Thoughts on aggression and frustration, its assocation with the self, the idea of death, and other things

Recently, I was thinking about the origin of the idea that aggressive feelings tend to cause death.  Oftentimes, aggressive feelings tend to create a desire of “wanting to kill”, “wanting so-and-so dead”, or something similar.  But why?  We have no experience that aggression will cause death, particularly as a lot of this thinking originates when we’re very young.  No doubt this association is a result of an innate and automatic response of an inner process. In addition, we must point out that there is a difference between the idea of death as a result of aggressive feelings and the idea of death from observation.  Only a small number of us will witness death in action, particularly from aggression.  This means that death by aggressive feelings is assumed.  Where, then, does this assumption originate from?   This assumption is certainly not observation-based.  It appears, to me, that it is a result of our early development which, therefore, entails early stages of growth as a source of its thinking.  The idea of death from observation, on the other hand, is typically seen in later life and is observation-based.  This shows that we actually have two origins for the idea of aggression and death:

  1. An inner origin.  This is a result af an inner process.  This is what I will talk about below.
  2. An outer origin.  That is, based on observation and experience.

This shows that each of us has an innate ‘idea’ of death as a result of aggression, coming from an inner origin.  We ‘assume’ it to be correct, even though we have nothing to base it on.


Aggression, really, is a result of frustration that causes us to ‘out lash at the world’.  But frustration does not necessarily lead to this.  In normal frustration the ‘buildup of energy’ is small and, therefore, does not lead to any aggression or out lashing.  We could call this ‘normal frustration’.  We may feel flustered, uptight, tense, and so on.

But when the frustration becomes more intense it becomes an ‘intensified frustration’ that is so strong that it creates something like a ‘buildup of energy’ within us that as if creates a tendency to ‘out lash at the world’.  We may bite, hit, yell, scream, and so on as ways of ‘lashing out’.  Because we are reacting to a ‘buildup of energy’ we could call this ‘reacted frustration’.  This reaction is really the beginning of aggression.

‘Reacted frustration’, though, is just an impulse.  The ‘out lashing’ is almost like a reflex action . . . it just happens.  It is not necessarily directed and does not necessarily have malicious intentions.  Many so-called aggressive or violent acts of children are forms of ‘reacted frustration’.  There is no ‘deep inner aggression’ that they feel.  Typically, they react and its forgotten.  In that way it is more like a “venting”.  This means that it is not aggression, at least as I use the word.

What, then, creates aggression?

It seems to me that actual aggression is something that develops later in life.  In this way actual aggression is ‘reactive frustration’ transformed by something.  Some of the things that transform it include:

  • An event requiring an aggressive response.  Sometimes, in life, there are events that require us to become aggressive.  Even these, in actuality, are really nothing but reacting to a frustration (such as someone abusing you) or a potential frustration (your ‘loss of life’ when someone threatens you).
  • Experience.  This usually consists of bad or frustrated experience of a long-standing or a particularly deep emotion.
  • Character.  Some people have a naturally aggressive character that predisposes them to aggression later in life.
  • The mixing of other impulses with frustration.  Various events in life make it so that other feelings becomes mixed with the ‘lashing out’ of ‘reactive frustration’.  These generally entail deep feelings such as love.  Typically, these feelings tend to intensify the frustration causing a greater tendency to ‘lash out’.
  • The release of tension caused by ‘lashing out’.  Because the original ‘reacted frustration’ is a “venting” it creates a ‘release of tension’ which can be soothing and calming.  Some people may find this particularly appealing which may make them more inclined to want to be aggressive.
  • The discovery of an enjoyment or satisfaction in ‘lashing out’.  Some people will find that this ‘lashing out’ causes a satisfaction of some inner need.  Oftentimes, though, this satisfaction is of a malicious sort and is reflective of a deeper conflict.

Things such as these often cause people to display aggression from time to time in the course of their lives.  Seldom, though, does it become that ingrained in a persons psyche.  They are generally sporadic and temporary but, for some people it does become a prevalent quality in their life, even defining it.  The path to this condition, I think, is quite revealing.

For aggression to become particularly established and strong in a person tends to require that it must be something that makes it relevant, meaningful, and important to them.  A way this is done is by a ‘cycle‘, a repetitive process of a number of emotions that become associated and connected to each other by repetition.  This cycle is done over and over again in one’s life until it becomes a part of ones self.  In general, a ‘cycle’ usually means that there is a conflict of some sort, often an inability to ‘grasp’ or resolve somethingThe repetition is done over and over again as an ‘attempt’ to deal with the conflict.  In some cases, it is done so much that one “digs themselves into a hole” making it a dominant trait in one’s life and character, even to the point of an obsession.  When it reaches this point the problem is often more the fact that one has “dug themselves into a hole” than the original conflict itself.

What implants aggression into a person’s character seems to be the ‘cycle of aggressive development in the psyche’.  This cycle is something that is repeated again and again.  In so doing it gets firmly ingrained in a person.  The cycle goes something like this:

  1. ‘Normal frustration’.
  2. ‘Reacted frustration’.
  3. An extensive experience with ‘reacted frustration’, often a specific frustration.
  4. An association of ‘reacted frustration’ with some other thing (such as one of the things described above) causing an aggressive reaction.
  5. The discovery of some form of satisfaction in aggression.
  6. The satisfaction causes a want of repeating aggression – deliberate intention.

We see several important points with this cycle that is revealing:

  • It begins as a “blind” impulse (‘normal frustration’, without aggression).  It is undirected reaction, a reflex action.
  • It ends with deliberate intention.  That is, a person wants the aggression.
  • It shows that aggression is, in a way, instigated in the person by the creation of a ‘deliberate frustration’.  In other words, the cycle causes a tendency for someone to continually frustrate themselves, or want to be frustrated, in order to invoke their own aggression.  This makes many people with aggression have a tendency to be “self-frustrating”.
  • The cycle needs to be repeated.  In this way, it becomes ‘practiced’ even to the point of becoming almost an art form for some people.  I’ve seen many people who are ‘well rehearsed’ in becoming aggressive.
  • It needs to hit something deep within, making it important to the person.
  • It shows that it is something developed over time and not just a reaction, an emotion, or an event.  This shows that it is something “grown”, so to speak.

Oftentimes, once it becomes deliberate it creates a sadistic-like tendency in a person.  That is to say, they will seek the satisfaction that aggression entails.  Because aggression is often associated with death (see below) it can appear as an ‘unemotional aggression’:  a desire to kill something.  The satisfaction is in killing or the death of something.

Where, then, does the idea of death originate from?


The earliest idea of death, it seems to me, is a result of a tension within the self.  In other words, death is a reference to a condition that ‘tears the self apart’, so to speak.  It is often a natural result of growth and the process of growing where the self is having to change and form itself anew.  This, of course, happens repetitively throughout our life.  It’s particularly felt strongly in our younger years when we are “green” and completely open to the pain and conflict that it causes.   This naturally appearing tension within the self creates what can be described as a ‘self dying tendency’.  This causes sensations such as:

  • A ‘deep inner pain’.
  • A sense that the ‘world is turning upside down’.  When the self changes the world seems to change as well which, at times, can be dramatic and painful.
  • A sense of loss or damage.
  • A sense of being unprepared.
  • A sense of lack of ability or being unable to do something.

These create, I feel, our earliest sense of the idea of death.  In effect, the effects of the inner tension of the self create the idea of death.  Because of this the ‘self dying tendency’ creates ideas of death with traits such as these:

  • That the world will ‘end’.
  • That we will ‘cease to be’.
  • That there will be a nothingness.
  • That we are not in control.

These, in actuality, are describing the natural changing of the self.  In this way, the idea of death actually originates from the natural dying of the self and its being remade as a part of growth.  Accordingly, the ‘pain and horror of death is based in the pain and horror of our changing self.

Because of the importance of the self the idea of death is associated with a growing self-awareness.  In other words, as our self grows so does our sense of death. 


Our self, though, is naturally associated with frustration (which ultimately leads to aggression).  Much of our earliest frustration begins as a result of hunger, which is a repetitive concern every day.  The constancy of this frustration tends to help create a self.  It does this by doing a number of things such as:

  • It makes us feel ourselves over time.  In other words, it creates a sense of ‘constancy of self’.
  • It forces us to maintain ourselves in order to control our frustration.  This causes a ‘maturity of self’.

As a result, what we see is that there is an association between frustration and the self.  This is the ‘frustration/self association’.  Because of this, the development of the self becomes very much associated with frustration.  One could say that frustration develops the self.  Even in our later years frustration plays a big part of ‘growing up’ and ‘being an adult’ and in maturing.  We have to learn to accept disappointments, deal with pain, and so on.  So we can see that frustration actually develops our self, making us develop as people and human beings.

Accordingly, it shows several potential problems such as:

  • That the inability to handle frustration can become a problem for the growth of the self.
  • That not having a stable self will make us unable to handle frustration.

With these problems frustration can easily get out of control.  As mentioned above, frustration is associated with aggression.  As a result, a person with problems, as described above, can become predisposed to aggression as a common trait and can reflect them frequently.  Most people, though, don’t have this problem to any great degree.  In other words, frustration helps the development of the self.  Once there is a stable self, though, there is a lack of a tendency to show aggression.  This shows that the self “stands” in-between frustration and aggression.  With a stable self the leap from frustration to aggression is less likely.

Since the self plays such a critical role, the conflicts of the self figure prominently in the frustration-to-aggression leap.  There develops, over time, an association between the conflict of frustration with the pain of the changing self (as described above).  The pain of the changing self, as I’ve said, become the basis of the idea of death.  As a result, frustration becomes associated with the idea of death which, in turn, becomes associated with aggression, which is nothing but a further development of frustration.  So we see this association:

  1. The conflict of frustration.
  2. The pain of the changing self.
  3. The idea of death.
  4. All these merge with aggression.

In this way, the idea of death becomes identified with aggression.  It is like a natural progression and association . . . it just happens.


It’s a normal process to identify ourselves with the world and others initially.  That is to say, we do not see ourselves as separate from the world and other people.  They are perceived as the same as ‘us’.  This is a normal perception in our early years.  As a normal part of growing we begin to see ourselves as separate from the world and other people over time.  This sense of separation, in actuality, is the sense of self.  But this separation is never fully complete.  Because of this, it’s not uncommon for people to not fully sense the separation of themselves with the world or people at certain times for one reason or another.  This often becomes very prevalent when there is some conflict, particularly with the self.

Because one identifies themselves with the world or people we see ourselves in them.  That is to say, we see our impulses and feelings in them.  This is ‘projection’.  As a result, its natural to take our most ‘impassioned’ feelings and ‘project’ it onto the world or people and see it as a reflection of our self.  In this way, the world and people ‘becomes us’ . . . we see ourselves in the world and people.  As a result of this, it’s not uncommon to take our conflicts and ‘project’ it onto the world.  Because of this, frustration conflicts and the pain of the self, aggression, along with their idea of death, are also ‘projected’.  This can appear in two ways:

  1. ‘Passive projection’ – see death in the world and people:  a victim of aggression.  Here they see the conflict of frustration, pain of the self, and death in everything.  They always interpret things in this way.  Typically, these people do not show aggressive tendencies.  Often, they seem themselves as the ‘victims’ of aggression, frustration, death, and such.  In this way, ‘death comes to them’ or that’s how they perceive it.
  2. ‘Active projection’ – force death on the world and people:  an aggressor .  Here they act aggressively.  In other words, they enact it out.  They ‘inflict death’.

These are forms of ‘projected death’.  In other words, they are different ways that the idea of death is ‘projected’.  Not only that, since the idea of death is linked with aggression, they both show a specific relationship with aggression in how its projected.

‘Passive projection’ tends to create neurotic people who think they are victims in some way.  ‘Active projection’ tends to actually create victims.  It has two main victims:

  1. Other people.  Because aggression usually entails something violent it does tend to cause ‘actual death’.
  2. The world.  Normally, this goes toward objects, usually in causing their ‘destruction’ or ‘ceasing to be’.

What ‘projected death’ shows is a confusion of the self:  people cannot tell the difference between them and the world and people.  In this way, the world and people are as if dragged into their personal problems.  In the process of doing this, it can create victims as a result.


An important point is that aggression is often not the intentional act it seems.  In some respects, it’s an interior conflict that tends to go ‘outward’ and which tends, by its nature, to do harm (such as even the biting of the breast by a baby does harm).  This would explain my experience which shows that many people who do aggressive acts don’t really “mean it” or “don’t realize” what their doing.  In other words, it’s a reflection of inner conflict that went ‘outward’ (that is, it was ‘out lashed’).  In this way, their self is not in control as the whole problem tends to be a result of a problem with the self.  One could call this the ‘self-deprived aggression’.  Because of this, this form of aggression tends to be reactive to a situation.  It generally appears to be a sign of how the self is weak in some way and cannot control itself for some reason.


For some people, though, the aggression becomes particularly satisfying to such an extent that their self “wants” it.  This is the opposite of ‘self-deprived aggression’ which is aggression with little or no self-control, often as a result of a lack of growth of the self.  With ‘self-satisfied aggression’ the self wills it.  Because of this, it is deliberate and intentional.  This implies a self that is more mature and has more control.

It seems that ‘self-satisfied aggression’ is a result of a success at dealing with frustration.   But another trait of this is that they only have repetitive problems with success.  They have many failures as well.  As a result, they are people who tend to have repetitive success and failure at frustration.  These are often felt in an extreme manner . . . success and failure.  As a result, their self has both a weak and a mature side.  The weak self has great difficulty with the pain of frustration.  The mature self naturally finds success with great pleasure and satisfaction.  This makes it so that success at frustration is particularly powerful and sought for.  There can even be a great drive for it.

People who display ‘self-satisfied aggression’ tend to seek victims, as if to ‘re-enact’ their success at frustration and thereby achieve satisfaction.  As a result, some of them may even seek ‘actual death’ as “proof” of their success.  This, though, is not how it seems to begin.  It begins like all frustration, as an ‘out lash’ which may starts out small and slowly grows as they find success and satisfaction.  Perhaps they may treat dogs bad, then kill rabbits, then hit someone, then kill someone.  As they do this the aggression/death theme remains.  They are basically repeating their ‘self dying tendency’ onto other people and things.  They want to see it “die” in some way.  As they begin to see the power of their success they continue to seek it.


The male character is more ‘designed’ to deal with the world.  This tends to put more strain on the male as a result.  His need to participate in the world causes great strain on his self.  This is because of the more prevalent frustration the male confronts.  As a result, the ‘self dying tendency’ is very prevalent with males.  One way this appears is through a tendency for males to fight with one another.  This can appear anywhere from a simple sports competition to actual fighting.  In actuality, what this often is about is nothing but a testing of their self.  In other words, its like a ‘taking themselves as far as it can go’ or ‘seeing how far they can go’.  Because of this, a lot of male aggression is not necessarily a result of aggression as it may at first seem, nor is it blind or ‘something they must do’.  Its probably no wonder, then, that this behavior is most prevalent when males are ‘discovering themselves’ (the teenage years and into the 20’s).  What this means is that, for some males, aggression is a form of discovery of who they are!  This discovery of self, interestingly, is reflecting self growth.  That is to say, it’s not “someone out of control”.  This shows that a lot of male aggression a reflection of and involved with self growth.  This is contrary to what is often supposed.  As a child it was blamed on ‘hormones’, bad characters, and such (which are not doubt involved at least to some extent).  I have always felt, though, that there was more to it.  There seemed something more to it.  This form of aggression I call ‘tested aggression’ as it is a form of testing ones self.

Oftentimes, though, ‘tested aggression’, which is a manifestation of self growth, may turn into a form of blind aggression and an ‘out lash’ against the world.  In other words, what was once a reflection of healthy growth can become the means for a deeper inner conflict.  As a result of this, sometimes this form of aggression can get out of control and become, blind, and even turn into something more sinister (such as becoming a form of ‘self-satisfied aggression’, a bully, or a serial killer).


Oftentimes, ‘tested aggression’ appears in a unique way:  frustration, the idea of death, and the conflict of the self, is absent.  In this case aggression appears more as an idea of “overcoming”.  In other words, it is not conflict centered.  Because of this, the conflict of frustration and self, as well as the idea of death, is absent or, rather, appears to be.  In actuality, frustration, the conflict of the self, and the death theme are there but ‘in the background’, often unseen or unnoticed.  This is because, as I said, the emphasis in on “overcoming”.  When this happens frustration, the conflict of the self, and the idea of ‘death’ generally entails symbolic representations.  Common representations are:

  • A concern over winning.   Here frustration, the conflict of the self, and the idea of death are “overcome”.
  • A concern over losing.  Here, frustration, the conflict of the self, and the idea of death are not “overcome”.

This point of view can range from actual fighting (such as a duel) to sports or even small squabbles between males.  In other words, it can range from a ‘actual fight’ (dueling) to a ‘symbolic fight’ (sports).  Probably the most prevalent, nowadays, are sports.  In all cases, the manifestation of aggression tends to be organized and often ‘symbolic’.  By this, I mean that it is not just ‘guys going at it’ but tends to have definite rules, regulations, and so on.  In some cases, it’s almost all symbolic and can resemble a ritual.  Because of things like this, this form of aggression tends to reflect a symbolic ‘winning’ or ‘losing’ which doesn’t necessarily harm a person (though it can in some cases, such as a duel).  I call this the ‘overcoming aggression’.  The emphasis is on the idea of overcoming not on the conflict itself or a reaction to the conflict.  This type of aggression tends to reflect a more mature mind that has had experience with frustration and self conflict.  As a result, it is really a form of ‘venting’.  Not only that, it often reflects a healthy desire to overcome ones conflicts.  This type of aggression can often be molded to productive means, such as with sports, and is often very healthy.


The ‘self dying tendency’ is very much related with the idea of ‘actual death’.  In other words, the idea of what death consists of is often a modified form of the ‘self dying tendency’ or, rather, the perceptions created by the changing self that one experiences throughout their life.  This means that many people’s view of death has nothing to do with death itself . . . it actually originates from the changing and growing self!

Typically, though, the idea of actual death is not associated with frustration/aggression.  In other words, these themes are absent.  But this does not mean that it completely disappears.  Since the ideas surrounding actual death involve the growing self, its only natural that the self, with all its conflicts, tends to ‘seep in’.  Because of this, traits of frustration/aggression still appear in different ways such as:

  • The idea of a ‘heavenly bliss’ or that there is a paradise after death.  To put it another way, heaven is perceived as no longer being in a frustrated state.
  • The idea that we become ‘perfect’.  This reflects the idea that the self conflict is no longer with us.  To be ‘perfect’ means to have no self conflict.
  • The idea that we will be ‘united’ with family, god, eternity, etc.  The self, as I said above, is a result of when we separate from our initial perception of the world-as-us (when we see our self and the world as one).  This separation causes pain and conflict which causes all the self conflict.  As a result, the idea of being ‘united’ is nothing but referring to when we did not have a self and, accordingly, did not feel our self with all its conflicts.  In other words, it’s referring to ‘not having a self’.

So we can see that many ideas of heaven entail this idea that the self is non-existent as well as the conflict of the self.  Or, to put it another way, the ‘self dying tendency’ is absent.  In that way, heaven is often perceived as a freedom of the burden of the self.

Because of this, we can see that the idea of what happens after death has little, if anything, to do with any ‘actual knowing’ as, frankly, no one knows what happens after death.   I should point out that this does not mean that these ideas are ‘wrong’ and should be ‘dismissed’.  These ideas are there for a reason.  Though they, at first appearance, refer to what happens after death this is not the case.  In actuality, I tend to believe that these ideas are more a reflection of the ‘self experience’ of people.  In other words, they portray a ‘human reality’ based on ones personal life experience and, since our experience of life rests with the self, we use the self as a basis for everything, even our idea of death.  In seeing life from the perspective of the self, we give life a ‘human context’.  Sitting here analyzing the ideas of death as it were a scientific fact that can be measured does not place it in the realm of ‘human context’ but places it in an abstract context . . . it has no meaning in the human reality.  So what we see is that the ‘self experience’, of interpreting the world from the context of the self, is what makes life ‘human’.  Since we are human its a natural process.  Knowing this fact, my observation is making no intention of ‘proving it wrong’ but, rather, to ‘expand its relevance’, that the idea of death goes beyond the idea of what happens after death to reflect deep inner aspects of the self.


The actual observing of death often reaffirms our ‘self pain’.  In other words, it ‘replicates’ it within us and can ‘revive’ it.  The difference, though, is that it was instigated from without us, independent of us.  In this way, we are generally unprepared for it.  As a result of this, observing death can reveal a lot about a person, of the state of their self and their maturity.  This lack of unpreparedness can cause a number of reactions such as:

  • It can be traumatizing to a person.
  • It can create a conflict within a person that, in the end, causes a maturity.

What we seen, then, is a big range, from unhealthy to healthy.

Actually observing death, particularly of someone close to us, often imitates our separation of self.  In other words, the death of the person is perceived as a ‘death of self’.  As a result, it causes a ‘forced death of self’, so to speak.  This is particularly so as, because of ‘projection’, we make the other person a ‘part of us’.  That is to say, ‘projection’ makes the other person an extension of us and who we are.  When that person dies we see it as a death of a part of us which is nothing but the death of a part of our self.  This makes it so that a part of us dies.  This sense-of-a-death-of-us-through-another causes what is generally called mourning.  This is the ‘death of the projected self’.  Naturally, the closer the person is to you (that is, the stronger the ‘projection’) the harder this death is.  The death of someone you don’t know may not instigate any emotion at all.


Copyright by Mike Michelsen

This entry was posted in Death and dying, Life in general, Philosophy, Psychology and psychoanalysis and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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