Emotions in the psychoanalytic theory

Jorge Canestri

in From the Couch to the Lab

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780199600526
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754753 | DOI:
Emotions in the psychoanalytic theory

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This chapter represents an attempt to analyse the concept of emotion in psychoanalysis following the historical and conceptual path of the Freudian theory of affect. Two main foundations of the theory are the dynamics of Herbart's representations and Fechner-Helmholtz's economic hypotheses. The concept of affect together with the concept of representation are essential constituents of Freud's theory on the psychic apparatus, and the relationship between them has always been a matter of discussion in psychoanalysis. In the light of more recent studies on early traumas and borderline and psychotic pathologies, it seems reasonable to recognize the existence of affective memories, and these go against a distinct separation between affect and representation. Neuroscience travels in the same direction, as can be seen in other chapters of the book, for example the role of amygdala and the septum regarding the generation of primitive emotional dispositions and the possible role of the frontal cortex in the suppression of emotion expression.

To the question posed by the editors concerning the identity between the subjective experience of emotion and its physical essence, in this text I give preference to Davidson's conceptualization of an anomalous monism. Davidson does not accept ‘that a pure physical predicate, no matter how complex, has, as a matter of law, the same extension as a mental predicate’.

The principle of the anomalism of the mental is the logical conclusion and it not only emphasizes the identity of the mental and the physic, but also that there are no strict laws at all which consent us to predict or to explain mental phenomena. Even knowing all the physical processes, it is necessary to have a pure psychological schema to interpret behaviours, affects, wishes, fantasies, etc.

Chapter.  5491 words. 

Subjects: Psychiatry

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