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Green, A. (1977). Conceptions of Affect. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 58:129-156.

(1977). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 58:129-156

Conceptions of Affect

André Green


By way of summary, it can be said that Freud's study of affect started from a point of view founded on coherent symptomatic groupings of neurotic symptoms, as a criterion for a discriminating study of the different vicissitudes of representations and affect, in the realms of the Conscious and Unconscious. As his work unfolded and his clinical experience grew, he progressively came to reverse the balance, in his final drive theory and the second topographical model, in favour of affects in relation to representations, as sell as extending the role of anxiety and differentiating aspects of it. Above all, he began to think of the drive as more and more independent

of the idea of content. If it is true that he came to recognize the value of the notion of quality (in pleasurable and unpleasurable states) late in the day; the economic point of view, on the other hand, was to be constantly recalled, so that its importance should not be neglected. Finally, his last period of work was to be marked by an insistence on the primitive distress of the young child, on the general psychological immaturity of the ego at birth and on a shift of emphasis towards the primary object, which, in the first part of his work, was conceived primarily as an object of pleasure (and a force for repression) and subsequently became an object of survival, for building the ego up against the disorganizing power of the drives when it failed against them. Nevertheless, Freud remains faithful to the end to the opposition of representation and affect.

In the second period, a new way of seeing the problems developed. The development of categories of syndromes no longer constituted the pertinent boundaries for evaluating psychic functioning. If allusion is still made to them, it is in order to stress the differences between the classical neuroses and clinical aspects of modern practice, where differentiated groups of syndromes carry less interest than types of functioning which are no longer distinguished in nosographical terms but according to general types of structure (character neuroses, limited states, depression, psychotic or psychosomatic structures, etc.). Whilst reference continues to be made to the substance of the second topographical model, clinical formulations are more often made in terms of object relations and defence mechanisms. The distinction between affect and representations gave way to another distinction, implicitly considered to be more in accord with the analytic situation—that between cathexis and unconscious fantasy, whilst one theme emerged predominant: the study of the prehistory of the mother–child relationship, examined from different angles and in different ways, but with affective factors to the fore.

Finally, the concept of the self emerged from various directions, having been, so to speak, suppressed by the object-relations approach. Similarly, without denying its specificity, the function of fantasy is connoted by that of experience. Both are found again in the setting of communication between analyst and patient and inside each of them, which obliges us to consider the value, function, effects and specific modes of the affective exchanges at the core of mental functioning, and of the changes which appear desirable in the context of transformations expected in analyses. But then the question arises about the different sorts of meaning carried in the material, the different means of transmitting them, and the type of response which they induce or call for in the analyst. All of which comes down to three questions: What is the most appropriate form of response to the patient's affective communication, in order to secure better intrapsychic communication in him? What sort of logic is implied by this type of exchange on both sides? What is the connexion between affect in this relationship and what might be called affective logic?

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