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Destrudo is a term introduced by Italian psychoanalyst Edoardo Weiss in 1935 to denote the energy of the death instinct, on the analogy of libido[1]—and thus to cover the energy of the destructive impulse in Freudian psychology.


Destrudo is the opposite of libido—the urge to create, an energy that arises from the Eros (or "life") drive—and is the urge to destroy arising from Thanatos ("death"), and thus an aspect of what Sigmund Freud termed "the aggressive instincts, whose aim is destruction".[2]

Weiss related aggression/destrudo to secondary narcissism, something generally only described in terms of the libido turning towards the self.[3]


Whereas Freud himself never named the aggressive and destructive energy of the death drive (as he had done with the life drive, "libido"), the next generation of psychoanalysts vied to find suitable names for it. Paul Federn used the term mortido for the new energy source,[4] and has generally been followed in that by other analytic writers.[5] His disciple and collaborator Weiss, however, chose destrudo; and it was this term that was later taken up by Charles Brenner.[6]

Cultural applications[edit]

Literary criticism has been almost more prepared than psychoanalysis to make at least metaphorical use of the term 'Destrudo'. Artistic images were seen by Joseph Campbell in terms of "incestuous 'libido' and patricidal 'destrudo'";[7] while literary descriptions of the conflict between destrudo and libido[8] are still fairly widespread in the 21st century.[9]

'Destrudo' as an evocative name also appears in rock music[10] and video games.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ International Journal of Psycho-Analysis (1953) Vol 23 p. 74
  2. ^ Sigmund Freud, New Introductory Lectures in Psychoanalysis (London 1991), p. 136
  3. ^ Herbert A. Rosenfeld, Impasse and Interpretation (1987) p. 126
  4. ^ Eric Berne, A Layman's Guide to Psychiatry and Psychoanalysis (Middlesex 1976) p. 101
  5. ^ J. G. Watkins, The Therapeutic Self (1978) p. 142
  6. ^ Todd Dufresne, Tales from the Freudian Crypt (2000) p. 24
  7. ^ Quoted in Margery Hourihan, Deconstructing the Hero (1994) p. 22
  8. ^ M. Beugnet/M. Schmid, Proust at the Movies (2004) p. 194
  9. ^ Andrew Gibson, Beckett and Badiou (2006) p. 255
  10. ^ Metal Nation Archived 2012-07-10 at
  11. ^ Destrudo-questions Archived 2012-07-17 at

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]