The Death Drive

No, not the title of my daily outings in the car with my wife who is learning how to drive (although it’s not an inappropriate name). The ‘Death Drive’ is what psychoanalyst Josh Cohen calls a state that is moving us “away from life and into a kind of stasis or entropy”. Conversely, the ‘Life Drive’ encourages us to do new things, meet people and be creative. You see where I’m going with this?

Like lots of you, I’ve been in a funk lately, especially since the beginning of this year. The brain fog has good and truly rolled in. I go to the same shops to buy food, sit in the same room day after day, and yes, see the same person (lovely as she is) nearly exclusively. Even my rides are all the same as what I’ve been doing for years now, particularly right now when we have a 10 km radius to keep within. My two sources of stimulation are small home improvement projects and my ‘death drives’ with Shoko.

As the article above states, the great paradox of all this is that staying home and unstimulated keeps us and others safe, i.e. alive, but this physical and mental isolation is at the same time killing us, at least temporarily. Turn this around and you can quickly see that some things that make us feel totally alive – like barreling down a mountain pass at 90 kph – are the very things that could really do us in. Even going outside to drive to work increases your chances to get killed significantly. To feel alive often means taking risks, physical or otherwise.

The good news about all this is that the Death Drive is nearly always temporary, unless you were already experiencing it before Covid, in which case you are in trouble. For a person who has always had an abundance of Life Drive, I’ll take this opportunity to have a rest, paint some walls and wait for the day I can climb and descend a mountain without a mask in my back pocket.