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Löfgren, L.B. (1968). Psychoanalytic Theory of Affects. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 16:638-650.

(1968). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 16:638-650

Psychoanalytic Theory of Affects

L. Börje Löfgren, M.D.

The discussion was opened by Charles Brenner, who emphasized how Freud was concerned with the importance of emotions from the very start of psychoanalysis, and how also a concern with affect and emotions permeates psychoanalytic theory, as evidenced by the very term "emotional illness" and by the emphasis on the importance of emotional versus theoretical insight. Freud linked the affect of pain or unpleasure to an increase of drive tension and the affect of pleasure to the discharge of drive tension. Thus, he greatly enlarged our concept of the scope of the role of affect in man's emotional life. A crucial contribution to the discussion of affect is Freud's Inhibitions, Symptoms, and Anxiety (1926), where he formulated his last anxiety theory. Since that time anxiety has been extensively discussed. The present panel, however, will discuss other affects as well.

From the last panel on affects, in 1952, there arose two major contributions to psychoanalytic theory, one Edith Jacobson's paper on "The Affects and Their Pleasure-Unpleasure Qualities in Relation to the Psychic Discharge Processes," and the other a paper by David Rapaport entitled "On the Psychoanalytic Theory of Affects." Brenner remarked that Rapaport expressly avoided reference to the subjective aspect of affects. He felt that this approach limits the value of Rapaport's contribution, as does Rapaport's emphasis on theory for theory's sake, as though a theory must be elegant to be useful. From Jacobson's paper Brenner quoted her concept that mounting drive tension and drive discharge are not incompatible with one another, at least in the complex mental functioning of the adult, whence the usefulness of considering the net result of the energic flux within the mind. Thus, three broad classes of affects or feelings emerge, according to Jacobson—feelings associated with tension, those associated with excitement, and those associated with relief of tension.

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