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Bell, D. (1995). Emotion and Unconscious Phantasy: Chairman's Remarks on the Papers by Andre Green and Rosine Jozef Perelberg. Brit. J. Psychother., 12(2):222-228.

(1995). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 12(2):222-228

Emotion and Unconscious Phantasy: Chairman's Remarks on the Papers by Andre Green and Rosine Jozef Perelberg

David Bell

The title of our conference today is, I think, deliberately ambiguous: it refers to both a conceptual problem, namely, ‘how do we theorize affect’ and to a clinical issue ‘how do we learn to experience our feelings, without disowning them or being overwhelmed by them, and thus become able to think about them’. Green's paper concerns the former and Perelberg's the latter. In this discussion of these two papers I will first make some comments that derive from a philosophical perspective and then discuss the two papers in turn. In concluding I will suggest that some of the theoretical difficulties raised by Green can be overcome by utilizing the approach developed by Bion, to some extent, Perelberg's paper demonstrates.

Freud's discoveries have had great import for the philosophy of mind and, reciprocally, work arising from within the philosophy of mind has, I believe, great relevance for psychoanalytic theories - not for deciding between theories, or justifying a particular theory, but for understanding what is logically, as opposed to psychologically, entailed by holding a particular theory.

Feelings are clearly not the same thing as emotions and, although it might seem plausible to identify emotion with feeling or feeling states, it is clearly not the case that this works in reverse. There are many feelings which are clearly not emotions - such as the feeling that ‘I got it wrong’, or that ‘that is John’, or ‘that isn't by Mozart’.

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