"I have come to believe that innate affect is almost impossible for most people to learn because they have been reared in a psychosocial system that declares the expression of affect to be an unwanted remnant of disgusting infantile behavior."

Donald Nathanson, MD
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Affect Script Psychology

              Affect Script Psychology            

By Way of Introduction
For a more complete introduction to Affect Script Psychology we invite you to download these two excellent documents.  They are available here as free downloadable pdf files.

Prologue to the new version of Tomkins's Affect, Imagery and Consciousness by Donald Nathanson, MD

A Primer of Affect Psychology by Vernon C. Kelly, MD


The Challenge of a New Paradigm
The work of Silvan S. Tomkins (1911-1991) represents a lifetime of monumental effort and theoretical achievement in producing an innovative lens through which human activity can be seen in an innovative way. This applies both to humans in general, to groups, as well as to individuals.

 

In 1992, several clinicians led by Donald Nathanson and Vernon Kelly banded together to explore and learn from the vast territory staked out by Tomkins in his 4 volume work titled "Affect Imagery Consciousness." Through their efforts, a new form of affect-based psychotherapy called The Philadelphia System emerged. Chiefly, through the writings and work of Nathanson, a practical application of Tomkins's work was developed. Kelly's work with couples was an important contribution.

The Silvan S Tomkins Institute (now called the Tomkins Institute) was formed to carry out this innovative application of affect, cognition and script. Since then, other applications began to develop in fields of biology (neurology), psychology (theoretical, as with the topic of consciousness; practical in "A New Psychotherapy.");
public policy formation), sociology (community organization), legally (as with the restorative justice movement); philosophically (epistemology); somatically (sensory awareness); and aesthetically (music, art, literature, theater). The original SSTI was focused on clinical theory and application. The Institute has been re-organized, and while retaining  the original focus, it is  expanding its reach into  other fields. Some of these goals are short term, and some long term. 

With the 1962 and 1963 release of the first two volumes of his masterpiece, Affect Imagery Consciousness (AIC), Tomkins broke with mainstream psychology to declare the primacy of the affect system as the motivating force in human life. He did this in an era dominated by Freudian drive theory, and maintained his position in the face of the increasing popularity within academic psychology of cognition and behavior. Interest in the formation of the adult personality became unpopular at Princeton, and he withdrew into the study of the affective nature of ideology, of commitment, and of the addictions. The first scientist to receive a Career Scientist Award from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), in 1965 he established the Center for Cognition and Affect at the City University of New York. Three years later he moved to Livingston College of Rutgers University, where he remained until his formal retirement in 1975. The final two volumes of AIC were completed just before his death in 1991, and expanded his earlier work on personality formation in the language of Script Theory.

 

In the approximately 10,000 years of civilization, primary value has been given to stabilizing the human experience as much as possible. In our view, this produced an over-emphasis and an over-valuing of the deliberative functions of the human nervous system. This is a function of cortical development that produces static images. In the process, the substrate of human emotion, in its spontaneity, was seen as threatening to that stability. The perceived need to maximize the inhibition of affect/emotion left a big hole in our methods of evaluating, our theories and doctrines, and our view of what motivates us. Nathanson wrote, "I have come to believe that innate affect is almost impossible for most people to learn because they have been reared in a psychosocial system that declares the expression of affect to be an unwanted remnant of disgusting infantile behavior." The "infantile behavior" of our non-civilized ancestors was seen as "primitive" and threatening to a civilized world that had come to be stabilized through language and symbol-based logics.

 

Silvan Tomkins was the first to give us a comprehensive view in which the biology of emotion as well as the biology of cognition can be reconciled and coordinated. He wrote, “Affect is the bottom line for thought as well as perception and behavior. It is not, as reinforcement theory had it, a carrot useful primarily in persuading us to perform instrumental acts, since instrumental acts are sufficient but not necessary to evoke rewarding affect. Affect is an end in itself, with or without instrumental behavior.  . . . feeling and thinking are two independent mechanisms, that preferences need no inferences, that affective judgments may precede cognitive judgments in time, being often the very first and most important judgments.” P.45 Exploring Affect

 

The Silvan Tomkins Institute makes these assumptions:



1. EMOTIONS ARE THE MOTIVATING ELEMENT IN THE WAYS HUMAN BEINGS MAKE MEANING AND EVALUATE. THUS, EMOTIONS ARE NECESSARY IN CREATING A VALUE BASE FROM WHICH WE CARRY OUT OUR PURPOSES.

 

2. OUR CULTURE, AS WELL AS OTHERS, IS INADEQUATELY EDUCATED ABOUT EMOTIONS, WHERE THEY COME FROM, THE PART THEY PLAY IN THE WAY WE FEEL-THINK-ACT, AS WELL AS IN UNDERSTANDING THE DIFFERENCES IN THE WAY POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE AFFECT BIAS HUMAN BEHAVIOR.

 3. HOW WE LIMIT EMOTIONAL EXPRESSION HAS A PROFOUND EFFECT ON THE HEALTH OF OUR CHILDREN, AND ULTIMATELY THE WORLD IN WHICH WE LIVE.

 

4. TO RESTORE ORGANIC COORDINATION IN THE HUMAN ORGANISM, AFFECT NEEDS FREEDOM, COGNITION NEEDS LIMITS.