary source of discontent.
Later in the work, Freud began to seek out the cause of posttraumatic disorders. The book was written just a few years after the First World War and the world was rife with victims of this war. During this period, it was common to associate any symptoms of trauma especially among the soldiers who served in the war to injuries they sustained. However, Freud was not convinced. In his work, he observes that even personnel who had not been at the frontline of the war still had these symptoms. This was despite the fact that they did have any observable physical injuries. In addition, Freud noted that even among the civilian population people still suffered these trauma symptoms. Throughout his career, he noted that people who had a trauma-related neurosis got it from a particularly frightful experience. Freud differentiates the neuroses of traumatic experience from anxiety, where a patient is terrified of something yet to happen.
In the work, Freud returns to his earlier work on how dreams work. Furthermore, he had noted that they were a sort of fulfillment of desires. In essence, dreams were an escape, which the mind uses to find a solution to the conflict, which exists between one's desire and the restrictions of society. However, for patients with traumatic experience, they keep experiencing these bad dreams. This was despite their best effort to avoid anything that would remind them of the experiencing during their waking hours. For his explanation, Freud gives the example of a child who would constantly throw a toy away. The young boy would pick his favorite toy and fling it away as far as he could. Freud postulated that the child was not trying to derive pleasure by having to pick up the toy. Instead, Freud was trying to bring his mother. In this particular case, the boy's mother had left, which must have been particularly traumatizing. Feud postulates the child was attempting to control a situation, which was out his control. Consequently, Freud argues that the human mind attempts to replay traumatic experiences to exert control for a more favorable outcome. However, Freud noted that this was mere speculation and would require further research.
In the third part of his essay, Freud observes this overwhelming desire by the mind to replay this traumatic experience. During his psychoanalytical treatments, Freud made some interesting observations. His patients would repeat this traumatizing experiences, which before were suppressed in the deepest part of their minds. In order to explain this odd behavior, Freud began to examine biological theories. In his work, Freud notes as we go lower into the classification of creature, this repetitive behavior becomes more and more common. Thus, Freud noted that the human cells had a kind of instinctual energy that compelled them to return to their state of nonexistence. Freud named this instinctual drive the death drive. This was in opposition to the drive to live, which Freud called Eros.
In the sixth chapter of the book, Freud turned to philosophy to try to find an explanation for the death instinct. In his work, Freud turned to Plato's work who gave a tale of humans who constantly try to find a connection with another half they lost a connection to years ago. Freud questions whether this desire for reconnection might in fact be driven by the death instinct. Freud argues that there was a natural desire by the cells of the human body to disintegrate to a former state of nonexistence.
No doubt, most of Freud's conjecture has been disproved by modern biological research. However, the work does raise some interesting issues. For instance, the drive by humans to create weapons of mass destruction has never been fully explained. This is despite that as a race, human beings would have more to gain by working together than by working against each other. In addition to that, his work has been quite helpful in treating people who suffer traumatic experiences. Although his work was quite rudimentary, others in the field of psychology have advanced it to come up with way of treating post-traumatic stress. To conclude his work, Freud did note that his work was mere speculation and needed further research.