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Neuropsychoanalysis: An Interdisciplinary Journal

for Psychoanalysis and the Neurosciences
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Body, Affect, and Language


Luis Chiozza

3 de Febrero 1066, 1426 Buenos Aires, Argentina, e-mail:

Published online: 09 Jan 2014.

To cite this article: Luis Chiozza (1999) Body, Affect, and Language, Neuropsychoanalysis: An Interdisciplinary Journal for
Psychoanalysis and the Neurosciences, 1:1, 111-123, DOI: 10.1080/15294145.1999.10773251
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Body, Affect, and Language

Luis Chiozza (Buenos Aires)

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So little is known about the psychology of emotional processes

that the tentative remarks I am about to make on the subject
may claim a very lenient judgement [Freud, 1926, p. 169].

The Psychoanalytic Theory of Affects*

Quota of Affect and Affective Value

Freud developed his ideas on affects in various of his

works, yet he never gathered them all into a systematic
conception. Perhaps it was his difficulty in producing
a unified theory in this regard that gave rise to the
controversy continuing among the psychoanalytic authors. Papers by Brierley (1951), Rapaport (1962),
Rangell (1967), Sandler (1972), Green (1973), and Limentani (1977) show different readings of the Freudian texts and their bearing upon theory and clinical
practice. l
Luis Chiozza M.D., is a full member of the International Psychoanalytic Association.
*The text of this section is based in part on an earlier paper (Chiozza,
Barbero, Casali, and Salzman, 1993).
1 In his Appendix to Freud's article on "The Neuro-psychoses of
Defence," Strachey (Freud, 1894, pp. 62-66) points to the fact that in
numerous passages in several wor ks, Freud seems not to distinguish between the terms affect, emotion, and feeling. However, his use of different
terms seems to allude to shades of meaning that distinguished them. Etymologically, the term afecto in Spanish (affect) derives from Latin afficere,
"to influence, or act upon someone" or "to affect" (Bhinquez Fraile,
1960). An affect is thus basically something that affects the ego. When an
affect, owing to a miscue of the innervation key by which it is discharged,
cannot be recognized as such, it is often perceived by consciousness as a
somatic disorder, deprived of its emotional meaning (Chiozza, 1975). The
Spanish word emocion (emotion) comes frorn the French term emouvoir,
which means "to move" (in Spanish, conmover), "to cause emotion"
(Sp. emocionar) (Corominas, 1961). As in English, it is formed by the
root motion, the noun for move and the particle e, which according to
Skeat (1882) means away or much. Hence, as Pribram and Melges (1969)
points out, the term emotion can allude to being away from the movement
which implies an action on the outer world, or can refer to an affective
movement which, as a neurovegetative commotion, reverberates the ego.
The Spanish term sentimiento (feeling) derives from the Latin sentire,
which condenses the following meanings: "sensation," "to perceive
through the senses," and "to realize," "to think, to give an opinion"
(Bhinquez Fraile, 1960; Corominas, 1961). We think that the narrowest

Freud stated in various places that the representative agency of the drive is formed by two elements:
(1) the representation or idea, and (2) the quantitative
factor or drive energy that cathects the representation,
and which he calls "quota of affect" or "accretion
of excitation," which, according to Strachey, Freud
considered equivalent (1894, p. 61). Thus, affect appears as a quantity, that is, as something that is susceptible to increase, decrease, displacement, or discharge.
However, in an article he wrote in French (Freud,
1893, pp. 170-172), he used the term valeur affectif
(affective value was nevertheless translated by Strachey as "quota of affect"), whose terms involve an
idea of meaning that goes beyond mere quantity.

The Unconscious Affects

Freud (1915b, pp. 156-157; 1915c, p. 178) states that
the genuine aim of repression is to suppress affect and
describes the differences between unconscious affects
or emotions and unconscious representations or ideas.
For an unconscious idea to reach consciousness, it
is necessary for an actual unconscious cathexis to be
transferred onto preconcious verbal or visual mnemic
traces, whilst affects are actual processes of discharge
the ultimate manifestations of which are perceived as
sensations and feelings. Freud said that we cannot
speak of unconscious affects in a sense analogous to
the one we use when we refer to unconscious representations. Unlike the unconscious idea, which continues to exist as a "real" formation, "all that
corresponds in that system to unconscious affects is a
potential beginning which is prevented from developing." This potential disposition is what Freud calls
"development of affect" (Freud, 1915c, pp. 178-179)
or "unconscious dispositional affective structure"
(Chiozza, 1976b, p. 219).
sense of sentimiento refers to the affects, which, tempered by the thought
processes, reach consciousness where they can be named (Chiozza, 1976a).

Affect thus seems to arise as a disposition or potential in the unconscious and as an actuality2 in consciousness, insofar as it has the characteristics of the
somatic sensation (Freud, 1917, p. 122; Chiozza,
Aizemberg, and Busch, 1990, pp. 31-32). Affect as
actuality is an action, a process of discharge that includes: (1) certain innervations or motor discharges
(secretory and vasomotor innervation); (2) certain sensations which are of two kinds, perception of actions
that have taken place and direct sensations of pleasure
and unpleasure which lend the affect their prevalent
tone (Freud, 1916-1917, p. 395) with different shades
and nuances.

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The Innervation Keys of Affects

Affects are a certain kind of processes of discharge:

From a physical point of view, they are motor or secretory acts carried out in the body itself, unlike a specific,
effective action that develops in the' 'external" world.
Freud considered that the key to the innervation of
affects was located in the ideas in the Ucs. (Freud,
1900, p. 582).3 The word innervation seems to have an
ambiguous meaning. Although it is used in medicine to
refer to the anatomical distribution of the nerves in
the organism or in some particular region of the body,
Strachey (Freud, 1893) interprets that Freud uses it
more often to denote the transmission of energy to a
system of nerves, specifically to a system of efferent
nerves to indicate a process that tends toward the discharge of energy. Freud (1900) used the term key to
indicate, besides, that the discharge is effected according to a certain schema or configuration.
A Universal Innate Hysterical Attack

The interpretation of hysterical phenomena and their

comparison with affects led Freud (1916-1917) to a
new approach. Strange as it may seem, most of the
authors who have taken an interest in the psychoana2 Actuality derives from the word actual which means: (a) Existing
and not merely potential or possible. (b) Being, existing, or acting at the
present moment; current. (c) Based on fact (American Heritage Dictionary,
1973). We use this term in the sense of "real and existing." It is worth
remembering Freud's statement, quoting Stricker, to the effect that
"Dreams do not consist solely of illusions. If, for instance, one is afraid
of robbers in a dream, the robbers, it is true, are imaginary-but the fear
is real" (Freud, 1900, p. 74).
3 In The Interpretation ofDreams, Freud (p. 582) stated the following:
"This presupposes a quite specific assumption as to the nature of the
generation of affect. It is viewed as a motor or secretory function, the key
to whose innervation lies in the ideas in the Dcs."

Luis Chiozza
lytic theory of affects-not Brierley (1951) and Rapaport (1962), though-have overlooked this essential
Freudian contribution to the simultaneous understanding of affects and hysteria. Freud stated that the hysterical attack, which is a reminiscence of an individual
event belonging to infancy, is comparable to an affect,
which has been acquired more recently. Normal affect,
on the other hand, is equivalent to the expression of
a typical, universal hysteria which has become hereditary (Freud, 1916-1917, p. 395). Therefore, the affects
seem to be equivalent to innate and universal hysterical attacks (Freud, 1926, p. 133), that is, they are reminiscences, mnemic symbols which, instead of
corresponding to a present situation, constitute a "way
of remembering" a past event which is not conscious
(Chiozza, 1976b, p. 220). This archaic event is a motor
occurrence that belongs to phylogeny and that was
"expedient" at that time since it was appropriate to
the aim. The affects are the normal archetypes of hysterical attacks (Freud, 1926, p. 133).
The Expedient4 Motor Act and the Efficient Action
In order to explain the hysterical attack it is necessary
to search in the person's history-infantile ontogeny-the situation in which the relevant movements
formed part of an expedient infantile action (Freud,
1926, p. 133). The vegetative motor act called affect
is, in the present conditions in which it takes place,
as "inexpedient" as a hysterical attack. If, when a
person gets angry, "he blushes, his blood pressure
increases and more blood circulates in his muscles,
that is because what is an argument today was in a
remote time in the past, a physical fight for which
those bodily changes had meaning" (Chiozza, 1986,
p. 79). Unlike an efficient specific action, which is
carried out in the external world to satisfy a need, an
affect is an inefficient action since, like a hysterical
symptom, it is discharged on the organism itself and
all it can achieve is that excitation ceases momentarily
at the expense of recreating it in another erotogenic
part of the body (Chiozza, 1976b, p. 218). The fact
that the affects are universal explains the fact that they
are overlooked by consciousness as symptoms.
In the paper quoted before (Chiozza, Aizemberg,
and Busch, 1990) a distinction was made between the
efficient and specific actions and the expedient ones.
4 Expedient is the term used by Strachey, but perhaps it is more precise, in the frame of the ideas dealt with in this paper, to use the term
justified instead, and therefore, unjustified instead of inexpedient.

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Body, Affect, and Language

It was stated that the efficient actions are those that
succeed in putting an end to excitations arising from
the drive sources. Insofar as each drive source is qualitatively different, it is implicitly understood that these
actions must be specific, and that is why Freud in "A
Project for a Scientific Psychology" (1950) calls them
specific actions. On the other hand, expedient actions
are those whose direction toward an aim or purpose
can be understood regardless of their efficiency.
As regards the origin of affects, Freud stated that
when a specific, effective action leading to an external
alteration cannot be carried out, then the affects arise
as a path of discharge tending toward an "internal"
alteration and they function as a regulating valve
(1950, pp. 318-319). The less efficient the action is,
the greater is the remnant of excitation that is discharged as affect; the greater the efficacy of the act
upon the external world, the smaller is the development of affect (Chiozza, 1976b). Action and affect
thus form a complementary series.
When a drive recathects a mnemic trace of the
experience of satisfaction, unconscious desire is
formed. Desire is experienced as a "wish for" and it is
accompanied by bodily sensations; hence, each desire
should have its own innervation key and it should be
qualitatively specific. When desire is realized, then it
becomes an efficient action that follows the patterns
of the innervatory key corresponding to that specific
action and it ends in the satisfaction of the need that
"sustained" the wish. "A part" of this wish is always
discharged at the same time as a fulfillment and is
what we call an affect, that is, a discharge on the
body itself, which follows a phylogenetic pattern, the
mnemic trace of a motor event that was part of an
act expedient in prehistory and inexpedient at present.
When an effective discharge succeeds, the affective
remnant becomes part of the action and thus forms a
fully meaningful act (Chiozza, 1983).
Later, in Freud's "A Project for a Scientific Psychology" (1950), affective discharge acquires a secondary function in drawing the attention of the
auxiliary object (adult caregiver) and thus serves the
purposes of the individual's understanding with others. Thus, affects are in a sense and for the purposes
of communication, an efficient action.
The Quality of Affect

As stated above, affects, emotions, or feelings are an

unconscious way of repeating a past phylogenetic
event which, as an unconscious memory, remains out-

side the bounds of consciousness. Now we can ask
ourselves: What does the potential for that which we
call growth or progress in a subject's emotional life
depend on? In the study of ischemic cardiopathies
(Chiozza et aI., 1982), attention was drawn to the fact
that, in some individuals, certain affects remain as unconscious dispositions which were never actual, which
means that an individual can either anticipate something (in Spanish, pre-sentir, which literally means to
feel in advance), which we call protoaffects, or otherwise, fully develop such affects so that they become
"new" emotions to that person. Emotional growth in
a person shall thus depend not only on the chances of
tempering some passions, but also on what unconscious affective dispositions are to be actualized in his
life, and allowed to "unfold" to take on their full
Following Freud's ideas, it was stated (Chiozza,
1986, pp. 70-80) that affect has the characteristics of
both "somatic" and "psychic" phenomena. On the
one hand, it is a "real" somatic discharge and on the
other hand, it is a reminiscence, a ' 'psychical' ,
Every qualitatively differentiated affect can be
recognized as such precisely because it has a definite
"figure." Every different emotion is a vegetative
movement that arises from a nervous excitation that is
realized in a typical manner and it is phylogenetically
determined by an unconscious mnemic trace, by an
innate sensory and motor record, which corresponds
to what Freud called an innervatory key (Freud, 1900,
p. 582; Chiozza, 1976b, p. 219).
Deformation of the Innervatory Key of an Affect

The innervatory key of an affect is an unconscious

idea that determines the specific quality of each of the
different vegetative motor discharges that typify the
various affects. When an affect keeps the coherence
of its key intact, it is possible to recognize it as a
definite emotion.
Unlike the neuroses and the psychoses, where the
coherence of affect is maintained, I have argued elsewhere (Chiozza, 1975, p. 250) that in somatic disease
there is a "pathosomatic decomposition" (or dissembling) of an affect. When an emotion that becomes
intolerable for consciousness is repressed, the importance or investment can be displaced within the same
innervatory key, so that some of the elements of the
key receive a more intense charge to the detriment of
others. When the process of discharge takes place on


the basis of this "deformed" key, consciousness does

not record an affect, but rather perceives a "disturbance," a phenomenon it classifies as "somatic," precisely because the psychic quality, the affective
meaning of that phenomenon, remains unconscious
(Chiozza, 1975).

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On the Relationship between Affect and Language

Freud (1926) stated that affects are typical and universal. However, as Bateson (1972, pp. 398-399) points
out, human language has thousands of words to name
objects and very few for affects. Thus, the vast richness of human affective states, as far as variety and
nuances are concerned, goes relatively unnoticed, because although one can make affects conscious without the mediation of the word, the lack of terms to
allude to the variety and nuances of the various affects
prevents us from referring to them clearly in the processes of communication or thought.
Following Freud, we have typified several kinds
of affects (Chiozza, 1972, p. 195). When there is a
full discharge, then we refer to it as a primary affect,
equivalent to what is commonly known as a passion.
The tempering of emotions through the thought process, or of mental working through, leads to a secondary affect, what is normally referred to as feeling. We
have also argued (Chiozza, Aizemberg, and Busch,
1990, pp. 179-180) that there is a third level of affect
that is reached when affect is spoken or designated
without emotion, as is the case in logical thought.
Among the emotions there are some that are typical and widely recognizable, such as envy, hate, bitterness, disgust, shame, yearning, nostalgia, etc., and also
different affective nuances for whose designation language proves to be insufficient (Bateson, 1972). Psychoanalytic research of the somatic disorders has led
to the discovery of affects, which are usually not recognized or named as such. Due to the lack of simple
words to designate them, it was necessary to resort to
expressions such as "the feeling of ignominy" (Chiozza et aI., 1982, p. 294) and the "feeling of proprietorship" (Chiozza and Obstfeld, 1990, pp. 148-149),
the "feeling of crumbling to pieces" and of "breaking
the rules" (Chiozza et aI., 1991, pp. 148-149), or to
idiomatic expressions such as "the feeling of having
been skinned alive" or that of "being scaled'" (Chiozza et al. 1991, pp. 33-34).

Luis Chiozza
Forms of Classification of the Various Affects

Most of the studies in general medicine on the physiology of affects refer either to the relation between the
nervous system and the motor, secretory, vascular, and
other changes that take place during an emotional discharge, or to the connections between emotions and
stress. We have not found in the medical research papers5 we consulted a way of understanding the specific
schemata of the different affects. Nevertheless, the
classical works on the expression of emotions by Darwin (1872a) and Dumas (1933a), or in the field of
ethology (Lorenz, 1965; Morris, 1967) allow us to
identify typical physical signs that are part of the specific and particular expression of certain affects.
Dumas (1933b, pp. 278-280) establishes a difference between two basic affective tones: the agreeable
and the disagreeable, corresponding to sensations of
pleasure and unpleasure, which according to Freud
(1916-1917, p. 395) give the affect its keynote.
In Chiozza (1978, pp. 357-362) it was stated that
the essential participation of vasomotor activity in the
occurrence we call emotion allows us to understand
that the heart-a vessel that has been modified until it
finally acquired great functional complexity-should
lend itself to symbolize feelings at large and, specifically, the process by which the affects take on an incipient schema ("anticipation"). We also pointed out
that heart rhythm, the most typical phenomenon of the
heart, ascribes to itself, as if it were a metronome or
pacemaker, the representation of the affective tone
that qualifies every instant being experienced by an
individual, so that the heart is to time what the eye is
to space.
Darwin (1872b, p. 61) and Dumas (1933, p. 440)
asserted that most physiologists and psychologists
have classified emotions into two large groups: (1)
those that arouse excitation, among which Darwin includes happiness and rage first and foremost; and (2)
those that depress, among which Darwin includes sadness and fear.
Dumas (1933c, p. 442) identified four basic emotions: happiness, sadness, fear, and rage, and he described (as mentioned above) an active and a passive
expression for each one of these. He held that emotions have an active part, translated into reactions of
excitation (typical of the sympathetic nervous system:
tachycardia, hypertension, hypertonicity, horripila5 In the Index Medicus (Lindberg, 1989-1991), we consulted the series of publications it quoted by looking up emotions and specific emotions,
such as anger, rage, anxiety, grief, boredom, fear, guilt, shame, hate, jealousy, etc.


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Body, Affect, and Language

tion, etc.) and a passive part, typified by reactions of
depression (corresponding to the action of the parasympathetic nervous system: bradychardia, hypotension, hypotonicity, etc.).
We consider that each of these basic emotions
includes a set of emotions that are akin and related to
one another. These affects share some physical signs
of a common innervatory key and have other different
ones, which confer a special nuance upon their schema
and meaning. Thus, for example, rage, wrath, fury,
exasperation, vexation, anger, irritation, rancor, enmity, and bitterness are different emotions that are
part of the same affective group.
Freud (1915a, pp. 133-134) stated that mental
life is governed by three basic polarities: One of them
is loving-hating, which in turn has a relation with the
forces of attraction and repulsion at work in the universe. Both concepts, that which is related with the
psychic "world" and the one that refers to the physical world, allude to two types of relationships: One is
governed by the positive sign, which promotes attraction and proximity: the other is typified by the
negative, which produces repulsion and detachment.
We believe that sadness and happiness are mainly vicissitudes of love; on the other hand, rage and fear are
vicissitudes of hate.
According to Freud (1915a), hating is an earlier
object relation than love: It is born from the initial
primal repulsion by the narcissistic ego toward the
external world with its emission of stimuli. He said:
Conversely, if the object is a source of unpleasurable
feelings, there is an urge which endeavours to increase the distance between the object and the ego
and to repeat in relation to the object the original
attempt at flight from the external world with its emission of stimuli. We feel the' 'repulsion" of the object,
and hate it; this hate can afterwards be intensified to
the point of aggressive inclination against the object-an intention to destroy it [po 137].

We can thus infer that from the basic tendency

of hate-rejection-antipathy, two different affective
groups arise: One is connected to an expedient motor
act of flight (fear), and the other group is related
to an expedient motor act aimed at attacking the
object (rage).
Freud (1915a) stated that "If the object becomes a source of pleasurable feelings, a motor urge
is set up which seeks to bring the object closer to
the ego and to incorporate it into the ego. We then
speak of the 'attraction' exercised by the pleasure-

gIVIng object and say that we 'love' that object"

(p. 137). Therefore, in general terms we can say
that in the same way that the proximity of the
beloved object arouses emotions akin to happiness,
the loss of the object triggers affects that belong
with the group governed by sadness.
The Category of Pathos
Within the order of affects, in the sphere of pathos,
we find another mode of referring to these two forms
of bond: sympathy and antipathy.
The word sympathy-from the Greek syn (with)
and pathos (passion)-means: (1) A relationship or
an affinity between people or things in which whatever affects one correspondingly affects the other.
(2) Mutual understanding or affection arising from
this relationship or affinity. (3) The act or power of
sharing the feelings of another. Antipathy means: (a)
A strong feeling of aversion or repugnance. (b) An
object of aversion (American Heritage Dictionary,
1973). Words such as love, attraction, liking are
synonyms of sympathy, and the words hate, repulsion, dislike are synonyms of antipathy (Sainz de
Robles, 1979).
Weizsaecker (1947, pp. 106-109) held that, together with the ontic categories, there are five pathic
categories: wanting, capacity, duty, permission, and
obligation, which, being related to one another, make
up a kind of pentagonal structure, that Weizsaecker
called "pathic," which provides a frame to all of human life. Each one of these categories is an affective
state, and when we refer to them, we usually use the
word feeling. Ontic is everything that belongs to the
category of present being, everything that exists is ontic. Pathic is what belongs to the category of pathos,
that is, feelings, or suffering, that which we want, we
can, we should, we may, or must be, precisely because,
nevertheless, we are not.
From this point of view we can say that the
actuality of suffering consists in a latent disposition
to be that which we still have not yet become.
Affects, universal and innate hysterical attacks, not
only commemorate a phylogenetic event typified by
suffering a lack, but also prolong up to the present
time a lack that bears witness to the degree of failure
of an efficient action. This failure is resignified with
a secondary efficiency thanks to the fact that the
affect acquires a new meaning as an act of communication.


On the Relationship between Somatic

Sensation and Affect

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The Perception of a Physical World

There is a first "surface" of consciousness through

which the objects of the so-called surrounding world
are perceived-the image of such world being built,
in Von Uexkull's view (1934), according to the perceptive needs of each biological organism. It is often
said that this surface is externally oriented, but the
idea of "exterior" is an idea to which, I believe, it is
not advisable to definitively adhere.
It is more reasonable to speak of a "first" surface
since, according to Freud, consciousness is shaped on
the basis of perception, especially aural perception,
yet also visual perception (Freud, 1923, p. 23), to the
extent that for an unconscious idea to become conscious it must be transferred onto the mnemic trace of
either of these modalities of perception. So much so
that, as Mark Solms points out in note 13 of his (1996)
paper, when attention is drawn to the affects or the
thought processes, it carries out an "unnatural contortion," a sort of counterperistaltic movement. We have
thousands of words to name objects, but very few that
make a distinction among affects.
It is from perception that the notions of space,
matter, and reality are born, and these pertain to the
organization of knowledge that we call "physicaL" It
also gives rise to the notion of "present," not in the
sense of "now" but in the sense of here, "before
me," which the etymology of the word present reveals. Roughly speaking, it is shaped by means of the
windows of the five senses: somatic sensation, taste,
smell, hearing, and vision.
Strictly speaking, we could limit the entrance
"surface" that gives rise to consciousness (from a
perceptive nucleus, as Freud intended) to the two distal
"senses": vision and hearing. I believe it is excessive,
and when faced with the choice, I prefer to accept as
well (although I am aware that this is rather arbitrary)
a less "delineated" type of consciousness that is also
realized through the traces of olfactory, gustatory, and
tactile perceptions. But what about other varieties of
somatic sensation? It is clear that we never find
, 'pure" perceptions or sensations, but the question is
of further importance, for if we define as "physical
world" that which is built upon the data of perception,
then we cannot define perception by the fact that it is
oriented toward the physical world.
We can of course ask ourselves: Why is it that the
pain caused by an injection, or seeing a glaring light are

Luis Chiozza
"sensations," and smelling a flower, tasting an apple,
seeing an armchair, or realizing that on the skin of my
back a triangle has been drawn with a pencil, are "perceptions"? I think we speak of perceptions when we can
recognize objects and that, on the other hand, we speak
of sensations when we experience an actuality that is beyond our capacity to build an image of an object.
The Sensations "Linked to the Body"

There is another surface (I shall deliberately avoid using

second and internal) through which not only pleasurable-unpleasurable sensations reach us, but also hunger, the excitation of desire, anxiety, shame, and also
the sensation I have upon perceiving, i.e., the sensation
that I am perceiving. These are sensations "linked to
the body," but it is not here a question of the (physical)
body I perceive (for example, my hands when I find
them pale, or the blush on my cheeks in the mirror), but
the (psychical, mental, animated, or living) "body"
with which I perceive (for example, the movements of
my hand when I look for my lighter in my pocket).
The main question seems to lie in this instance in
the fact that the "object" from which the sensation
arises (for example, the heat of my ears blushing, or the
position of my legs on the chair) is a part of myself. (It
seems more correct to use for this type of perception the
word self-perceptive rather than the word internal.)
I could say, for example, that I perceive in the
world the pin that is pricking me, but that I feel the
prick that is happening to me. This prick is mine as a
"somatic" sensation of the psychically animated
body, before being that of the body as a physically
perceptible object. It is something actual, but not so
much in the sense of "real," the way the word actually
is used, as in the sense that it acts and it acts now (in
the same sense as Freud used the word when he spoke
of actual neuroses). It is mine, besides, but only secondarily, because it belongs to the "territory" to
which we refer by the name of body scheme. This
scheme-which is a "projection of a surface" thanks
to the encounter or interface between perception and
sensation-is a secondary construction that had to be
learned, as shown by games such as "what a nice little
hand I have."6,7
6 In Spanish, there is a singing game mothers play with their babies:
"What a nice little hand I have, what a nice little hand God gave me,"
which the parent sings once and again, having placed the baby's hand in
front of it, for the baby to see the front and back of its hand and come to
realize it is the same hand. Sonletimes, the mother herself shows her baby
her own hand. This is similar to when we say to a baby "Show mommy
your little hand."
7 This point is related to the question of primary narcissism. I believe
infants need to learn that the hand they see (perception) and the hand

Body, Affect, and Language

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Affect as Sensation and the Perception of Affect

I believe we refer to affects with this word because

"our affects" affect us in an actual way, and we call
them "feelings" because we feel them as sensations
which, basically, penetrate our consciousness through
the same' 'surface" as the sensations of pleasure-unpleasure. Only afterwards do we learn how to recognize affects in others (as in ourselves), by perceiving
in them the concomitant physical signs (such as, for
example, blushing as a sign of shame).
As Solms states (1996, note 33), the conscious
record of a somatic sensation is organized as a complex perception referred to the body scheme, and
therefore the affects refer to internal organs vaguely
represented in the perception-oriented "surface,"
which gives rise to a physical image of the world. In
connection to this point, Solms also says: "the patient
confuses his internal (psychic) perceptions with external (physical) objects. This confusion between the two
classes of perception reaches its most extreme form
in the 'organ speech' of the schizophrenic, in which
internally generated feelings are confused with the internal organs of the body." However, the term speech
used by Freud alludes to an expressive or symbolical
exercise, which is beyond confusion, as far as organ
speech is concerned.
The "Somatic" Quality of Sensation

Attempting to interpret the unconscious meaning of

the different illnesses that affect the body forces me
to pay attention to the fact that the essential thing about
somatic sensation is, precisely, that it is not perception
(that is why I am not convinced of speaking of "interthey can feel (self-perceptive sensation) are the same hand. If by primary
narcissism we understand the investment of the ego by the id, the myth of
Narcissus does not seem to represent primary narcissism, since Narcissus
(who dies of hunger and thirst) falls in love with his face in the mirror of
the pond, just the way the others see him, i.e., he loves himself with the
love of the object. Or, better said, as the myth of Narcissus relates, the id
does not directly invest the ego, but rather invests it via the object (though
not in the manner of secondary narcissism, which arises when the lost
object is introjected in the ego). If we regard it this way, the body of
primary narcissism would not then be the body' 'of perception," but above
all, the body "of sensation" which derives fronl the drive source as qualitative organ-pleasure (Organ/ust). I am aware that Freud distinguished
between autoerotism and the narcissism that is at work when "the ego
has established itself," yet I think that, anyway, it is not possible to sustain
the idea of a "disintegrated" autoerotism, since there are prenatal protoimagoes of the ego. In The Ego and the Id, Freud holds that the id contains
within itself innumerable phylogenetic existences of the ego. It therefore
seems more likely to suppose that primary narcissism-insofar as it is a
direct investment of the id, which does not invest the objects of perception-is shaped as a sensation from the drive source.

nal perception" or of "two classes of perception").
Perhaps, it would be clearer if, in referring to that
essential aspect of sensations, we definitely stopped
calling them "somatic." Naturally, that is only possible if, far from reducing them to the mere intensity of
a "quantum," or to the increase or decrease of the
excitation in the unit of time, we kept its specific qualitative aspect that makes a distinction between the sensations of disgust, those of envy, and those of fear or
of shame, which led Freud to postulate in his Interpretation of Dreams (1900, p. 582) the existence of a
specific and unconscious "key of innervation" for
each affect.
On the other hand, even if we stop calling the
sensation "somatic," there is still the fact that, in
order to refer to the specific quality of each sensation,
we cannot do without representations of the body. It
is no coincidence that, when we differentiate an oral
unconscious phantasy from an anal one, for example,
we name them and distinguish them with terms that
allude to bodily structures and functions. I therefore
wish to underscore that affect, whose actuality depends on bodily sensations, is not only quantity, but
also quality, and that, besides, it does not determine a
particular process of motor or secretory discharge, but
rather, it is that particular process, regarded from the
angle of its meaning. 8
It seems that when we speak of the quality of
envy, or shame, we have departed from the realm of
, 'pure" sensation and entered into the field of affect,
which as Solms (1996) states, is formed in a "mixed"
way by integrating the elements of the pleasure-unpleasure series and the memory of scenes from the past
and with those coming from the "physical" perceptual
record of the body organs. Clarifying this issue leads
us to point out that the Freud of the second hypothesis
leads us to carefully reflect on the various formulations of the Freudian concept of drive.
8 As stated in the section on "The Psychoanalytic Theory of Affects,"
an affect is equivalent to a universal and innate hysterical attack, and
hysteria can be regarded as an affect acquired more recently. Solms (1996)
mentions this Freudian statement when he deals with the' 'somatic correlates" of affect. Since the expression "somatic correlate" is equivalent to
that of "somatic concomitant," and both are characteristic of parallelism,
according to the second hypothesis (which sees in such correlates the truly
psychical, i.e., the unconscious) it is better to refer to them as representations of the unconscious meaning of affect as a monument commemorating
a motor act which was expedient in phylogeny, i.e., which had a meaning
at that time. I believe that the fact that affect is meaning, because of its
very origin, or better said, significance (i.e., the importance of meaning)
Damasio's idea (Solms, 1996, note 49) is enriched by the idea that affect
"is the subjective point of reference of external perceptive experiences"
and it is an essential contribution for further research into the question of

Luis Chiozza


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The Quality of the Drive

I believe we cannot consider drive to be the psychical

representative of an "endosomatic" physical excitation, as Green holds (following Freud) in his introduction to the seminar on Organsprache (Chiozza and
Green, 1989), because that is again parallelism, even
if he does call it "dualism of the reunion." Yet, for
the same reasons, neither can it be a border concept
lying between the psychical and the somatic. Is it implied in that phrase that the drive is a concept and the
psychical and the somatic are not? If the psychical
and the somatic are what Kant called "the thing in
itself," we have fallen back into psychophysical parallelism; if they are concepts (which should be made
explicit by saying that the concept of drive is a border
concept between the concept of the psychical and the
concept of the somatic), it does not seem to be a proper
formulation to reduce the theoretical size of the concept of drive arising from the second hypothesis to a
geographical metaphor, which is neither explanatory
nor enlightening.
It follows from the second hypothesis that the
truly psychical is not defined by consciousness, but by
meaning, or in other words, by its belonging to a series
that has an aim. The drives are thus tendencies with
an aim, and Freud said many times that by examining
the aims it is possible to infer their source, which is
qualitatively differentiated in terms of erotogenic
zones (i.e., of bodily functions teleologically oriented).
I believe then that the essential thing about sensation is not at its point of "arrival" (whether central
or neurological), which refers it to a certain zone of
the bodily scheme or to the vague representation of
an "internal" organ in terms of physical space. I believe the essential thing consists in the fact that the
drives or pleasure (Organlust) are qualitative "right
from their (unconscious) source," which we represent
in two ways: as a qualitative and unconscious psychical aim (which the brain or the hypothalamus needn't
convert into quality), and as a function physiologically
and teleologically understandable or interpretable as
the effect of a physical cause. In other words, it is not
the point of arrival but the "entrance surface" that
makes them different.
A Third ((Surface"

So far, there are two surfaces, yet the things that are
present (here) can be absent, in the sense that we know

about the specific absence, and the actual things (present now) can be latent, i.e., potential, in the sense that
we notice that they are not occurring.
There is therefore another surface through which
a representation of an object perceived (witnessed9) at
some time in the past "enters," thus creating the news
of its specific absence, and at the same time creating
the notion of past that is implicit in memories, and the
notion of future, implicit in desire and fear.
From the metapsychological angle (in the Freudian "physicalist" sense of topography, dynamic and
economic) recollection and wish (or fear) are identical; both are equivalent to the investment of a mnemic
trace, but they are different insofar as they each generate a different temporality. They give rise, from the
preconscious (as Freud stated, following Kant [Freud,
1920, p. 28]), to the category "time" which, along
with that of "space," do not belong to the world but
rather to the human way of thinking. In other words:
They derive from the activity of the preconscious~onscious system.



The Distinction between Perception and Recollection

The possibility of distinguishing between perception

and memory is an essential concept in psychoanalytic
theory. Freud had to postulate the existence of an
imaginary "labeling office" which, by way of a truism, conferred on perceptions-not on memories-the
"signs of objective reality" on the basis of perceptive
qualities (Freud, 1950, p. 325).
That distinction is at the foundation of the difference between identity of perception (typical of the pri9 In Spanish the verb used is presenciado, the passive form of the
infinitive presenciar (to witness) with the same root as present.


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Body, Affect, and Language

mary process, of magic, and the pleasure principle)
and identity of thought (typical of the secondary process, of logic, and the reality principle). This is where
the distinction between the discharges typical of action
(or of "actual" affect) that are carried out with full
investments, and the discharges that are typical of
thought, which involve investments with small quantities, which are "experimental" rehearsals.
This is the origin of the difference between fulfillment of need, which puts an end to the excitation
springing from the drive source, and hallucinatory fulfillment of wish. In the latter case, for the purpose of
postponing frustration, there is a "false" conferral (or
transfer) of the signs of perceptual quality typical of
the perception of the sucked thumb onto the memory
(representation) of the absent breast, which precisely
due to its "specific" absence cannot put a stop to
the excitation, thus the excitation springing from the
source is discharged onto the organism itself by "overexciting" other erotogenic zones.
This matter was so important to Freud that it led
him to think that nothing deprived of the so-called
signs of perceptual quality would be capable of entering consciousness. Thus, for the representations
(memories and wishes) lacking such signs to be able
to enter consciousness, they had to use the signs of
what he once called "linguistic discharge" (Freud,
1950, p. 373), i.e., those deriving from acoustic
mnemic traces of perceptions of words heard. He also
used the same idea to explain repression proper, maintaining that for (secondary) repression to attain its aim,
it is enough to divest such association of the perceptual
traces (of words, usually).
The Actuality of Affect

In spite of the elegance of this scheme, we must admit

that the "third" surface of consciousness is not only
penetrated by representations of absences by association with the traces of old perceptions. We must remember, before I continue, what Freud stated in his
article on the unconscious. In fact, unconscious affects
do not exist as such in the same way that unconscious
ideas (or representations) do. To be precise, they are
(potential) dispositions that are only actual insofar as
they are discharge processes that manage to reach the
motor sphere of the ego (Freud, 1915c, pp. 177-178).
So much so that affects do not need to associate
with the signs of linguistic discharge, they do not need
the mediation of the word, in order to become conscious (Freud, 1923, pp. 20, 23). (Incidentally, the

whole theory of alexithymia, or the incapacity to speak

of affects, as the origin of "psychosomatic" disease
is shattered at this point: The same applies to the theory of symbolic incapacity.)l0
Besides postulating the signs of perceptual quality that allow us to speak of a capacity for "realitytesting," Freud mentioned only once (Freud, 1917, p.
233) the idea of an analogous capacity for' 'actualitytesting." In the same way that the former is a witness
to the fact that what is remembered as a conscious
record of an unconscious representation is also present
there, and for this reason in fact is also a perception,
the latter witnesses that what is wished or feared (remembered) as a conscious record of a latent disposition is also happening as an immediacy, at present
(actually), and for this reason it is truly (actually) also
an affect that is felt to be a sensation. This is why
Freud subscribes to Stricker's statement: "If, for instance, one is afraid of robbers in a dream, the robbers,
it is true, are imaginary-but the fear is real."
Presence, Actuality, and Representation

We have already said that actuality (immediacy, presence) derives from a sensation that penetrates consciousness through a surface or "window," which is
a different one from that used by real perception of
present objects, and from the one used by a memory
(which in its "pure" state is the conscious representation of the absent object). We can thus maintain that
10 There is yet another question to clear up. Freud held that:
(a) The main purpose of repression is to prevent a painful affect from
developing. (b) Repression is exerted by withdrawing preconscious verbal
representations. (c) Affect does not require a preconscious verbal representation in order to become conscious. If we accept these three statements,
we must ask ourselves: How does repression prevent the development of
a particular affect?
Affects are actual processes of discharge that always take place within
a certain state of the conscious system, so that when the consciousnessstate changes, the actual affect is necessarily altered. The discharge in
itself cannot be impeded, but its form or quality can be altered so as to
allow us to speak of the' 'substitution" of one affect (action or thought)
by another. The state of the conscious system, which is often called' 'contents of consciousness," is sustained by means of signs of objective reality,
signs of linguistic discharge, and signs of actuality, and it is these consciousness-states that' 'attract" affective discharge.
Thus the following can be roughly stated:
(i)-In the psychoses, the defensive process alters judgment about reality
in order to impede the development of a painful affect. (ii)-In the neuroses, repression proper substitutes the signs of linguistic discharge, thus
altering the meaning of the consciousness-state that could trigger the painful affect. (iii)-In somatic illnesses, the pathophysiological mechanism
displaces the investments of affect within the innervatory key and changes
the consciousness-state that the painful affect could have triggered, by
altering the conscious meaning of the processes endowed with signs of

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there are signs of actuality that have a kind of relation
with the somatic sensation, which is analogous to the
relation of the signs of objective reality with perception and to that of the signs of linguistic discharge
with memories.
If we accept what we have stated so far, there
is a kind of conscious derivative of an unconscious
representation, a wish (or fear) that corresponds to the
latent representation and that penetrates consciousness as a "memory," through a different surface from
the one used by sensation and from the one used by
The distinction between perception and recollection is the basis for the presence-absence dichotomy.
And upon the distinction between perception and sensation rests the presence-actuality opposition (which
also gives rise to the polarity between here and now),
and the distinction between sensation and recollection
which provides the grounding for the actuality-latency opposition.
The Distinction between Recollection and Desire
Freud used to say that it was necessary to pursue separately the effects that repression exerts on affect from
those exerted on the ideational part of representation
(Freud, 1915b, p. 152). A representation can thus be
broken down into two parts. That is, what we call
affect is a part of representation or, in other words,
not only the idea that gives rise to a recollection, but
also the affect (which does not require words) can be
represented in consciousness. A memory or recollection is the representation of an idea associated with
the traces of perception. An affect is experienced upon
discharge directly in consciousness as an actual sensation that does not require words to become conscious,
though it can remain associated with memories.
But when affect is not discharged, does this mean
it is not "represented" either? What is latency then?
How do we get to know about it? I believe that latent
affects can be "represented" (deprived of the signs
of actuality that only exist when affect is discharged)
through the surface penetrated by memory, as particular forms of remembering that we call "wish" and
"fear. "
Thus, from the metapsychological point of view,
there seems to be a way of distinguishing a memory
from a wish (or a fear), since although both come into
being as an investment of a mnemic trace (of perception in both cases but also of sensation), wish seems
to originate with an "average" investment, since it is

Luis Chiozza
greater than the small investment required for a memory. Therefore, a memory, which testifies to an absence, produces the notion of past, and on the other
hand a wish, testifying to a latency, to a "potential"
disposition, creates the notion of future. That is why
nostalgia is formed with memories, and eager longing
is formed with desire, and anxiety is formed with
Putting the above in these terms seems to lead us
to say that, unlike affects, desire is not characteristically a process of discharge, neither does it characteristically associate with mnemic traces of previous
perceptions, as a memory does, although both processes are part of it. Rather, what seems to be the
characteristic "defining" feature of desire is becoming ,'actually" conscious on the basis of mnemic
traces from previous sensations.
The Somatic Perception in Sensation
From everything stated above it is important to distinguish between sensation and perception (and between
actuality and presence). This requires us to raise the
question of the so-called exteroceptive sensations,
which are formed (in terms of the Freudian psychical
apparatus and in terms of neuroanatomy [Solms,
1996]) by integrating functions that correspond to the
perception of the physical world.
We may therefore conclude that it is indubitably
correct to grant somatic sensations the nature of a
mixed secondary formation (formed by combining
sensation and perception) if at the same time we admit
the theoretical need to postulate primary sensations
that reach consciousness via the actuality surface,
whose quality springs from the erotogenic zones
where they originated.
Memory and Recollection
There is a final matter to be clarified, and it concerns
the difference between representation and reactualizing, which is implicit in some of the subjects raised.
Italian distinguishes between two forms of amnesia: The word scordare is used to denote the act of tearing a recollection from the heart, and dimenticare the
act of taking it out of the mind. There is an expression in
Spanish that can be translated as "recollections assault
me," which is generally used to describe something that
occurs during a part of the process of mourning; it
shows that recollections "reach" consciousness. Yet


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Body, Affect, and Language

what is the meaning of the difference between reaching
the heart and reaching the mind?
We can admit that the unconscious record of
something that has happened leaves a trace that we
call mnemic; thus by memory (such as immunological
memory) we refer to the existence of that unconscious
trace. When the trace is reactivated by the drive that
invests it, then it can represent in consciousness an
image of the object that produced it and thus reactualize so as to temper it, the somatic sensation that was
part of the experience that left the trace. Because of
the lack of sufficient terms, I would like to keep the
word memory for the "mental" representation of the
image, since the word recollection is more appropriate
to denote the' 'affective" reactualization (in Spanish
recuerdo literally means "to return to the heart").l1
It is important to clarify that, just as we have
distinguished a representation from a presence, we distinguish a reactualization from an actuality; and the
reactualization corresponds to the quality of "average" investment that we attributed to desire and fear
in the previous sections.
Thus, I suggest that by memories we refer to the
remembrances implicit in the representations of absences, and by the words recollection and anticipation
(premonition, hunch) we refer to the reactualization
of latencies, which do not discharge in full quantity
the excitation which has reactivated an affective disposition.
If we think of affect as a "mixed" formation
that integrates' 'somatic" sensations with perceptions,
then we must admit that these mixed formations are
abundant and that what we habitually call "recollection," or "premonition" must also be shaped as a
mixed formation integrating reactualizations of the
sensations connected to affect with the representation
of the images that are connected to perception.
What we have called the ideational part of the
representation, following Freud's ideas, is connected
to the news of an absence which becomes conscious
thanks to the existence of signs of linguistic discharge
which confer upon it its "perceptive" nature. And
what we call a reactualization of a disposition is, on
the other hand, connected to news of a latency which
becomes conscious thanks to the existence of signs
of "discharge" which are not linguistic, but rather
"sensoaffective," and which are connected to the
tempered somatic sensations which give the reactualization their affective tone.

Recuerdo: The root cordis in Latin means heart.

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