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Gullestad, S.E. (2005). In the beginning was the affect. Scand. Psychoanal. Rev., 28(1):3-10.

(2005). Scandinavian Psychoanalytic Review, 28(1):3-10

In the beginning was the affect

Siri Erika Gullestad, Ph.D.

The paper argues that affect represents an immediate evaluation of the environment, informing us about our experience of ourselves in the world and providing a basis for action. The perception of other people's emotions is a process occurring rapidly, automatically and subliminally-it comes first. Between analyst and patient, an automatic emotional scanning takes place. Affect also represents a non-verbal “language” functioning as an unconscious communication. In a clinical vignette, a distinction between verbalised affect and immediate transference affect is highlighted. It is argued that affect may be present as implicit, emotional procedures and ways-of-being that actualise qualities of internalised object relations that are not easily expressed semantically or symbolically. The status of affect within contemporary psychoanalytic theory is summed up in five points. (1) Affect represents an immediate evaluation of the environment. (2) Affect is disconnected from drives. (3) Affect is communication. Affect guarantees the continuity of the self. (5) Affect is incorporated into self-other relations and representations.

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