The Transformation of Mental Functioning

Another indicator or sign of economic and social decline in a society aside from economic de-growth and ‘culture wars’ is the decline in brainpower and social maturity amongst the broader population in a society which perhaps underlies and underpins economic and social decline. This mode or factor of social decline occurs when the elite class – which is where most of the brainpower and social sophistication in a society is supposed to be concentrated – undergoes declining birthrates, while the birthrates amongst the uneducated masses increase. According to one study, at least 31 states in America saw a decline in high school graduation rates between 2019 and 2021. And when one combines declining brainpower and social sophistication amongst the masses with declining birthrates amongst the class of people where brainpower and social sophistication is concentrated, the inevitable outcome is perhaps economic and social decline. 

As Sigmund Freud argued, there are essentially “two principles of mental functioning” which are at play in the human psyche at all times, namely, the “pleasure principle” on one hand and the “reality principle” on the other hand. And as Freud argued, the latter assists the former in attaining its goal, but in a “safeguarded” manner. Freud argued: “Just as the pleasure-ego can do nothing but wish, work for a yield of pleasure, and avoid unpleasure, so the reality-ego need do nothing but strive for what is useful and guard itself against damage.” Freud added:

“Actually the substitution of the reality principle for the pleasure principle implies no deposing of the pleasure principle, but only a safeguarding of it. A momentary pleasure, uncertain in its results, is given up, but only in order to gain along the new path an assured pleasure at a later time.” 

Education and art facilitate the transformation of a “pleasure-ego” into a “reality-ego” and in turn, the result from this transformation is a transition from “auto-erotism” to “object-love” to borrow from Freud. It follows that both religion and science view the outcome of the transformation of the ‘pleasure-ego’ and the supersession of the ‘pleasure principle’ by the ‘reality principle’ in the same manner and in the same way. But as Freud also noted, there is no “universal instinct” which enables this transformation amongst all living creatures. 

Thus, it begs the question: why does this transformation occur in certain individuals while the overwhelming majority of people are shut out of this transformation? Freud wrote: “There is unquestionably no universal instinct towards higher development observable in the animal or plant world, even though it is undeniable that development does in fact occur in that direction.” Freud added: “Both higher development and involution might well be the consequences of adaptation to the pressure of external forces; and in both cases the part played by instincts might be limited to the retention (in the form of an internal source of pleasure) of an obligatory modification.”

In turn, the exact nature of these “external forces” or external stimuli which trigger both the transformation of mental functioning as well as the modification of the ‘pleasure principle’ is a matter of debate. Philosophy, religion, and science would all contend and uphold their individual view of what constitutes these external forces and external stimuli. Nevertheless, the issue of the transformation of mental functioning is perhaps fundamental in the broader understanding of economic and social decline, and it is an issue which is interconnected with all other issues as part of the “unitive” nature of knowledge and information. 

2 thoughts on “The Transformation of Mental Functioning

  1. Dear Adam,
    i found this read ery interesting – like all the material and phrases you have thrown light on in the last few years – you have a phenomenal grasp of human nature !!!
    I would love to read your take on the following overview of where we are heading :
    Which generation lived a more meaningful life – our grandparents. our parents, our generation or possibly the lives of our children ?? The emphasis is on your interpretation of ‘meaningful life’.
    Please convey my special respect to your wonderful parents to whom we as a family owe so much – your father’s kindness lives on in our hearts !

    Love you ever more,
    Daryoush Batmanghelidj


    1. Thank you so much Agha Daryoush! I think it all hinges on the kind of leadership we have and the kind of cultural and social development we undertake together as a society. Please pass my regards and immense love and respect to your family and loved ones. Sincerely, Adam.


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