Academic journal article American Journal of Psychotherapy

Affect, Object, and Character Structure

Academic journal article American Journal of Psychotherapy

Affect, Object, and Character Structure

Article excerpt

MORTON KISSEN, PH.D.: Affect, Object, and Character Structure. International Universities Press, Inc., Madison, CT, 1995, 266 pp., $50.00, ISBN 0-82360445-4.

The primordial role affects play in any successful analytic therapy has been given insufficient attention by psychoanalysis. The psychoanalytic emphasis on drive-fed conflicts has cast a dim light on the importance of affect, and it is more commonly referred to in terms of affect "tolerance," "modulation," "displacement," and "discharge." The attention given painful and negative affects has been disproportionate to that accorded those of happier states such as triumph, joy, excitement, self-soothing, and/or the sense of power. These states, so rarely mentioned in psychoanalytic writings, stand in contrast to the many references to anxiety, guilt, and depression. In this brief, readable, and jargon-free volume, Dr. Kissen attempts to correct this imbalance.

Dr. Kissen begins with a review of the evolution of Freud's theoretical positions and then goes on to consider the different psychoanalytic models of psychological development. He discusses the ways in which these various theories have influenced our understanding of the role affect plays. After acknowledging the contributions of Krystal, Jacobson, and Kernberg (among others), Kissen takes us through an integrative journey culminating in his own contemporary views. Without losing his solid footing on clinical grounds, Kissen explicates the ways in which a strong attachment to negative affects impacts so many of our patients. Not only does he see affects as a by-product of conflict, he also highlights their communicative function and links them to intrapsychic conflict and its interpersonal manifestations in the "here and now."

In the second section of his interesting book, Dr. Kissen offers an inclusive consideration of different object relations perspectives. He explores the affect object through Kleinian, Fairbairnian, Winnicotean, and self-psychological lenses, and refuses to narrow his integration to a singular sponsorship. He thinks that the function of mood states is to convey "object relational encounters that occurred at a developmental phase in which words were largely unavailable" (p. …

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