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Jacobson, J.G. (1994). Signal Affects and our Psychoanalytic Confusion of Tongues. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 42:15-42.

(1994). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 42:15-42

Signal Affects and our Psychoanalytic Confusion of Tongues

Jacob G. Jacobson, M.D.


Difficulties psychoanalysts of different points of view have in communicating with one another are reviewed. Reexamination of the structural theory distinguishes the tripartite theory of 1923 from the signal affect model of 1926; the latter concept is traced through the post-Freudian relational points of view. This signal affect model provides a base for what the author sees as a core commonality among the diverse current theories, as well as a basis for sharper, more empirically arguable differentiation of the divergences and incompatibilities among them. The interest in and acceptance, in recent years, of Ferenczi's contributions in his 1933 paper on confusion of tongues reflect a shift in our views of psychoanalytic technique over the intervening years, toward an interactional view of the psychoanalytic process. The relational points of view have been instrumental in this shift, by direct contributions, and indirectly by challenging and inspiring the classical viewpoint to develop and change. The relational points of view, in addition to focusing on different contents, also prescribe differences in technical approach and in the climate within which an analysis is conducted, presenting valuable alternatives in clinical work. Finally, arguments are offered in favor of clinicians using multiple theoretical points of view for access to the varied clinical tasks demanded by analytic work.

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