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September Meeting to Focus on Building Safe and Healthy Communities Through Emotional Competence

Register for the 2018 Annual Conference

"We are on the threshold of immense new possibilities in understanding human beings.”

(Silvan Tomkins)

Silvan Tomkins’s theory of innate, biologically-based affects describes the internal reward system that powers human motivation and explains the systematic, incremental development of emotion, learning, personality and ideology. We at the Tomkins Institute are devoted to testing, advancing, and applying this powerful Human Being Theory.








Join us in September!

A sorrowful passing

We sorrowfully announce the death of Tomkins Institute founder, Don Nathanson. As author of Shame and Pride: Affect, Sex, and the Birth of the Self, Nathanson explained and applied Tomkins’ theories to so as to have profound and lasting impact. His work in establishing this institute and promoting Tomkins’ legacy has been an enormous gift to humankind.

A wonderful obituary for Dr. Nathanson appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer, where it was noted that “Dr. Nathanson blazed a trail when he began to explore how emotions, especially shame, are a critical regulator of human behavior and to discern that the responses to shame can be mapped. He wrote extensively and lectured internationally on the subject.”  Click here to read the obituary.

Here is a note from Co-Founder, former President of Tomkins Institute, and good friend of Don, Vick Kelly:

7 December 2017

To the friends, colleagues, students, and others who knew him:

Sadly I send you news of the passing of my mentor and dear friend Don
Nathanson. He had been in hospice at Bryn Mawr Hospital for several days
and passed away peacefully this morning after a long battle with
dementia and the physical aftereffects of a stroke. His death is partly
a blessing because he was a such a brilliant man but had lost the use of
his powerful intellect to illness. It is not so much of a blessing for
those of us who loved him dearly. Although she was not present at the
moment of his death, his amazing wife Roz was by his side for the many
years of his ordeal, making sure he was well taken care of. Almost to
the very end, he was able to say “I love you” to her.



What members of the Institute are reading, writing and appreciating about Tomkins' ideas at play in the world.

Teaching Affect to Teachers

Over the last few months, Graeme George has been teaching affect to teachers as part of the “Restorative Schools” movement in Australia. It is a movement that hopes to introduce schools to restorative practices, which are firmly rooted in a respect for... Read More

Affect and Neuroplasticity

This post cross-references affect theory with the work of a very influential author in the realm of brain science, and concludes that “Tomkins was ahead of the curve in understanding human cognition, especially in integrating disparate areas of science and research with... Read More

The Depressive Posture

Excerpt from: Emotional Rescue: Shame and the Depressive Posture in George Eliot by Joseph Adamson, McMaster University, June 29, 2009 Vulnerability to both shame and the longing for approval and love is the core of what Silvan Tomkins has called the “depressive... Read More

The Case Against Depression

The wife of a 42-year-old physician pushes him to call for an urgent appointment. He is described as suicidally depressed, has rejected all offers of help, but agrees to see me later that day. Within minutes of beginning our initial... Read More

The Skin is Where It's At - Inverse Archaeology



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“A world experienced without any affect would be a pallid, meaningless world. We would know that things happened, but we could not care whether or not they did.”