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Siegman, A.J. (1954). Emotionality—A Hysterical Character Defense. Psychoanal Q., 23:339-354.

(1954). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 23:339-354

Emotionality—A Hysterical Character Defense

Alfred J. Siegman, M.D.

The range of affective responses in the newborn is limited and, according to Watson (18), seems to be restricted to no more than three basic emotions. In the course of maturation, however, an almost infinite spectrum of affects comes into being and the description of their nuances is limited only by the ingenuity of the observer and the insufficiencies of language itself.

How this comes about, and what role these affects assume in the psychic economy, is obscure, and the studies on this subject stress its great complexity. Brierley (3) states, 'Almost all the affects we meet clinically are highly differentiated end products'. Glover (13) thinks that the simpler the classification the less value it has and goes on to say, 'The obscurity surrounding the early stages of ego organization or the nature of early ideational content is as nothing compared with the obscurity that clouds the understanding of primary affects and their vicissitudes… Perhaps the best example of an affect which although apparently primary is exceedingly complicated is that of depression.'

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