The Scope of Psychoanalysis, 1921-1961: Selected Papers

By Franz Alexander | Go to book overview

The Logic of Emotions and Its Dynamic Background
1935

Emotional syllogisms

Our understanding of psychological connections is based on the tacit recognition of certain causal relationships which we know from our everyday experience and the validity of which we accept as self- evident. We understand anger and aggressive behavior as a reaction to an attack; fear and guilt as results of aggressiveness; envy as an outgrowth of the feeling of weakness and inadequacy. Such self-evident emotional connections as "I hate him, because he attacks me," I shall call emotional syllogisms. Just as logical thinking is based on intellectual syllogisms, the "logic of emotions" consists of a series of emotional syllogisms. The feeling of the self-evident validity of these emotional connections is derived from our daily introspective experience as we witness these emotional sequences in ourselves, probably from the first moment after birth until death. Just as the logic of intellectual thinking is based on repeated and accumulated experiences of relations in the external world, the logic of emotions is based on accumulated experiences of our own internal emotional reactions. The logic of intellectual thinking is the crystallized product of external, the logic of emotions is crystallized in the same way out of internal, experiences. As such, the logic of emotions is more ancient than logical thinking, which probably explains its ability to overpower intellectual processes.

It is quite justifiable to call these emotional causal sequences "the logic of emotions" because they seem to us almost as binding as those intellectual relations which are the basis of logical thinking. We say, for example, "It was quite logical that A gave such an emotional answer to B because we heard that B had insulted him."

The psychoanalytic method has extended the possibility of such casual explanations also to psychic phenomena which seemed previously irrational and inexplicable. It showed that often in the chain of

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