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(1992). Editorial. Free Associations, 3(2):165-166.

(1992). Free Associations, 3(2):165-166


What role do emotions play in psychoanalytic work? It is a question that has been answered in many ways, utilizing either a classic cathartic model in which emotions are ‘released’ or more complex classificatory models based on the forms of ‘mood disorder’ set out in DSM3-R, in which fundamental emotional patterns are assumed (such as bi-polar and depressive syndromes). But these accounts often fight shy of speculation on the basic human condition raised by emotions in general; speculation prompted perhaps by Freud's use of the term ‘helplessness’ (Hilflo-sigkeit) to describe both the infant's primal relationship to all outside stimulus (motorische Hilflosigkeit) and the infantile first emotional response to this situation, usually based on the feeling of lack of control (psychische Hilflosigkeit). In this issue of the journal, two papers address precisely this level of enquiry with respect to the phenomenon of crying: Craig Powell examines the relationship between poetry and loss and weeping, and suggests there is ‘a basic sadness at the heart of words’; Stephen Kurtz locates tears a little later in emotional development, namely in the recognition of the absence of love in the family dynamic, and adds autobiographical detail to explain the importance of crying in psychoanalysis.

Contrary to popular cultural stereotypes which portray the British as cold and rather unemotional, British psychoanalysts have given special attention to the role of emotions in individual development. In the forefront here, of course, was the work of Donald Winnicott. The Free Associations interview in this issue is with the late Clare Winnicott, his widow, and gives an intimate account of precisely the emotional context in which Donald Winnicott lived and formed his inimitable psychoanalytic technique. Another British psychoanalyst who awarded emotions pride of place was Wilfred Bion, who argued that all human thought, whatever the field, originated in the transformation of emotional experience.

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