(Engl. Original Pre-Print:)

Some Notes on a Motivational Theory Implied

 in Communicative Psychoanalysis


U. Berns

(Nov. 1999)


 The various motivational theories worked out by different psychoanalytic schools are witnesses of the failure to formulate a consistent and universally valid psychoanalytic motivational theory. Communicative Psychoanalysis has no formal model of a motivational theory. Attempts to borrow elements from Freud's motivational theory  cannot be squared with the insights and theorems of communicative psychotherapy. This paper is an attempt to formulate both a clinical and a genetic motivational theory which are in accordance with the best researched and empirically founded part of communicative theory and practice, the frame.


For about 100 years now psychoanalysts have attempted to formulate a consistent and universally valid motivational theory that would make it possible to understand all and any clinical phenomena and at the same time to incorporate the totality of human life forms  - both in everyday life and in the diverse religious and cultural forms of expression - in one all-encompassing approach. The various motivational theories worked out by different psychoanalytic schools are witness of the failure of this ambitious undertaking.

In fact, Gill believes that „the difference among the several different schools of psychoanalysis lies centrally in their theories of motivation“ (1994, p. 137). And this seems plausible, indeed, since any motivational theory implies the formulation of specific intrapsychic and interpersonal conflicts and specific concepts of regression and transference. These subconcepts find their extension and culminating point in the essence of each and every form of therapy, i.e. the  therapist's interventions.

A Survey of Psychoanalytic Motivational Theories

In the process of developing his theory Freud frequently recurred to the premise that all psychic phenomena are in the last instance caused by stimulating endogenuous activity that induces the mind to find ways of satisfying the physiological drives. Sexual and aggressive wishes were seen as the primary psychic derivatives of this process.

Following Freud's footsteps psychoanalysts worked out and described new motivational systems. All of these motivational theories try to find solutions to the interplay between inner needs and external stimuli presuming the subject's manifest experiences, behavior and affects to be more strongly determined by inborn drives rather than by the structuring environment.

Whereas Freud considered the object to be the most variable element of drives, the English Middle Group saw the search for objects as the steadiest characteristic of drives. The next step consisted in postulating that being bound to objects is prior to any experience of satisfaction given by objects.

This sort of object relations theory, should  not be confused, however, with the Kleinian

theory that places more emphasis on inner objects, for which experiences of external relations are only of minor importance. Yet, Weininger et al. hold that the Kleinian „object relations theory departed from classical theory mainly by eclipsing instinct theory, the cornerstone of the classical model“ (1998, p. 198). But this does not seem to be the whole truth as they say in the same breath that „in Kleinian theory the death instinct exists as a threatening sense of destruction from within, emanating from the aggressive impulses the individual projects to the caregiver who then becomes feared as a potential aggressor“ (1998, p. 199).

These theories share the premise that endogenuous motives function as short and long term factors determining our ways of behaving and experiencing, regardless of whether these motives are inborn sexual and aggressive drives or endogenuous drives for the object, or the needs of primary inner objects.

In 1976, G. Klein developed a multiple motivational system distinguishing between six different motivational systems, the so called „vital pleasures“

In 1989 Lichtenberg put forward five motivational systems which closely resemble the former of G. Klein and the one of Stern (1985):

1. the need for psychic regulation of physiologic requirements

2. the need for attachment-affiliation

3. the need for exploration and assertion

4. the need to react aversively through antagonism or withdrawal

5. the need for sensual enjoyment and sexual excitement (Lichtenberg, 1989, p. 1)

Lichtenberg holds this mixture of physiological, psychological and relational needs and bodily desires to be an exhaustive catalog of human motives. Similar to the above mentioned theories Lichtenberg's theory sees any other specific need as derivative of those five basic needs.

Selfpsychology has developed a motivational theory representing a mixture of basic needs directed to experiencing one's own self and those needs that are directed towards objects. On the one hand the need for a sense of selfcoherence is given primacy, and originally the fulfillment of three needs was deemed to be the means by which this sense of selfcoherence can be reached: the need for mirroring, idealizing and twinship. Later E. Wolf (1980) added the need for self-assertion and Bacal (1990) supplemented the list by the need for satisfying one's aggressive and libidinous stirrings, the regulation of tension and affect, establishing experiences of security, support and recognition, and finally, the need for help in trying to bestow meaning to one's inner and outer experiences. He concedes, however, that this list may not be complete and leaves it open to discussion whether all those needs may have their origin in one fundamental need.

This theory considers three emotionally charged stimuli as basic for selfcohesion. Thus it slightly approaches an adaptive position, although restricted to the three motives requiring these stimuli.

This becomes even clearer in the hypothesis put forward by Lichtenberg (1991) by which he tried to shed new light on human motivation. According to his point of view every human being strives to get much needed selfobject experiences, which is the only way to get or to maintain an affectively invigorated sense of self. Lichtenberg envisages the need for an invigorated sense of self, the most basic need of all human beings. This sense of self might come about when special needs like the well known needs for mirroring, idealization and twinship are met. The list of special needs is not closed.

Here again, the delicate balance between the importance of inborn needs and the processing of external emotionally charged stimuli is clearly tipped to inborn needs.

And again we are confronted with a type of motivational theory directed towards inner needs with the importance of emotionally charged stimuli reduced to their function of meeting just those needs listed up.

Stern puts more emphasis on the needs directed towards the environment. Lichtenberg's 'invigorational' need is as much an inborn endogenuous drive as Freud's sexual and aggressive drives and the Kleinian death instinct are. As yet none of the psychoanalytic schools has been able to provide a generally accepted valid solution to the interplay of inner needs and external stimuli on the basis of their motivational theories. Although, on the one hand, each of the psychoanalytic schools stick to their motivational theories, they are ready to concede  - in a pluralist spirit - the value of rival motivational theories believing that each of them allow us to grasp one of the many sides of human life (Mitchell & Black, 1995; Pine, 1990, 1998)

The Mt. Zion Psychotherapy Research Group developed a motivational theory which is part of their Control-Master Theory (1986). Weiss (1993) theorizes that the individual is above all motivated to adapt to his environment in the service of biological and psychological survival. This need for survival is most basic as the sexual drive is in Freud‘s motivational drive theory. Weiss starts from the premise, that the infant is completely dependent on his caregivers. To survive he struggles to find out how his interpersonal world functions and he makes great efforts to adapt to it. The better children know their parents the more they will be able to establish and maintain a secure relationship with them. children are able to strengthen their relationship with their caregivers by a special form of conscious and unconscious adaptation named “complying“. Complying with the caregivers means that the child consciously and unconsciously feels, thinks, believes and behaves in ways which enable the caregivers to better meet the child‘s biological and psychological survival needs. Such is the basic mechanism producing neuroses: developing unconscious beliefs and concomitant affects about oneself and the caregivers, beliefs which are the result of the child's efforts to understand  reality, to get reliable knowledge about the caregivers‘ reality, their ethical assumptions and beliefs, which then are no longer in accordance with the person‘s own normal desires, beliefs which tell the person to relinquish and no longer to pursue quite ordinary goals. The result of such beliefs is the formation of certain symptomatic inhibitions and compulsions. Therefore these beliefs are called unconscious pathogenic believes.

Slavin and Kriegman developed a motivational theory within their wider evolutionary perspective, with two discrete sets of motivations. One set consists of all the normal aims, views, affects, narcissistic and creative elements that are more or less acceptable to or congruent with parental views, the other of „those affect states or emotional signals that press us to act in intensely self-interested ways“ (1998, p. 269). They consider elements of the first motivational set to be put “out of consciousness“ (repressed) by the child, insofar as it stands in a sharp enough contrast to parental aims and views. At the same time they consider these aims to be „held in reserve, to return when it may be in the child‘s interest to do so“ (p. 265). The time  for that comes with changing environments and further development. These are the opportunities to renegotiate those aims and goals which were less acceptable to, or less congruent with, parental views and consequently repressed.

Communicative authors on motivational theory

Faced with the manifold intensive attempts at revising Freud's motivational theory we are struck by the fact that there is hardly any discussion on that matter in communicative psychotherapy. This might be understandable if any of the above mentioned motivational theories could be matched with the empirical results of communicative psychoanalysis and were implicitly made use of. In that case it would be appropriate to spell out such a communicative motivational theory. In his work „Psychotherapy A Basic Text“, published in 1982, Langs used one of the above mentioned theories when he says that „The key to the emotional disturbance lies within the mobilization of instinctual drive expressions that are forbidden by the superego, and that create an internal conflict and a sense of anxiety and depression, against which the ego acts defensively. ... When these defenses fail and there is a return of the repressed instinctual drive expressions, symptoms emerge...“ (Langs 1982, pp. 22-23).

This statement shows Langs working with assumptions from the very domain of the classical Freudian structural model of the theory of drives. He makes use of this model to enable us to understand the reactions to unconscious perceptions, but not with the intention to clear up the phenomenon of the derivative expression of veridical unconscious perceptions from a motivational point of view, simply because this theory does not allow for this. Yet, a communicative psychoanalytic motivational theory would have to explain both the motives to communicate derivatively the unconscious perceptions and the motives of reacting to these veridical perceptions.

In the same work Langs introduces the „six-part observational scheme“ as a necessary requirement for a comprehensive understanding of both the patient and therapeutic interaction. Ten years later, in the „Clinical Workbook for Psychotherapists“ (1992), he again takes up this thread by proposing the same scheme in slightly modified form as „The seven dimensions of the therapeutic interaction“ (p. 503). One dimension of the therapeutic interaction he calls the dynamic and genetic aspects of Patients‘ experiences. He is of the opinion that a therapist who wants to understand the dynamics and genetics should have to grasp „the vicissitudes of the sexual and the aggressive instinctual drives; issues related to id, ego and superego; problems of intrapsychic and interpersonal conflict and of psychosexual and aggressive development“ (1992, p. 503). Hence it is obvious that by 1992 he still adhered to the classical Freudian theory of drives as the motivational theory of Psychoanalysis.

In recent years he does not take recourse to contemporary Freudian motivational theory but instead has been striving for a broader understanding of the emotion processing mind using the method of inquiring into the immediate adaptive reactions to emotionally charged stimuli, which is inherent in his concept (Langs, 1995). Taking that path he has, however, up to the present not drawn any explicit conclusions concerning the patient's specific motivations. Thus the reader is interested in getting to know more about the psychodynamics of the unconscious system, but Langs never tells us that in a formal way. In the same book he talks about patients who „consciously accept deep errant effects coming from therapists because unconscious needs for harm and punishment“ (p. 131), but again he doesn‘t tell us more about these needs, e.g. their origin: are they the result of a death instinct, or the result of the infant‘s interaction with harming others, and if they are, how this might come about? Also he doesn‘t tell us on which occasions these needs might be activated: they might, for instance, emerge exclusively when they were activated by some emotional stimuli, or they might be held in reserve, and come into life as soon as it seems unconsciously possible for the person and so forth. All of these questions should be capable of finding an answer in a communicative motivational theory.

One further implied model of a motivational theory has to be mentioned: Throughout all the stages of his work Langs, within the context of communicative theory, accounted for the fact that individuals are endowed with powerful needs by postulating an unconscious selection mechanism. By way of this mechanism the patient manifestly represents his unconscious perceptions only of those implications of the therapist‘s interventions which are of emotional relevance for the patient. They are highly specific for the patient as an individual. The same holds true of the patient‘s reactions to his perceptions.

It stands to reason that the patient‘s selective unconscious evaluating process of the therapist‘s communications implies some concern, or motive, or aim on the part of the patient. What  exactly this is, is an unanswered questions in communicative theory.

Various other authors who published works on communicative theory very rarely touched on the subject of the motivational theory of communicative psychoanalysis. The strong adaptive position of communicative psychoanalysis with its clinical stress on  unconscious perception may lead to a tendency within the practicing psychotherapist to lose sight of the individual patient‘s motivations no matter whether they are concerns, wishes or needs.

Quinn recognized that. In a paper of 1992 he pointed out the fact that the communicatively informed therapist while concentrating on the patient‘s unconscious perceptions, may fail to notice the patient‘s reactions to perceptions. This corresponds with a tendency of communicative theory and practice to neglect the patient‘s own unconscious needs for seeking modifications in the framework of treatment. Quinn holds that „a balanced interpretation - which takes into account both the therapist‘s input and the patient‘s inner needs - is optimal“ (1992, p. 38). But what inner needs does he presuppose? He speaks of „unconscious defensive and pathologically gratifying needs - and often unconscious needs for punishment“ (1992, p. 38). It does not become quite clear precisely which „gratifying needs“ - incidentally, a term also used by Langs - he means. It seems to follow from the context that he is thinking of sexual and / or aggressive needs. Unconscious needs for punishment seem to be the Freudian Super-Ego needs.

Therefore it seems pretty clear that both Quinn and Langs take the reactions to perceptions to be situated within the realm of Freudian drive-structure-theory.

According to Langs and Quinn communicative psychotherapy has on the one hand a  theory of the intaking and processing process of emotional relevant information which is firmly grounded in practice, and on the other hand a theory of motivation that seems to be classically Freudian.

Smith writes that „philosophers clarified a new view of the mind that became known as externalism. According to externalism, the world around us, our environmental context, enters directly into the mind and radically shapes its contents“ (1998, p. 297). Communicative psychoanalysis reflects this shift by placing „special emphasis on the biological concept of adaptation, taking a strong adaptive ... stance“. Further he writes: „Communicative psychoanalysis attempts to understand the behavior of both patient and analyst as adaptations to the immediate analytic situation“ (1998, p. 300-301). Thus it seems that we can do without a motivational theory beyond the adaptive position.

In my opinion, however, Smith nevertheless is looking for a communicative motivational theory. In the same article he writes about salient controversies in communicative theory. One controversy deals with the question of „how intrapsychic factors (can) be understood in the context of communicative theory“ (1998, p. 319). Smith believes that seen from a clinical vantage point  we respond selectively to frame events and that this selectivity is determined by intrapsychic concerns. He theorizes that our past constrains the ways in which we can make sense of the present. Thus, the specific derivatives we produce is a function of our former experiences. He arrives at the conclusion that in communicative theory a formal model „of how such selectivity operates“ is missing (p. 319). Accordingly, Smith believes the behavior of patients to be both determined by and being capable of being understood as immediate adaptation to the analytic situation and the codetermining inner concerns, i.e needs, drives or wishes. The latter still wait for an integration into a formal theory of motivation.

Bonac sees a lot of clinical intercultural evidence for the thesis that one basic need of human beings could well be the one for secure frame conditions although she has not explicitly moulded it into a motivational theory (Bonac, 1999, in press).

In her paper „Perception or transference?, a new clinical theory of transference“ some further piece of motivational theory is implied. She asks the question which of the patients' utterances can be solely ascribed to their own pathology. She is convinced that as regards method, the therapist can only be sufficiently sure if patients themselves, prompted by the therapist's interpretive intervention realize at least one element of the ideal frame and, following this, show the urge to modify the ideal frame or indeed do modify the frame. She considers this as clinical evidence of the existence of a strong intrapsychic need which in turn appears to be the consequence of the patient's anticipation that he will again be betrayed, cheated or traumatized in other ways - just like it happened in childhood - i.e. that he will again be deprived of one aspect of his ideal relation.

This boils down to saying that it is strong motives or needs or wishes for ideal relationships which is the patient‘s determining inner concern. This is a part of a truly communicative motivational theory.

But furthermore Bonac says that by modifying the frame patients repeat their past by doing to the therapist what was done to them in their infancy, and she sees in acts like these the effect of strong motives for retaliation (Bonac,1998). Of course it cannot be excluded altogether that patients actually cherish wishes for retaliation postponed by repression since childhood. This implies a theory of unconsciously postponed wishes standing in reserve only to come to the fore in suitable situations. Here we are again in the realm of repressed drives and their vicissitudes developed as part of the drive theory by Freud. In so far Bonac seems to find the same solution to the problem as did Langs and Quinn. This is one possible perspective. I will later come to talk about a different perspective.

Thus, it is obvious that there is no such thing as a formal model of communicative motivational theory. There are, however, attempts to borrow elements from Freud's motivational theory - elements which unfortunately cannot be squared with the insights and theorems of communicative psychotherapy.

Deduction of a communicative motivational theory from the frame concept of communicative psychoanalysis

I will try to deduce a communicative motivational theory from the frame concept of communicative psychoanalysis. In doing this my aim is very limited: I won't make any sweeping statements on people's essential needs but simply elaborate on the theory of motivational states of that group of people who are about to, or have already started to, see a psychotherapist.

Let‘s try to find out more about patients‘ motivations by looking at the most important part of communicative theory and practice, the frame. This part of communicative theory is well researched and empirically founded. Taking up a concept developed by Bion, Langs introduced a fundamental classification (1978a). With regard to patients‘ modes of communication he grouped them as Type A, B and C communicators.

Those patients who express themselves through meaningful derivative communication, by alluding to a prevailing adaptive context, convey by a series of associations the compelling implications in light of the prevailing adaptive context and represent the important resistances and symptoms manifestly are called type A communinicators. Patients of all types of clinical diagnoses make use of this mode of communication. In this paper these patients will briefly be called “derivative communicators“.

B and C communicating patients do not represent an activated intervention context and do not respond with a derivative complex. Either, as in the case of Type C, they seal off an activated unconscious disturbance with nonderivative barriers through the use of nonderivative defenses, or, as with Type B, they express themselves through what is often called and conceptualized by some contemporary psychoanalytic schools as projective identification, reenactment, identification with the aggressor, primitive defenses of borderline personalities with splitting and acting out etc. These two groups of patients will be designated simply as “non-derivative communicators“.

Derivative communicators:

Communicative theory holds that derivative communicators inform their therapists derivatively of their strong unconscious needs for ideal frame conditions. They do this by expressing their valid unconscious perceptions of erroneous interventions, by derivative expressions of hints at how the therapist might change his erroneous practice, by taking on the role of the functional therapist wishing to help the therapist to become the functional therapist once again, by derivative validation of valid interventions, and so on.

By listening to the derivative communications of patients in this way, communicative therapists found out a canon of frame conditions unconsciously wished for by patients. An in-depth analysis of these frame conditions shows, that they constitute the fundamentals of intrinsically healthy forms of human interaction, such as taking up (professional) responsibility, keeping things private and confidential, having a frank and unbiased mind, dealing with people on the basis of fairness, equality and mutuality.

This is the reason why communicative therapists try to create a frame as ideal as possible at and for the beginning and for the whole course of each psychotherapy. The therapist‘s efforts to create an ideal frame reflect a struggle to work toward an ideally structured human relationship and an effort to offer the patient that what he unconsciously needs. In addition it represents his own efforts to live by ideally shaped relationships.

This part of the theory and practice of communicative psychoanalysis at once hands us on a plate a first part of communicative motivational theory:

Derivatively communicating patients come into therapy with strong unconscious motives for ideally structured therapeutic relationships.

These are unconscious needs which cannot be realized by patients themselfs. For their realization they need someone else, the therapist. The need for an ideal relationship is an object-relational need, which means, a need for a mutual ideal structuring of the relationship by both participants, therapist as well as patient. We are neither dealing here only with the patient‘s need for the therapist's unilateral structuring of the relationship. Also it is for example not a patient‘s unilateral need for a therapist to structure the relationship in ideal forms with unilateral mirroring, idealizing and so on, nor are we faced here - to give two other examples - with patients‘ needs to get help in managing aggressive impulses projected to the therapist emanating from the death instinct, or sexual or aggressive impulses.

Communicative authors have repeatedly shown that the same group of patients, derivatively communicating patients, does not only communicate its strong unconscious needs for ideally structured therapeutic relationships, but at the same time may specifically express deep anxiety, shame and guilt regarding ideally structured therapeutic relationships. This seems to stand in open contrast to the first part of a communicative motivational theory formulated above.

Communicative theory accounts for this as follows: Since all neurotic patients have been traumatized in infancy by some kind of chronic or acute deviations from the ideal frame on part of their most important relational persons, i.e. their parents, siblings or any other persons, secure frame conditions are the more alarming the harder patients had to suffer from the self-serving modifications of the ideal frame by the environment in their infancy. Therefore their anxiety, shame, or guilt increases each time therapeutic treatment approaches one more element of the ideal frame. That means, their anxiety increases the more they regress, respectively, the closer they get to their unconscious wishes for such ideal configurations of human relations by living it up in the therapeutic situation. Offering such patients a further element of the ideal frame is followed first by derivative validation but directly afterwards by derivatives which express the secured-frame affects, i.e. the offer is derivatively portrayed by shame and guilt related images and anxiety images of enclosures ranging to death-related narratives.

These clinical facts show the patients‘ strong motivation to regress to moments of ideal human relationships now in order to overcome their unconscious secured-frame-affects, by giving the therapist the very derivatives he needs to interpret to these patients their specific anxieties, shame and guilt regarding ideally structured human relationships, which have been activated in the psychoanalytic situation.

This element of the theory and practice of communicative psychoanalytic psychotherapy furnishes us with a second part of communicative motivational theory:

Derivatively communicating patients come into therapy with strong unconscious motivations to overcome their unconscious anxiety, shame, and guilt reactions vis a vis  ideally structured human relationships.

That is to say, first of all patients are unconsciously motivated to regress in this specific way to be cured. As regards regression it has been pointed out before that other motivational theories stress completely different unconscious needs and aims as primary in psychotherapy.

Non derivative communicators:

The group of non-derivatively communicating patients react to an offer of ideal frame conditions with manifest efforts to change the frame in a direction leading away from the ideal. They make manifest demands on the therapist to draw back his offer of elements of the ideal frame at the beginning of or during therapy. Regarding these patients Langs spoke of expression by projective identification. Let us listen to Langs once again talking about the motives of these patients: They, i.e patients whose mode of communication Langs called the Type B & C mode, „create incessant pressures on the therapist through demands for deviation, and through pathological projective identification of a highly toxic and disturbing nature that are often difficult to contain and metabolize toward interpretation. Consequently they hold the therapist very badly and make it very difficult for the therapist to hold them. They wish primarily to establish a pathological symbiosis or parasitic relationship with the therapist in order to dump into him or her much of their own highly primitive and threatening inner disturbance, and to seal off that which remains. ... They appear to be involved in primitive attacks on the therapist ... and in massive efforts at riddance of psychic pain and tension. ... These patients bring with them the need to destroy the ideal therapeutic-holding environment and therapist and they have a deep and terrible dread of a meaningful therapeutic relationship. ... Most of these convictions are transference-based. ... The patient is in a nearly hopeless dilemma. ... based on unconscious highly traumatic and disturbing actual experiences with early parental figures and consequent Introjekt ... these patients experience interpretive-framework-management efforts by the therapist ... as dangerous“(1982, p. 709-711).

Here again Langs implicitly makes use of a classical, respectively Kleinian  motivational theory: the patient is  - transference-based - motivated to establish a pathological symbiosis or parasitic relationship with the therapist. Based on envy and dread, he brings with himself into therapy the need to destroy both the ideal therapeutic-holding environment and the therapist. These are images of patients primarily driven on by their aggressive and death instincts. On the other hand its seems clear from the remark about „unconscious, highly traumatic and disturbing actual experiences with early parental figures and consequent Introjekt“ that by taking into account the genesis  of those drive motivations Langs also tends towards a motivational theory whose motives are socially mediated and unconsciously created by introjection. For derivatively communicating patients Langs has shown that unconsciously they constantly monitor the qualities of the frame relationship and inform their therapists derivatively on the quality of the frame, regardless of whether these are ideal or rather deviant. Thus they inform therapists both of their strong unconscious need for ideal frame conditions and of their anxieties, shame and guilt regarding ideally structured human relationships, hoping to get the help from the therapist enabling them to restore the ideal frame, which means resolving their neurotic problems.

Langs does not see the non-derivative communications of patients as specific expressions of the wish to get the therapist's much needed help enabling them to manifestly tolerate the unconsciously wished for ideal relational structures, i.e. to resolve their neurotic problems.

The clinical finding of derivatively communicating patients‘ unconscious strong needs for ideal frame conditions and consequently their need to be cured may be extended to the following tentative hypothesis: independent of their derivative or non-derivative ways of communicating and quite compatible with the clinical material gained with the help of the psychoanalytic method, patients‘ communications are always in the unconscious service to get better. The same goes for the finding, that derivatively communicating patients supervise the therapist showing him whether he is on the wrong or right track which in turn allows us to transfer that finding as a hypothesis in general to patients who communicate non-derivatively. To verify this hypothesis it seems however necessary to understand and evaluate the utterances of non-derivatively communicating patients in a different manner. By thinking of the clinical material of these patients as projective identifications, or efforts to get rid of unbearable tensions, or to establish a pathological symbiotic relationship, to destroy the ideal therapeutic-holding environment and so on, Langs restricts himself to just one way of imagining patients and conceptualizing their behavior and expressions. But if he does so, Langs thinks of patients no longer as primarily unconsciously wise communicators. Regarding the manifest communications of non-derivatively communicating patients one has to be careful not to confuse the manifest communications with their latent meanings. In view of the manifest massive pressure exerted by some patients on their therapists and the enormous emotional burden resting on the latter which in turn may bring about wishes for retaliation and revenge and stirs up feelings of being hurt and mortified on part of the therapists, it is hardly surprising that these patients are thought of as primitive aggressors and their manifest behavior is confused with their unconscious needs and intentions. Beyond these emotional difficulties therapists usually have with these patients and beyond the important difference regarding their mode of expressing themselves, the unconscious needs themselves may be the same: the search for cure and insight, expressed of course in their specific non-derivative mode of communication

Now the specificies of this unconscious mode to try to get genuine therapeutic help,.have to be clarified. I for one found some help with the Mt. Zion Research Group. They described the patient who „behaves in such a way as to arouse powerful feelings in the therapist, ... exerts a strong pull for the therapist to intervene, ... may make use of provocatively wild exaggerations, displays strange behavior by being provocatively boring, contemptuous, seductive ...“, in a word, they display all that behavior which puts  the therapist under pressure to change the frame away from the ideal. According to Weiss they do all of this with the unconscious intention and in accordance with an unconscious plan of falsifying their unconscious pathogenic believes which are the cause of their symptoms, disturbing attitudes and affects (Weiss, 1993, p. 95). It goes without saying that this kind of behavior is non-derivative communication, or as it is called in Langs‘  nomenclature, Type B and C communication. Weiss called the actions of patients, unconsciously trying to get help from the therapist in disconfirming their unconscious pathogenic beliefs, „testing“. The Mt. Zion research group was able to verify empirically that by testing patients unconsciously make efforts to get help from the therapist, who is unconsciously asked to help them disconfirm their pathogenic beliefs.

I am of the opinion that such an understanding of non-derivatively communicating patients corresponds much better to the empirical findings of communicative psychoanalysis since it takes into account both the unconscious knowledge and the unconscious wisdom of these patients regarding their own pathology and their unconscious capacities to find a way of getting the necessary therapeutic help and to try to do this in a specified way.

The clinical results of the Mt.Zion Group are even more important for communicative psychoanalysis: They hold that once the therapist has helped the testing patient to falsify a part of his pathogenic beliefs the patient will first respond by validating this and later on try again to put more rigorous tests and thereby disprove another part of his pathogenic beliefs with the help of the therapist. In communicative terms this is one more sign of the unconscious wisdom not only of derivatively communicating patients but also of non-derivatively communicating patients: They try harder by way of pressing the therapist to deviate from the ideal frame to get the needed therapeutic help by the therapist when they have been successful with this therapist in this same way just before and expressed that by validating derivatives, getting better and new insight.

The strong adaptive position of communicative psychoanalysis starts from the premise of a spiraling therapeutic process. For reasons primarily due to the communicative techniques of intervening the therapist will first try to understand the patient's communications as adaptive reactions to the therapists's interventions and other external triggers. As I hope to have shown with the quotations above, Langs, too, starts from the supposition that communication in the non-derivative mode may also be initiated by the patient, particularly if no other relevant adaptive context was activated by the therapist and if there was a permanent offer of ideal therapeutic relationship by the therapist, and at the same time a strong therapeutic need was felt by the patient. In a situation like this the patient will express his motives quite distinctly, i.e. his motive to overcome his pathogenic convictions and to be able to live in agreement with his ordinary desires, wishes, or needs.

This reformulated element of communicative psychoanalytic theory represents a third part of communicative motivational theory:

Non-derivatively communicating patients are unconsciously motivated to overcome their unconscious pathogenic convictions both in order to free themselves from them and their symptomatic consequences and to be able to follow their desirable goals. They do this by communicating in their specific mode: the non-derivative mode.

By means of these three parts I have spelled out a clinical communicative motivational theory. It deals with the fundamental aims of patients, explains the processes by which neuroses is produced and sustained and enables us to employ communicative therapeutic techniques with due regard to the patient’s communicative mode.1 

A genetic part of a communicative motivational theory

Any psychoanalytic theory needs, of course, a genetic part of a motivational theory which will now be formulated.

Communicative theory is a trauma theory.2 It starts from the assumption that neurotic patients were traumatized by some chronic or acute deviations from the ideally structured relations on part of their most important relational persons in their childhood. Bonac presented an outline for a communicative developmental theory (Bonac, 1994). She stressed the child‘s inborn capacity to unconsciously and veridically perceive interactions with others (Bonac 1994, p. 102) as one basic determinant of emotional development, healthy or pathological. That is to say, the clinical fact that patients wish for a secure frame is an inborn characteristic in the infant. A correlate of this is, the inborn wishes of the infant to develop and to grow.

The first element of this genetic part of communicative motivational theory states the infant‘s needs for ideally shaped relational structures. But I still have to state the particular needs or wishes the child brings into the relation so that they might be negotiated within this relationship. Furthermore, the vicissitudes of these wishes have to be clarified if confronted with deviant frame conditions by the relevant environment.

Communicative theory says very little about the wishes or needs or drives of the infant. The theory of the Mt. Zion research group will be of help in this regard, too. It states that children bring into the relation with their caregivers among other things the following normal desirable goals. They wish to depend on their parents, to remain separate from others and to be able to be independent of others including parents, to compete and to identify with parents, to get pleasure from certain body stimuli, to maintain their self-esteem, to be able to feel proud and to know all their own desires and aspiration. These are a few examples of the infinite number of goals that an infant might relinquish in his adaptive compliance with his important relational persons. But it is not specific basic needs, or drives, which constitute the beginning of a neurotic development. Any human need, discovered in therapy, might become the object of the child’s complying physical and emotional survival strategy and therefore any such ordinary need may be drawn into the child’s neurotic development.

Although Weiss maintains a most basic drive, i.e. the drive to survive adaptively, this drive is neither object nor starting-point for the formation of neuroses. Apart from asserting such a basic drive the theory sees no need to answer the question whether it is needs, or drives, or wishes, or instincts that are the driving impetus of psychic life. Also it is not considered necessary within the theory to set up a hierarchy of needs, or drives, or wishes.

Communicative psychoanalytic theory may adopt this partially. It fits well to its stressing infants’ unconscious evaluation of emotional relevant information of their caregivers and the many different reactions to these veridical perceptions. Infants comply with their parents regarding those specific aims which are not congruent enough with parental views. Their precipitations are to be found in what is called in the communicative model of the mind the deep unconscious fear/guilt subsystem (Langs, 1995). These parental views may be legions, but each of them has an equivalent in the infant, which means that any ordinary desirable goal can be the object of the child‘s neurotic development.

Yet, communicative theory has a slightly different idea of the way in which neuroses are produced than in the theory developed by Weiss. As Bonac put it, the infant unconsciously and veridically perceives „both the unconsciously intended and effected actions by the mother, within the scope of the reality that can be perceived with the current sensory / motor apparatus" (Bonac, 1994, p. 104). The infant then unconsciously forms by introjection both a pathogenic conviction of the dangerousness of ideally shaped relationships, which drives him into neurotic behavior and,  at the same time, an unconscious wish for ideally shaped relationships, which might bring him later, as a patient, into therapy.

Now I am in a position to formulate the genetic part of a communicative motivational theory:

The theory assumes a basic motivation to live by ideally shaped relationships as communicative practice found out again and again, which is reflected in the canon of ideal frame conditions. Within relations structured and shaped in this way the kinds and also the number of needs, as they are basically a function of the cultural environment, is unlimited. There is no necessity to postulate any basal needs, to imagine a hierarchy of needs and to think of needs which are fundamental and others which are derivative.

It was shown above how Langs, in accordance with some of the foregoing theories, assumed that the process of forming unconscious pathogenic Introjekt comes about with „instinctual drive expressions that are forbidden by the superego, and that create an internal conflict and a sense of anxiety and depression, against which the ego acts defensively ... ". This can now be rewritten: It is not that original impulses such as hatred, envy, greed and such, ultimately provoke symptomatic behavior. On the contrary, the genetic part of a motivational theory for the communicative approach spelled out now holds that all neurotic symptomatic behavior came about by the infant’s unconscious veridical perceptions of intended and effected actions by the emotionally relevant caregivers to whom infants pathologically adapt by way of complying and forming pathogenic unconscious convictions regarding one or more of their ordinary desirable goals, of themselves and of their caregivers. It further states in its clinical part of this motivational theory, that all neurotic behavior is held in place by specific unconscious convictions, that ideally shaped relations are dangerous, and/or humiliating and/or guilt provoking. But at the same time the patient, faced with an ideally or deviantly shaped therapeutic relationship, unconsciously strives to free himself from these unconscious convictions with it‘s concomitant grim affects and unconsciously does his very best to overcome them. He does so by derivatively or non-derivatively expressing his wish for, and anxiety about, ideal relations. At times of no activated prevailing adaptive context he does so by manifestly pressing the therapist to deviate from the ideal frame, to disconfirm his anticipated secured-frame affects.

Brian Quinn‘s proposal for „balanced interpretation(s) - which takes into account both the therapist‘s input and the patient‘s inner needs“ is still adequate. But the inner needs he has in mind when he speaks of „unconscious defensive and pathologically gratifying needs - and often unconscious needs for punishment“ are the needs of a Freudian drive theory, no longer in accordance with the empirical findings of communicative psychoanalysis.

Let me further elaborate on the genetic part of this communicative motivational theory by comparing it with the motivational theory of Slavin and Kriegmann. They assume the first motivational set to consist of all the normal desirable goals and aims of children. The authors imagine conflicts within the infant following one or more of these goals insofar as they are not congruent enough with parental views. They emphasize the fact that infants put these goals out of consciousness until they sense the opportunity to strive for them anew in order to protect themselves against oversocialization. To the authors, that kind of protection against oversocialisation does not seem secure enough because at the same time infants identify with certain aspects of parental behavior and views, and thereby seem to lose their personal identity. This seems to be the reason for Slavin and Kriemann to think of the second motivational set. Nevertheless, they exclusively consider the first motivational set relevant for psychotherapy (1998). The authors are convinced that infants are able to preserve by repression their version of reality that contains substantial subjective truth. Later, they will enact their repressed goals as a way to renew their developmental guidelines. Psychotherapy might be the way to re-negotiate with someone else, in this case the therapist, these repressed aims. The hypothesis of the repetition compulsion is of no relevance in their approach. From this it seems clear that the motivational theory of Slavin & Kriegmann resembles the one I have developed in this paper, although one important difference must be mentioned: They think infants require some intensely self-interested needs to resist society and to preserve their own identity. This sounds as if they are paying lip service to Freud inasmuch as this hypothesis does not affect the clinical work of the authors.

Communicative motivational theory does not require any presuppositions of that kind as the subject’s identity is already safeguarded by need for ideally shaped relationships with the relevant environment in combination with the capacity to unconsciously veridically evaluate the behavior and communications of this environment.

Selfpsychology resembles in its genetic aspect this model of communicative motivational theory. Selfpsychology reduces the number of normal desirable goals claiming that failure to meet precisely these desirable goals will prevent or seriously hinder psychic growth. The theory presented in this paper does not put any restrictions on the number of needs, nor does it set up a hierarchy of needs or postulates specific desirable needs whose fulfillment is the precondition for psychic growth.

One consequence for the communicative model of the mind is worth mentioning: What in communicative psychoanalysis is known as the deep unconscious wisdom system can now be extended to cover non-derivative communications, too. We are now in a position to grasp these communications not only as an expression of the patients’ pathology but just as much of their unconscious motives to have their pathogenic fear and guilt Introjekt disconfirmed, regarding the dangerousness of ideally shaped relations. Patients’ therapeutic work in a non-derivative mode implies their unconscious knowledge of their pathogenic convictions, their being traumatized in childhood and so on.

If the non-derivatively communicating patient, after validating an intervention, puts the therapist under much higher pressure, he unconsciously knows that his therapist might be able to help him better to falsify his pathogenic Introjekt. Thus the deep unconscious wisdom subsystem does not only work in antagonism but also in synergism with the deep fear/guilt subsystem.


Discussions concerning the motivational theory of psychoanalytic approaches have, up to the present, focused on the problem of which motivations are fundamental, and which needs are primary or secondary. For example, is the need for attachment a need in its own right or derivative of a more basic need, perhaps sexual needs, or is this specific sexual need in turn a derivative of the need for self-cohesion?

It seems obvious that in spite of the growth of empirical knowledge gained in suckling research there is no clear-cut answer to these questions. Desirable goals change with  time. Of course some goals may be important for every human being, no matter whether we are thinking of the needs that crystallized in the work of Freud, Stern, Klein or Lichtenberg, or the open list of needs found in the works of Selfpsychology. It remains a fact that so far no one has managed to show how the infinite normal of desirable goals can be reduced to just two to five basic needs or drives, and indeed, there seems to be no need for this.

The motivational theory presented here states:

1.  a genetic part:

1. 1. A basic motivation of human beings is to live by ideally shaped relationships, as communicative practice has found out again and again, which is laid down in the canon of ideal frame conditions. constituting the fundamentals of intrinsically healthy forms of human interaction, such as taking responsibility, keeping things private and confidential, having a frank and unbiased mind, dealing with people on the basis of fairness, equality and mutuality. Within a relationship structured and shaped in this way the kind and number of needs has no limits and is largely determined by the cultural environment.

1. 2. Regarding the neurosis producing process it states that all neurotic symptomatic behavior results from the infants unconscious veridical perceptions of intended and effected frame deviant actions by the emotional relevant caregivers to which the infant pathologically adapts by way of complying and forming pathogenic unconscious convictions/Introjekt regarding one or more of its ordinary desirable goals. In this respect the theory is a trauma theory. The theory further states that all neurotic behavior is held in place by specific unconscious convictions, that ideally shaped relations are dangerous and/or humiliating and/or guilt provoking.

2. a clinical part:

2.1. Patients have neurotic motivations to live in agreement with their deep unconscious anxiety, guilt and shame affects. In the communicative model of the mind this part of the system may be called the “deep unconscious fear, shame and guilt subsystem“.

2.2. Patients are unconsciously strongly motivated to overcome their deep unconscious pathogenic convictions and concomitant anxieties, guilt and shame affects. This motivation is part of the deep unconscious wisdom subsystem which does not work in isolation but in synergism with the deep unconscious anxiety, guilt and shame system.

2.3. Patients are strongly motivated to overcome their unconscious pathogenic convictions either

2.3.1. by expressing derivatively their need for ideally shaped relations at the same time as expressing derivatively their secured-frame affects or

2.3.2. by expressing this need by testing their convictions with, and with the help of, the therapist; they do this whilst communicating. non-derivatively

In concluding, it turns out that the motivational theory developed here restricts its range first and foremost to the motivations of patients undergoing psychotherapy, and second, in taking up the new insights into the processes that produce neuroses, to those needs that may become the point of departure for a neurotic development. It makes no attempt whatsoever to meet the high demands of Freud’s own and almost all other schools of psychoanalysis that it is not only clinical phenomena but apart from that the life of human beings in all its forms, utterances and expressions, including especially its cultural aspects, can be shown to result from a few basal motivations.


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(NOTE: This pre-printed article has since been published as original article in the hard-copy journal: International Journal of Communicative Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy (IJCPP), Vol. 13, Nos. 3-4, pp. 48 - 60)


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