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Rizzuto, A. (1997). Affect, Object, And Character Structure. By Morton Kissen. Madison, CT: International Universities Press, 1995, 266 pp., $46.00.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 45:978-980.

(1997). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 45:978-980

Affect, Object, And Character Structure. By Morton Kissen. Madison, CT: International Universities Press, 1995, 266 pp., $46.00.

Review by:
Ana-María Rizzuto

Morton's Kissen's Affect, Object, and Character Structure attends to the significance of positive affects in psychic life, particularly in the clinical situation. Kissen observes that “positive affects (joy, exhilaration, excitement, buoyant hopefulness, etc.) had very little place in Freud's conceptualizations” (p. xii). The purpose of the book is “to explore the issue of integrative and communicative difficulties with positive affects from a contemporary object relational and characterological perspective” (p. xiii). Kissen affirms that “just as any object relational configuration has an affective component, every affective state has an object relational component” (p. xiii). Patients with character pathology demonstrate in the exploration of their complex object-relational configurations their inability to use positive affects for information, self-soothing, or communication. In agreement with Jacobson, Kernberg, McDougall, and Sandler, Kissen sees affects as “linkages between self- and object representations” (p. 12). Affects “link the inner self and object world through essentially coherent and useful signals and bits of information with regard to values, needs, wishes, fantasies, self, object and body representations” (p. 14).

The intrapsychic functions of objects cannot be carried out if the caretaker does not provide empathic attunement and acceptance of most of the child's affects. The object must also help the child give words to somatically experienced affects. When this happens, affect becomes available “at a verbal rather than somatic level” (p. 20). Kissen recommends that in clinical work the therapist assess affects by observing their five functional schemata: signal, hedonic, activating, expressive, and cognitive (pp. 21-22).

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