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Cavalli, A. (2014). From Affect to Feelings and Thoughts: From Abuse to Care and Understanding. J. Anal. Psychol., 59(1):31-46.

(2014). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 59(1):31-46

From Affect to Feelings and Thoughts: From Abuse to Care and Understanding

Alessandra Cavalli

The capacity of the infant to bear affect relies on the capacity of the caregiver until it has achieved enough strength to perform this task itself. In the case of neglect the necessary strength to contain, metabolize and think about affect so that it may be converted into differentiated feelings cannot develop because of the absence of a caregiver capable of sustaining the infant in its emotional development. Instead a system of defence against affect arises in which the affect itself is perceived as intrusive and abusive. Because of neglect a confusion between abuse and affect is to be observed, with catastrophic consequences for the growing up child. Furthermore neglected children can be seduced by external abuse in the hope of being protected from affect that threatens to feel abusive from within. Paradoxically these children are drawn toward abusive situations in the hope of finding some ongoing shelter from unmanageable affect. A corollary of this is that actual containment comes to feel abusive to them: if they are made to feel affect, they perceive the other, who put them in touch with affect, as abusive: thus affect, abuse and containment are confused. Clinical material will support this thesis.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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