Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion

2020 Edition
| Editors: David A. Leeming


Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-24348-7_385

Libido is a term used in psychoanalytic psychology to denote the fundamental sexual energy of the human organism, either a sexual “instinct” or “drive” which in simple terms compels us to reproduce the species. In Freud’s economic theory of the psyche, libido is proposed as the sexual source of all mental energy, which flows towards objects of our attention, thereby investing them with interest or cathecting those objects. In this way, libido establishes a psychic relationship with the object whether in fantasy or reality. The sublimation of libido into creative activity is the source of civilization for Freud, achieved through the complex processes of displacement of sexual energy away from the gratification of our individual desires, towards servicing the wider purposes of the social groups and institutions to which we belong.

Freud also described how libido cathects zones of the body during the early life of the child in phases called the oral, anal, and genital stages of...

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  1. Freud, S. (1905). Three essays on the theory of sexuality (trans: Strachey, J.), SE 7 (pp. 125–245). London: Hogarth Press.Google Scholar
  2. Hinshelwood, R. (1989). The dictionary of Kleinian thought. London: Free Association.Google Scholar
  3. Jung, C. G., & Hinkle, B. M. (1912). Psychology of the unconscious: A study of the transformations and symbolisms of the libido. London: Kegan Paul (Revised in 1952 as Symbols of transformation, CW 5).Google Scholar

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Sri Lanka International Buddhist AcademyKandySri Lanka