Understanding Freud’s Eros and Thanatos with Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Art by Takato Yamamoto.

Eros : life instinct, our life force or  will to live. Characterized by a desire to create life, with productivity and unity being of primary importance.

Thanatos : death drive, our aim to destroy and undo. To restore what is living to an inorganic state.

Taking into consideration Sigmund Freud’s explanations of the life and death instincts in Beyond the Pleasure Principle, I thought I’d share some of my nerdy pop culture allusions that capture the essence of these often misunderstood psychological terms. And oh! Offer some of my own Goth Girl insights.

Faith Lehane : wild, destructive, unbridled, set to destroy


Buffy Summers : life-giving, maintaining, balanced, seeks peace and unity


“The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?” Edgar Allan Poe



Two slayers, diametrically opposed forces, that exist simultaneously and when successfully brought together achieve infinite potential. According to Psychoanalytic thought (Freud-style), we comprise of both the death (Thanatos) and life (Eros) drives : in the Buffyverse that would be represented by Buffy and Faith.


Successful management of these drives and their impulses is what contributes to a healthy, well-adjusted human being. If you’re a Buffy geek (like me) then you know that the two slayers find a sense of unity towards the end of the last (and seventh) season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a unity that puts their frustrating to-and-fro relation at ease.


So this got me thinking…we are all Buffys and Faiths. These slayers oscillate inside us constantly. Sometimes they create chaos, other times they seek redemption. Light and dark. Hope and despair. Creation and annihilation. One cannot exist without the other. To deny these aspects of ourselves is to live in pretentious ignorance. To avoid these aspects from surfacing in a healthy manner, leads to further regression of self and an inability to find a creative, loving space of possibility. That’s where I disagree that Eros alone is responsible for love and creativity. We need Thanatos. The two instincts balance each other out and open up those spaces for dialogue: for questioning, for pushing ourselves and finding solutions.


Not all of us have the blessings of an unseen slayer force guiding us to achieve our highest potential. So take some time in your day to muse over these insights. Grab a cup of coffee and allow yourself to enjoy some much needed contemplation. Are you finding ways to satisfy all your instinctual needs? Or are you living half a life? Are you successful on your quest for balance? Or are you sitting nervously on a barrier expecting self-imposed containment to give you all the answers?

My slayer advice: Live. Live bravely. Live honestly. Live creatively.

Video via Jess9191 on YouTube.



Published by

Kamalini Govender

I'm that girl that looks badass in her black boots reading Gothic Psychoanalytic Lit but really just wants to pew pew pew with someone.

6 thoughts on “Understanding Freud’s Eros and Thanatos with Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

  1. Although aware of the existence of “Buffy”, I’ve never followed the show, so the comparison somehow eludes me, but I can agree on the need of balance between two opposing and equal forces – not unlike darkness and light, where one needs the other to exist. Quite a thought-provoking post, thanks for sharing! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading! 🙂 You should definitely give Buffy a try at some point. Some people say they can’t get into the show…but they’re just inconsequential, lol. Totally being biased based on my rather deep Buffy love 😀 Opposing forces within ourselves offer us enlightenment…let me know if you have any further insights on the topic. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh wow, I loved this post! I’d never thought of Buffy and Faith in precisely that way, but you’re so right. I’m rewatching the series right now and am at the episode where they switch bodies–I’m very impressed how they played those roles so convincingly. I love the images you used here and like you said, I think giving characters a shadow figure–that character that represents what they might be if they fell–can be powerful, but it’s extra powerful when a show/book explores that relationship in a multifaceted way, as Buffy did, instead of just setting the two up as enemies through and through.

    Great post!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! 🙂 I get super excited when I find people that appreciate the Buffyverse 🙂 There have been a lot of scholastic pursuits into the multifaceted world of Buffy. It’s amazing how complex the show and its characters are! Thanks for stopping by…stay ‘five by five’ 😉


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