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Barth, F.D. (1998). Speaking of Feelings: Affects, Language, and Psychoanalysis. Psychoanal. Dial., 8(5):685-705.

(1998). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 8(5):685-705

Speaking of Feelings: Affects, Language, and Psychoanalysis Related Papers

F. Diane Barth, M.S.W., C.S.W.

For a surprising number of analysands, many with above-average intelligence and facility with language, words do not adequately capture or convey emotion or symbolize experience. This often subtle difficulty can have a powerful impact on the ability to verbally communicate emotions, process affect, and utilize traditional psychoanalytic interventions. Analysands with these problems therefore often have difficulty using analysis to explore and understand their own experience, yet the reasons for such difficulties are often not recognized by either analyst or analysand. In this article, I suggest that the concept of alexithymia can provide a valuable tool for understanding this gap between affects and language and, in its broadest interpretation, can aid therapists in their pursuit of meaningful approaches to the analytic process. Using the concept as a starting point, I describe and illustrate an approach in which paying attention to apparently insignificant aspects of an analysand's experience gradually helps analysands identify and explore personal symbols and meanings in their lives.

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