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Matthis, I. (2005). Emotional life: A perspective close to the body. Scand. Psychoanal. Rev., 28(1):11-21.

(2005). Scandinavian Psychoanalytic Review, 28(1):11-21

Emotional life: A perspective close to the body

Iréne Matthis, Ph.D., M.D.

Emotional life is a dynamic complexity where the concept of affect allows us to elucidate the relation between body and mind. The “affective matrix” denotes the potentially meaningful part of the structurally unconscious, what Freud called “supposedly somatic concomitant phenomena” and named “truly psychical”, in “An outline of psychoanalysis”, 1940. In these basic processes, the affective matrix is the potentiality of drives to respond to stimuli either negatively or positively. By creating emotional tensions and feelings that we connect with positive or negative ideas, it thus plays a crucial role in our experience of reality. It also affects our bodies, giving rise to somatic symptoms, the psychic meaning of which we tend to overlook. Bodily phenomena are, nevertheless, as meaningful as all other human expressions, but, like dreams, they have to be interpreted. Starting from Freud's article on disturbances of vision, case studies and modern neuro-scientific research, the author argues that similar, potentially meaningful psychic processes are at work in the case of somatic as well as mental illnesses. In this context, dissociation will be defined and ascribed a central role in this process.

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