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Joffe, W.G. Sandler, J. (1968). Comments on the Psychoanalytic Psychology of Adaptation, with Special Reference to the Role of Affects and the Representational World. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 49:445-454.

(1968). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 49:445-454

Comments on the Psychoanalytic Psychology of Adaptation, with Special Reference to the Role of Affects and the Representational World

W. G. Joffe and Joseph Sandler


In the first phase of Freud's psychoanalytic thinking he elaborated a model of pathogenesis based on adaptation to an external traumatic event or to the memory traces of such an event. The early model of the neuroses can be defined in terms of pathogenic adaptation to the aftereffects of a particular reality event or to experiences deriving from the real world. The model of hysteria at this time was that its manifestations were an outcome of affect generated by an external traumatic experience occurring while the subject was in a hypnoid state of diminished consciousness. The affectively-charged memories were warded off as incompatible with consciousness and the hysterical symptoms emerged at a later time as symbolic representations of the repressed memories. Cure was through catharsis of the affect. Central to this pre-drive phase of Freud's theory was the role of affect as a response to any sort of stimulation. Although "affect" had for him a number of different meanings during this phase, it was mainly equated with a sum of excitation which was displaceable and sought discharge. It is of interest that Freud saw the dissociation of the affectively-charged memories of the trauma as an active process rather than as a reflection of weakness of the mind, the view of dissociation held by his French psychiatric teachers. Active dissociation (seen as one of the forms of defence) could thus be regarded as a form of adaptation to internal processes set in train by external reality.

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