Affect

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French: affect

Intellect

Sigmund Freud

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.

Jacques Lacan

For Lacan, however, the opposition between the affective and the intellectual 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."[1]

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.[2]

Treatment

Psychoanalytic treatment is based on the symbolic order, which transcends the opposition between affect and intellect. On the one hand, psychoanalytic experience "is not that of an affective smoochy-woochy."[3] On the other hand, nor is psychoanalytic treatment an intellectual affair.

"We are not dealing here with an intellectual dimension."[4]

Resistance

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.

Separate

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."[5]

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.[6]

Treatment

Symbolic

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 relationship 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,[7] and emphasizes 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).[8]

Practice

Lacan's comments on the concept of affect have important implications in clinical practice.

Structure

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.

Lure

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.

Truth

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.

Passion

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.[9] This is a reference to Buddhist thought.[10] These passions are not imaginary phenomena, but located at the junctions between the three orders.

See Also

References

  1. Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book I. Freud's Papers on Technique, 1953-54. Trans. John Forrester. New York: Nortion; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988. p.274
  2. Lacan also argued that criticisms of being over-intellectual were often merely excuses for sloppy thinking. Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p.171
  3. Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book I. Freud's Papers on Technique, 1953-54. Trans. John Forrester. New York: Nortion; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988. p.55
  4. Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book I. Freud's Papers on Technique, 1953-54. Trans. John Forrester. New York: Nortion; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988. p.274
  5. Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book I. Freud's Papers on Technique, 1953-54. Trans. John Forrester. New York: Nortion; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988. p.57
  6. Lacan, Jacques. Télévision, Paris: Seuil, 1973. Television: A Challenge to the Psychoanalytic Establishment, ed. Joan Copjec, trans. Denis Hollier, Rosalind Krauss and Annette Michelson, New York: Norton, 1990]. p. 38
  7. Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book VII. The Ethics of Psychoanalysis, 1959-60. Trans. Dennis Porter. London: Routledge, 1992. p. 102-3
  8. Lacan, Jacques. Écrits. Paris: Seuil, 1966. p. 714
  9. Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book I. Freud's Papers on Technique, 1953-54. Trans. John Forrester. New York: Nortion; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988. p. 271
  10. Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p. 94