General Question

Neutral's avatar

Do human beings only continue on living because of a negative or positive drive?

Asked by Neutral (319 points ) August 31st, 2010

What causes a human being to do any action? Is it only because of a negative or positive drive? Is that the purpose that keeps one alive and to continue on living? Negative & Positive

You live out of positive, and then you die.
You live out of negative, and then you die.

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46 Answers

iamthemob's avatar

What do you mean by positive and negative drives?

Neutral's avatar

Look at the link.

iamthemob's avatar

Okay…but that’s emotion category breakdown. So…are the drives you’re talking about emotions…and whether it’s positive or negative is then defined by the nature of the emotion (or emotion group) that defines the behavior?

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
Neutral's avatar

@iamthemob,

You tell me. Is emotions the drive that cause a human to do any action? Or is it something else? Either way, wouldn’t it boil down to negative or positive? A neutral, like my name, does not act, it stays put, like a wall.

downtide's avatar

Okay – the way I understand the web-page, is that emotions are categorised in various ways including positive/negative.

I would imagine that in general people experience both positive and negative, but that, based on core personality traits, individuals are more inclined to focus on certain emotions, which may or may not have a bias towards positive or negative. Some people seem to attract and wallow in negative emotions while others always seem to find the positive in everything. I imagine it’s linked with optimism & pessimism in personality traits.

So your answer is going to vary, depending on the indivisual.

Neutral's avatar

@downtide,

If the answers will only be in the realm of negative and positive, then that is precisely what I’m asking. Do we live only out of positive or negative drives, whatever varieties they may be.

iamthemob's avatar

@downtide

I think that’s right. So…in essence…I think the answer to the question “Do human beings only continue living because of a negative or positive drive” is “Yes, they do.”

@Neutral

But regarding the “only” are you trying to determine about such things as biological drives. If so, biological drives certainly come into play, but those are pretty much manifested through the emotional ones also…You’re hungry. You are unhappy. You eat. It’s good. You’re happy.

NaturallyMe's avatar

I’d say positive. We act because we want to gain positive and avoid negatives. Everything we do, we do because we gain a positive from it in some way or another, otherwise we wouldn’t do it.

iamthemob's avatar

@Neutral

By “only positive or negative” or “because of a negative or positive” drive, do you mean either a positive or negative drive…exclusively?

If so…no…we motivate toward positive drives and away from negative drives. Both are taken into account.

Neutral's avatar

@iamthemob,

“Only”, was used to imply that negative and positive is the reason why someone does any action. It can be a full positive drive or a full negative drive. It doesn’t matter. We simply act upon these two, and only these two. How and why, well, that’s up for opinions.

I’m under the impression that emotions is a mental state.

Blackberry's avatar

I’m living off of both right now lol, although in general it is for the positive.

Frenchfry's avatar

I think it is positive drive. To be there for their family and to experiences things . I set goals everyday and I am aim for.

iamthemob's avatar

This still seems really broad – essentially, that’s the same as asking “Why does anyone do anything?” or “Why don’t we do nothing?”, and will pretty much will get a different reaction from each person regarding each thing.

Things that we do to survive can be almost connected to objectively positive drives (e.g., like eating). Why we do anything beyond that in order to do what we consider really living means that how much negative or positive is based on individual experience. But in the end, we’re not going to do anything that we FEEL is more negative than positive.

But a “drive” can never be neutral, also. Although there’s one on a car, it just lets the car idle. Idling isn’t a drive.

Neutral's avatar

@iamthemob,

Right. I’m all for different responses, but all the responses will boil down to a negative or positive. As you said neutral does not act, it’s just there, like a wall.

Negative example,

“My mission in life is to make peoples lives a living hell because I’m so angry at them all”

Positive example,

“My mission in life is to be the smartest person in the world.”

That’s why I put up that link. It breaks everything down to only a negative and a positive.

I disagree with you that we will feel more positive then negative. How do you explain suicidal people? Or apathy?

But that’s a side topic, the main thing I wanted to find out, is if it fits within the negative or positive realm.

iamthemob's avatar

@Neutral

Surely. But what are you trying to figure out then?

ninahenry's avatar

both, and instinct.

Neutral's avatar

@iamthemob,

I just wanted to confirm that the reason people stay alive and continue to live is out of positive and negatives drives. I also wanted to know, how, and why, for negative and positive drives. Also, a negative or positive drive will get very boring and pointless overtime. Self-termination will speed up the process and it won’t matter since death is the end result anyway. This is why I don’t understand why people have a problem with suicidal people.

wundayatta's avatar

Good lord!

Um, negative and positive are value judgments made by humans. They have nothing to do with underlying forces that motivate us. They are our opinions about those forces, but the opinions themselves aren’t what keeps us going. The whole question reminds me of a human cut in half, turned upside down and sewn back together. It makes no sense. It is looking at a pretty mirrored surface and totally missing that the real stuff is inside that mirror.

Neutral's avatar

@wundayatta,

If its not the positive and negative that drives a human being to any action, then what does?

SeventhSense's avatar

All persons have a construct of self. Now that self image may have been constructed from nurture, abuse, neglect, concern, indifference, sorrow, pain or unconditional love. In acting from this place people always choose a course of action and emotion which they imagine is in their best interest based upon this model of self. However that comes across to others as negative or positive is based on the constructs that those persons have chosen or adapted by their environment.
For example, If I am alone I often have serenity. To another being alone may seem fearful and lonely. It’s all perspective. Is there a fixed definition of a serene state or is it all just subjective? Emotional states like concepts of self are not fixed and permanent ideas and have no existence. In fact there is no fixed and permanent self. The idea is an illusion.

iamthemob's avatar

@Neutral

wundayatta isn’t saying they don’t. wundayatta is saying that asking are those the two types of forces that drive us doesn’t really lead anywhere…because we’re determining whether the drive is positive or negative. So asking asking about whether drives can only be defined as such or how they may be defined generally can’t really tell us anything except that we place things in positive and negative categories.

Whether something is positive or negative doesn’t seem to produce a productive answer unless we start talking about a specific thing, a specific action. Then we can start asking why people think that way. I believe you’ve asked a question that can’t really be answered – or, in essence, it is its own answer.

SeventhSense's avatar

Survival instinct drives us and emotions are secondary to that in whatever form they take.

Neutral's avatar

What about suicide then? That’s the opposite of survival?

SeventhSense's avatar

@Neutral
Well again it is believed to be in the best interest of the self. In that case to end the perceived suffering. I’m not saying that all actions are instinctual but layered upon instinct. There are emotional and often times irrational acts imagined to be in the best interest of the self.

Frenchfry's avatar

I think it has more do to with the will to survive.
If you will is strong you will overcome all the negative in the world.
If it is weak you will let the negative overcome you.
For example people with cancer. Some just give in. Some fight.

iamthemob's avatar

@Neutral

Indeed, as SeventhSense has indicated. If you consider the survival instinct is composed of certain drives, one of the main drives is to avoid pain. Generally, avoiding pain allows us to avoid or remove ourselves from situations harmful to our survival. However, when surviving becomes associated with bringing us pain, that drive is going to reverse.

Trillian's avatar

Why do people ask questions with either/or answers, as if there were only two possible answers? This in itself is a fallacious argument.
So there is a list and some tables in the great unimpeachable source, wikipedia. Why are we accepting this as if it hs any merit? Says who?
There is more to life than black or white. There is grey. There is yellow sunshine and joyous blue. There is life giving rain and night time when we sleep, or party, or get drunk and have sex with strangers, or gaze in wonder at the firmament. Why is it important to categorize everything and say if it isn’t this, then it has to be that. It just isn’t so, and life is not so easily disposed of and dismissed in some theory about negative and positive.

“Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
Some of you say, “Joy is greater thar sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits, alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.” (Gibran, K)

iamthemob's avatar

@Trillian

What’ the harm in asking, though? Sometimes you don’t know you’re working with a fale dichotomy. Sometimes, though rarely, there is an either/or answer – or there should be. So I say let it get out there.

Trillian's avatar

@iamthemob who said anything about harm? I just asked why and put in my own two cents for what they’r worth. (Generally about one tenth market value)
I disagree with the premise. That’s all.

Response moderated (Flame-Bait)
iamthemob's avatar

@Trillian

No statement, true. I read the tone as a bit belligerent…of course, this is the internet. But you start of the question asking why people even ask these questions…which, as you state about your assessment of worth shows, you think they’d be better off not asked at all.

I equate the way you frame the question much like stating “That’s a stupid question.” That just shuts people up. And again, sometimes you don’t know whether the premise should or should not be placed in an either/or context (the way this was phrased at the beginning, it appeared to incorporate whether people thought it should be, in fact).

So whether or not it’s as productive, it’s still productive right?

Trillian's avatar

So…didja read the Kahlil Gibran? Didja read my thouhts about colors? As I understand the rules of Futher, I’m allowed to voice my dissent. I thought I did so in a nice way and used great terminology to get my point across.
I still think the premise itself is flawed. I understand rhetoric and I understand fallacious arguments. I believe that this is a fallacious premise.
You don’t agree? Meh… that’s ok.

SeventhSense's avatar

@Trillian
It’s the grand illusion. The yin and yang. I think my argument is very lucid as well but there’s a great divide here. I think it takes a long time to see this and some most people never do.

Trillian's avatar

@SeventhSense Yes, I read it. But your idea is not based on an either/or scenario. That was my whole point. Life is not so simply divided into “this” or “that”.

SeventhSense's avatar

@Trillian
Yes because the premise is faulty

iamthemob's avatar

@Trillian

I’m confused…when did I say you couldn’t voice your dissent? I voiced my dissent about the way the question was structured from the beginning – and I dissented regarding the usefulness of the division based on much of the same reasoning as you.

But you started off saying “Why do people ask stuff like this?” and follow with So there is a list and some tables in the great unimpeachable source, wikipedia. Why are we accepting this as if it hs any merit? Says who?

Right off, you demean the question itself and source material it provides. Again, as I said, I interpreted this as somewhat confrontational (e.g., “Says who?” is difficult to read without a snarky tone, right).

My responses are based on the fact that if I had read that regarding a question I did…I would think that the person was saying that it was useless. I’m not saying that’s what you intended, but do you see how it could be interpreted that way?

Flavio's avatar

Different psychoanalysts over the years theorized that different drives suppressed in the subconscious drives human behavior. Freud talks about aggression and sexuality. Frankl talks about meaning, loss, freedom, and isolation. Bowlby talks about human connection. Jung talks about archetypes and the collective subconscious. Groddeck talks about the “it” (not to be confused with Freud’s “id”). I am more partial to Freud and Frankl.

As far as death goes, no matter what happens with your drive, positive, negative, whatever, we will all die… I don’t think our innate drives are at all associated with death.

However, to argue against my own point, I think it was Winnicott or Klein who says that babies are born with a “death drive” and the process of education is what helps them keep it controlled. That’s mom’s role and all you need to do is be a good enough mother, you don’t have to be a perfect mother in order to help your baby suppress this inexorable drive towards death….

downtide's avatar

@Neutral I’m not entirely sure what you are asking here. Are you asking if a certain individual will act exclusively on either positive or negative emotions? Or if some people use both? Or if there are some things that do not count as positive/negative emotions that are also used?

I think for most people it’s going to be a sliding scale – a preference for one over the other but with occasional influence from the non-typical one. For example a person who is normally cheerful and happy but occasionally, when really provoked, will fly into a rage.

I wonder if basic instincts like hunger, avoidance of pain, sex drive etc are a separate thing from emotions. They seem different but I don’t have any background in psychology so I’m only guessing.

LostInParadise's avatar

Despite the opinions of some here, I think this is a good question. Are we motivated to avoid pain or to seek pleasure? Should desire be viewed as a pain that we seek to alleviate? This is a deep philosophical question that is not easy to answer. The Buddhist would say that there is a third way, to accept life on its own terms and to avoid the attachments that cause us to dwell on our suffering or that lead to desire and frustration.

Neutral's avatar

@Trillian,

You didn’t answer my question, but rather confirmed it wit and merely accusing me. You also didn’t consider what I said further. Why should I accept anything from you, as if you have any merit? Says who? You see this little number here.[1] It’s called a footnote. When you click on it, it gives you a reference. The reference is to books written by scholars who are experts of the field. Wikipedia is an open source encyclopedia that compiles information for you as a generality, but still encourages you to look up the references for further details.

Where are your credentials? What compelled you even answer this question? I have a better question for you. Why do you live? What is your purpose? I guarantee any answer you give me shall be categorized in either of two categories or both. The Grey area which you speak of, does not act. It’s stay put, as a wall. The examples you provides such as getting drunk, sex or gazing at the firmament is all positive emotions. You do these things because it gives you pleasure, pain, or any other of the list of emotions which are still categorized to negatives and positives. Anger can be both pleasure and pain. It shows that. I further said that it can be both negative and positive (pleasure and pain) simultaneously, or it can be one or the other. My point is, that it always can be categorized in these two categories as the list of emotions shows.

”I live to love”
Love gives you pleasure. When someone you love dies, you still love them, but their death also pains you.

CMaz's avatar

If the action reaction of life produce a negative effect too often. Depression will set in and the desire to live will cease.

We continue on living due to motivation and survival of the species.

Trillian's avatar

Yeah, ok. Have fun with that. Over and out.

vipgown's avatar

i think whether we are in positive or negative drives, we should be happy. Because we live not for live, it’s for joyful, working, playing, shoping and sleeping.Living is just one aspect in our whole life. So don’t always think why you live, what you live for and so on.

wundayatta's avatar

@Neutral What drives humans? The desire to stay alive.

You might tell me that people who want to commit suicide want to die, and I will tell you that you are wrong. None of us wants to die. We just want the pain to stop, and sometimes it seems like that’s the only way to stop the pain. How do I know this? Because I’ve been there and every other person I know who has thought of suicide has said the same thing. I suspect it’s universal.

Life wants to live. It is only logical. The genes of those that did not want to live would die and not be passed on. Only the genes of creatures who want to live—and even better, fight hard to live—survive. The program in our genes drives us to live.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

I don’t know about the “continue living” part of this discussion. As long as you keep breathing and eat, you will live, whether you have positive or negative drive, or no drive at all. I don’t think you would just simultaneously curl up and die if you had no drive.

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