Guilt, shame and other reactive motives. Thomas French



IT is now generally recognized that neuroses are reactions to unconscious conflicts. In order to understand an unconscious conflict we should distinguish
two kinds of motives—a "disturbing motive," which has usually been repressed, and a "reactive motive," which is responsible for the disturbing motive's having been repressed.

Psychoanalysts were at first interested chiefly in disturbing motives. The patient's struggle to keep these disturbing motives repressed was usually called
"resistance," but the motives for resistance were often not carefully analyzed. Sometimes resistance was attributed to a psychic "censor," but little attempt was made to analyze the "reactive" motives that had inspired the censorship.

Still, in order to understand a neurosis or a patient's personality structure, we should know both of the motives that are involved in an underlying conflict. When we are interested in the functioning of the personality as a whole, the motives that inspire the censorship are just as important to discover as the motives that are repressed. We should try to find out not only the patient's disturbing motive but also the "reactive motive" that has caused him to repress, or to inhibit, or to try to explain away his "disturbing motive." In this paper I shall try to distinguish a number of different kinds of reactive motives. Since Freud published The Ego and the Id, psychoanalysts have been much interested in reactions to guilt, but the word "guilt" is often used loosely to include many other kinds of reactions. For example, guilt should be distinguished from fear of loss of a parent's love, from fear of punishment, and from shame.


Please click here for the whole paper.