How do French people usually describe the notion 'the self-destructive streak in me' as below?

  • I just can't seem to get out of this vicious circle of constantly and consciously making bad decisions in life. The self-destructive streak in me always draws me to the worse choice of the two.

2 Answers 2


It seems to me that the French do not recognise in their psychological make-up much of a self-destructive streak, at least not themselves as lay psychologists; if this tendency exists it is not very important; nevertheless, the concept is not new as it is due to Freud, and it is known certainly to the French medical world.

"L'instinct de mort" corresponds to "the self destructive streak"; you can also say "la pulsion de mort" (encyclopédie libre). However, a term that is no less natural and a better literal translation is "la tendance à l'autodestruction" (see here).

The sentence could be rendered as follows;

  • Il semble que je ne peux tout simplement pas sortir de ce cercle vicieux qui consiste à prendre en permanence et de façon consciente des mauvaises décisions. Ma tendance à l'autodestruction me pousse vers le pire des deux choix.
  • Incidentally, in French, the idiomatic phrase is "prendre une mauvaise décision", not "faire une mauvaise décision". It's the other way around from how it works in English: "make a bad decision", not "take a bad decision". Commented Apr 19, 2019 at 14:11
  • I don't know if the same nuance that I see in English (but I might be wrong) between "streak" & "tendency" (ie, "streak"=an element/trace/dash of a specified kind in someone's character vs "tendency"=an inclination/predisposition toward a particular characteristic or type of behavior) also exists in French, but if it does, MAYBE something like "mon côté [autodestructeur/tion/tif]" would be closer to "streak in me" than "ma tendance à" (but OP does use "ALWAYS draws me," which would, imo. jive better with "my tendency to" than with "my...streak," so you're probably right, regardless!).
    – Papa Poule
    Commented Apr 19, 2019 at 16:14
  • @PapaPoule Considering expert point of view, i.e. that goes beyond a plain point of view which emanates from popularisation, both "tendance" and "côté" are wanting in their identification of the phenomenon; one should strictly speak of nothing else but "pulsion", not to be confused with "instinct" albeit general culture tells us the contrary (see for instance this blog). (champ 1)
    – LPH
    Commented Apr 19, 2019 at 16:56
  • @PapaPoule I believe "mes pulsions autodestructives" would be the safest bet if we wanted to remain faithfull to the current state of understanding, at the risk of sounding somewhat too technical. (fin)
    – LPH
    Commented Apr 19, 2019 at 23:18

Mon côté obscur is also an option. :)

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