Power, Pleasure or Meaning?


The Viennese have produced many things I am sure. But the ones they are most famous for are the theories of psychoanalysis, of which there are three major influences. Freud, Nietzsche propagated by Jung, and Frankl. Of course, my knowledge of such things is cursory but it will suffice for this discussion. For I need to decide which theory characterises my own actions. Why do I need to do this? No reason, really. I have to talk about something and this is as good a topic as any. It is a problem of interest to me, it involves self analysis and an application of my limited knowledge of a particular branch of study. I might learn something of my self in the process. Reason enough to pursue this line of questioning. A brief introduction then, to these three schools of thought.

Freudian theory is centred on the pleasure principal. Humans will do anything to avoid pain and maximise pleasure. That’s the root of our psychosis. Nietzsche established that its actually power and ambition that drives us. The will to power is the centre of all our doings. And Frankl postulates that its actually the desire to find meaning in what we do and who we are that drives us. So what drives me? Power, Pleasure or Meaning?

The easy answer is all three. But that’s the pathetic way to go. One of those is obviously more important than others. Answering all three is the typical business interpretation to the multiple choice question, “Why not a hybrid approach to the problem?”, which almost certainly tends to be bullshit. So let is dig a little deeper. What is it that I strive for, which should answer the why. That’s a little difficult. I reach for many things but how much of it is my own motivation. It is very easy to confuse the desires that are foisted on us by society and others as our own. Of my own volition, what is it that I truly want out of my life?

A higher degree for sure. An MBA is what I’m going for , because why not? Indian, IT, Male. I fit the bill and follow the trend. But there is no true reason to want the degree. What I want is a particular set of skills. Something that is difficult to acquire, eminently respectable and well paying. All three criteria are necessary and important. On the personal front, I want a girl who really understands me. Pretty standard stuff, nothing spectacular or world dominating. Just as well, for I would make a terrible Bond villain. But I digress.

So, its a better career and the girl of my dreams. Seems like its ambition and pleasure. I feel like my analysis is lacking something. Because it cannot be so simple, it has to be an elegant solution, boiled down to the one answer which firmly, but delicately connects my hopes and desires. Or perhaps I’ve been reading too many stories and watching too much TV. Life can be more than one thing at the same time and we can have separated desires. I have a professional hunger and a personal want. The twain can co-exist in a complex mind.

The personal thing is clearly pleasure. It has nothing to with power and ambition. It may have something to do with meaning. I find my life has purpose and meaning if I’m with the right sort of person. But its the fulfilment and the pleasure I get from the company that I’m looking for. Its not a crass desire, but something deep and fundamental. So the personal thing is clearly pleasure and nothing else. What of the professional requirement? That too is pleasure when boiled down to the essentials. A higher degree or a niche skill set will bring me unlimited satisfaction (or so I hope) for having achieved something of worth professionally. The opportunities that spring forthwith shall enable me to improve my standard of living and perhaps settle a better life for myself. So its about pleasure too at the centre.

It seems Mr. Freud wins. I have ambition and I crave meaning in what I do and who I Love. But they are all centred on my desire, above all, to be happy.