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Westen, D. (1997). Response. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 78:1218-1219.

(1997). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 78:1218-1219


Drew Westen

Dear Sir

In reading Dr Spezzano’s letter, and rereading my remarks to which he refers regarding his thoughtful treatise on affect in psychoanalysis, I hope I did not inadvertently leave readers with a largely negative impression of his contributions. As I noted early in the article, Spezzano is one of the theorists who has been working toward a more comprehensive understanding of the role of affect in motivation in psychoanalysis, along with Kernberg, Sandler, and others.

I may be misreading Spezzano’s book, but I did sense in it a conflict familiar in psychoanalytic writing between two goals. One is to develop a sensible theory, in this case a psychoanalytic theory of affect. The other is to ‘extract a theory of affect from the psychoanalytic literature’ (1993, p. xi). As Spezzano writes later in the book, ‘Freud was on the brink of developing the reading of his theory of affects that I am undertaking here, but he did not read it as radically as I want to read it. It seems to me, in other words, as if Freud was on the way to where I want to take him’ (p. 61). This is a conflict with which all of us have had to deal since Freud, which reflects both the necessity for humility when standing on the shoulders of a giant, but also a dynamic in the analytic community that I think has been bad for psychoanalysis, namely a confusion of the question of ‘is it true?’ with the questions of ‘is it analytic?’ or ‘is it what Freud meant?’ I did not mean to single out Spezzano in this respect, although I could see how my comments may have read that way.

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