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Arlow, J.A. (1977). Affects and the Psychoanalytic Situation. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 58:157-170.

(1977). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 58:157-170

Affects and the Psychoanalytic Situation

Jacob A. Arlow

A discussion of affects in the psychoanalytic situation is most timely. In spite of the rich literature on the subject, there is widespread conviction, reiterated in the journals, that our understanding of affects is unsatisfactory. Repeatedly we hear that we do not have an adequate theory of affects. This is indeed a striking conclusion, since the study of affects has always occupied a central position in psychoanalytic theory and practice.

André Green (this issue) has undertaken the challenging task of summarizing the literature on this subject for this Congress. Since we can rely on his remarkable ability to organize and integrate the material, and since some consideration of affect is involved in practically every clinical experience, I will omit referring to many of the notable contributions to the subject and will concentrate instead on some of the problems relating to affect in the psychoanalytic situation. This may serve to establish a frame of reference for discussion at this meeting.

The early development of psychoanalytic theory reflects the important role assigned to affects in psychodynamics and psychopathology. Freud's major premises, according to Strachey (1962), emerged in connexion with his consideration of the function of affect. A brief review of the evolution of these concepts is introduced at this point in order to indicate how they influenced subsequent evaluation and discussion of affects.

Freud approached psychology from a tradition of biological investigation in which ideas of tension reduction and transformation of energy were fundamental.

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