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affect (affect) In Freud's work, the term 'affect' stands in opposition to
the term 'idea'. The opposition between the affective and the intellectual is one
of the oldest themes in philosophy, and made its way into Freud's vocabulary
via German psychology.
For Lacan, however, the opposition between the affective and the intellec-
tual is not valid in the psychoanalytic field. 'This opposition is one of the most
contrary to analytic experience and most unenlightening when it comes to
understanding it' (Sl, 274).
Thus, in response to those who accuse Lacan of being over-intellectual and
of neglecting the role of affect, it can be pointed out that this criticism is based
on what Lacan saw as a false opposition (Lacan also argued that criticisms of
being over-intellectual were often merely excuses for sloppy thinking - see E,
171). Psychoanalytic treatment is based on the symbolic order, which trans-
cends the opposition between affect and intellect. On the one hand, psycho-
analytic experience 'is not that of an affective smoochy-woochy' (Sl, 55). On
the other hand, nor is psychoanalytic treatment an intellectual affair; 'we are
not dealing here with an intellectual dimension' (Sl, 274). The Lacanian
psychoanalyst must thus be aware of the ways in which both 'affective
smoochy-woochy' and intellectualisation can be resistances to analysis,
imaginary lures of the ego. Anxiety is the only affect that is not deceptive.
Lacan is opposed to those analysts who have taken the affective realm as
primary, for the affective is not a separate realm opposed to the intellectual;
'The affective is not like a special density which would escape an intellectual
accounting. It is not to be found in a mythical beyond of the production of the
symbol which would precede the discursive formulation' (Sl, 57). However,
he rejects accusations of neglecting the role of affect, pointing to the fact that a
whole year of the seminar is dedicated precisely to discussing anxiety (Lacan,
Lacan does not propose a general theory of affects, but only touches on them
insofar as they impinge on psychoanalytic treatment. He insists on the relation-
ship of affect to the symbolic order; affect means that the subject is affected by
his relation with the Other. He argues that affects are not signifiers but signals
(S7, 102-3), and emphasises Freud's position that repression does not bear
upon the affect (which can only be transformed or displaced) but upon the
ideational representative (which is, in Lacan's terms, the signifier) (Ec, 714).
Lacan's comments on the concept of affect have important implications in
clinical practice. Firstly, all the concepts in psychoanalysis which have
traditionally been conceived in terms of affects, such as the transference,
must be rethought in terms of their symbolic structure, if the analyst is to
direct the treatment correctly.
Secondly, the affects are lures which can deceive the analyst, and hence the
analyst must be wary of being tricked by his own affects. This does not mean
that the analyst must disregard his own feelings for the patient, but simply that
he must know how to make adequate use of them (see COUNTERTRANSFERENCE).
Finally, it follows that the aim of psychoanalytic treatment is not the reliving
of past experiences, nor the abreaction of affect, but the articulation in speech
of the truth about desire.
Another term in Lacan's discourse, related to but distinct from 'affect', is
the term 'passion'. Lacan speaks of the 'three fundamental passions': love,
hate and ignorance (Sl, 271); this is a reference to Buddhist thought (E, 94).
These passions are not imaginary phenomena, but located at the junctions
between the three orders.
== References ==
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About No Subject - Encyclopedia of Psychoanalysis