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Mayers, A.N. (1952). Meetings of the New York Psychoanalytic Society. Psychoanal Q., 21:459-460.

(1952). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 21:459-460

Meetings of the New York Psychoanalytic Society

Albern N. Mayers


The purpose of this paper is to clarify the concepts of affect from a structural point of view. There has long been a need for a consistent theory of affect which psychoanalysis has so far failed to develop: for more precise definition of emotions, affects and feelings; for more precise explanation of their nature and origin; for a more profound understanding of their qualities.

Freud distinguished between affects and feelings. The term affects refers to a whole set of psychophysiological discharges which are physiological in so far as they express themselves in body changes and psychological in so far as they are perceived as feelings.

After a discussion of Read and Rapaport's contributions, the following conclusion was reached. There is no reason why psychoanalysis should not adopt or use more often the term 'emotions'. The term emotion might be used to designate the whole complex set of psychological, physiological and motor manifestations. Such a definition would include both affective motor phenomena and behavior patterns for which the term 'affect equivalent' has been customarily employed; also all the neurophysiological aspects that several decades of research have gradually discovered. Emotion should include the mild as well as the more violent states. Affects and feelings might be limited to psychological manifestations.

The site of the origin of affects and their relation to instinctual drive was changed by Freud. In the early papers the development of all affects was attached to the system Cs—to the ego—with anxiety as the only exception. However, in his later theory he places the genesis of anxiety in the ego, not in the unconscious.

In the classification of affects almost insurmountable barriers are encountered. The following classification utilizes structural concepts which are in part derived from Glover and Brierley: 1. Simple and compound affect arising from intrasystematic tension: a. affects that represent instinctual drives proper, that is, those that arise directly from tensions in the id, such as sexual excitement, rage; b. affects that develop directly from tensions in the ego, such as fear of reality and physical pain, as well as components of the more enduring feelings, such as object love and hate, or thing interests. 2.

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