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Green, A. (1999). On Discriminating and not Discriminating Between Affect and Representation. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 80(2):277-316.

(1999). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 80(2):277-316

On Discriminating and not Discriminating Between Affect and Representation

André Green

The topic involves two issues. They can be related either to different clinical pictures or to divergent opinions about the same clinical facts. But the above mentioned opposition can be found in Freud's work. Listening in analysis differentiates between situations where the distinction of affect and representation is blurred within the general frame of communication and others where this distinction imposes itself because of the critical or chronic character of the predominance of affect. Problems about the discrimination between affect and representation in the unconscious are elucidated in the light of their structural differences. The notion of the psychical representative of the drive announces the reference to the further notion of instinctual impulse. Later on, in Freud's theory, the notion of instinctual impulse has encompassed the distinction between affects and representation. Contemporary authors have, in their vast majority, chosen to refer preferably to object relationships. Nevertheless, the problems raised by Freud remain unanswered. It is with the clinical picture of borderline personality disorders that the lack of discrimination between affect and representation becomes evident. A detailed description is presented of the forms of transference where the irrepresentable prevails, accompanied by feelings of being overwhelmed, repetition compulsion, acting out and somatic reactions. In the countertransference, the affects of helplessness, despair and even the impossibility of grasping the meaning of the patient's communication are frequently met in the analyst. In these clinical pictures, intermediary formations, i.e. psychic organisations where primary processes structures the unconscious, are impaired. One is struck by the limitation of the capacities of representation and by the importance of phenomena related to negative hallucinations specially focused on thought processes, The communication is frequently self-contradictory, the transference oscillating between disembodiment and primitive fusion. The object has a paradoxical status; it is at the same time everything and nothing, the transference being incomprehensible and unanalysable. Different hypotheses are presented to explain the importance of destruction. Finally, the author presents a hypothesis for the deficiency of these intermediary formations because of the absence of continuing cathexis from the primary object at certain important moments of the relationship. It is the establishment of theses intermediary formations that will permit the acceptance of the separation from the object, the child now being able to rely on his own internal creations. However important the influences of the relationship to the other in the genesis of affects, the internal orientation towards the body of the psychic processes is what constitutes the core of the primordial psychic world.

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