Clearing Up the Lie about Aggression

Love, Self

To be aggressive is to approach something with the intent of a constructive resolution. To be hostil

Aggression is a term that is thrown around loosely and has been corrupted to mean everything and nothing at the moment. We can also say the same about the word Love. Here is where I am getting my distinction between the word aggression and hostility.

“In 'Beyond the Pleasure Principle' Freud suggested the term 'aggression' for the energy of the death instinct without indicating a justification for this. Taken in the sense of its original Latin meaning (where it comes from aggredi, i.e. 'to approach') it could well be considered a proper counterterm to the term libido, i.e. desire. It is desire which expresses a tension that requires relief, and it is approach (aggressio) to the location of the tension, which constitutes an activity applied towards its removal. This approach, direct or indirect, as the case may be, can be an approach by the subject to his own body or an approach of the subject to an object, with the intention or purpose to achieve relief of tension through action of or upon the object (Sternbach, 1975, pp.322).”

               To be aggressive is to approach something with the intent of a constructive resolution. To be hostile is to approach something with the intent of a destructive resolution.

               A result of this confusion and corruption of the word aggression is that we never learn to be aggressive. Too many of us have been taught that to pursue something is hostile and destructive when to pursue something aggressively is to give yourself meaning and a direction for that meaning. This lie has created severe consequences for us individually, romantically and for us socially. We aren’t aggressive enough.

               With this understanding of the true definitions of aggression and hostility, where have you seen your inability to be aggressive enough as destructive in your love life?

Adam Ayala is a Modern Psychoanalytical Relationship Specialist with a private practice in Orlando, Florida and Brookline, MA and is weekly featured on the online relationship magazine YourTango.com and on his blog AdamAyala.org.  Mr. Ayala can also be Contacted if you’re interested in working or collaborating with him


Ayala, A. (2018). Becoming an Ethical Monster

Sternbach, O. (1975) Aggression, the death drive and the problem of sadomasochism: a reinterpretation of Freud’s second drive theory. IJP 56:321-333.