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Spezzano, C. (1997). Towards A Clinically And Empirically Sound Theory Of Motivation. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 78:1216-1218.

(1997). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 78:1216-1218

Towards A Clinically And Empirically Sound Theory Of Motivation

Charles Spezzano

Dear Sir

Drew Westen (IJPA, 78: 521-548) makes a number of crucial points about affect and motivation and he carefully documents his sources including my own book on affect theory. While Westen adds significantly to our understanding of the issues his efforts to distinguish his position from that of others runs the risk of missing the extent to which a consensus on affect and motivation is growing within psychoanalysis.

His central proposition in this regard is ‘The attempt to regulate affect—to minimise unpleasant feelings and to maximise pleasant ones—is the driving force in human motivation’ (p. 542) and that ‘we stand on clinically and empirically firm ground to suppose that whatever motives move us do so because of their affective significance to us’ (p. 543). An important step that must be taken to fully establish this position and one, as I argued in 1994, that is ‘the antithesis of Freud’s key theory of affect’ (Spezzano, 1994, ‘A relational perspective on anxiety’, in Anxiety as Symptom and Signal, ed. S. Roose and R. Glick, Hillsdale, NJ: Analytic Press, p. 132) is that ‘the sexual excitement and rage—that, in turn, lead to so much human anxiety—are not understood to be flowing constantly out of libidinal and aggressive drives. Sexual excitement results from certain bodily activities of the child and out of relational events. It is an intrinsically sought after experience.

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