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Alexander, J. (1960). The Psychology of Bitterness. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 41:514-520.

(1960). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 41:514-520

The Psychology of Bitterness

James Alexander

Psycho-analysis began as an affect psychology, as witnessed by the early Breuer-Freud emphasis on phenomena such as catharsis and abreaction. Then psycho-analytic interest spread in many directions, never to return in the theoretical and investigative sense to the centrality of the importance of affects in psycho-analytic psychology, except for sporadic ventures into this area. In clinical practice, of course, affects remained always of central importance, for as Marjorie Brierley (3) pointed out, patients always forced this upon analysts. Bitterness and many other affects remain psycho-analytically unelucidated, it apparently being taken for granted that their nature is self-evident. Definitive attempts have been made to examine certain affects; for instance, Freud (7) and Abraham (1), (2) dealt with depression or melancholia. Freud (8) also dealt comprehensively with anxiety, and recently Lewin (10) did the same with elation. I could cite more instances, such as Freud (6) on jealousy, Greenson (9) on boredom, etc., but I want to point out that our science of psycho-analysis lacks an adequate general theory of the affects or affectivity, as well as studies of some of the specific affects.

There are several important aspects of affectivity. Affects are the essential human qualities of inner experience. Although animals also have affects, these are much less complex than in the human. Affects are not atomic in the Greek sense of being incapable of further analysis. The topography of the affects suffers a good deal of ambiguity in psycho-analytic theory, but the preponderant view seems to be that affects are largely or entirely conscious phenomena.

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