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Castelnuovo-Tedesco, P. (1974). Toward a Theory of Affects. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 22:612-625.

(1974). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 22:612-625

Toward a Theory of Affects

Pietro Castelnuovo-Tedesco, M.D.

Leo Rangell opened the session by reminding the audience of the multiple functions of affects: as expression (of internal forces), as communication (to external objects), as signal (mainly internal, but also external), and as symptom. In a brief historical parenthesis, he recalled that in 1952 he had served as Reporter at the first panel on affects of this Association, when David Rapaport and Edith Jacobson had presented their now classic papers, and where there had been lively division of opinion over whether a psychoanalytic theory of affects yet existed. Rangell believes that today, 20 years later, we still do not have a complete psychoanalytic formulation regarding affects and, moreover, that any comprehensive theory of affects needs to include the physiologic segment as well as the psychoanalytic. For this reason he had opted for parsimony and had titled the panel "Toward a Theory of Affects."

In his position paper, which followed immediately, Rangell spoke on "Affects and the Signal Process." He began by discussing the affect of anxiety, pointing out that, contrary to the views of some, anxiety should not be regarded as a special dynamic resting on a separate mechanism, but that in fact the theory of anxiety sheds the most light on a general theory of affects. "I cannot imagine," said Rangell, "a separate spigot named 'anxiety' in the psychic or neural systems that is not part of the spectrum from pleasurable to unpleasurable affects." He thus clearly expressed his preference for attempting to formulate a general theory of affects along the lines of Freud's theories of anxiety, especially his second theory (1926) with its emphasis on the signal concept. "I add today that the signal function of anxiety applies to all affects, to all human feeling. This is no small or minor extension.

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