“Affect – Imagery – Consciousness” volume 1:  The Positive Affects and volume 2:  The Negative Affects

by Silvan S. Tomkins (Professor of Psychology, Princeton U)   Karon, Bertram P.

Springer Publishing Company, inc

NY 1962


Bisbee Library got these books from

Texas Am University – Commerce

Gee Library, Interlibrary Loan Office

PO Box 3011

Commerce, TX  75429-3011


Consciousness:  “an additional intervening duplicating mechanism”  (Tomkins/aic/15)”

“It is not just consciousness in general which has been neglected, but the role of affect has also been grossly underestimated.  Indeed, we might speculate that the phenomena of consciousness might possibly never have been so neglected had the problem been restricted to determining what another human being thinks.  It is rather knowing how he feels that has been most strikingly avoided.  This is in part a consequence of the widespread taboos on affect which are learned in childhood.  (Tomkins/aic/5)”

“In our view, the primary motivational system is the affective system, and the biological drives have motivational impact only when amplified by the affective system.  This view is unusual, despite the fact that the evidence from a wide variety of sources clearly converges towards such a conclusion.  (Tomkins/aic/6)”


“Duplication is a transformation process in the service of a specific aim, the rebuilding on an identity.  In order to duplicate a living system, both energy and information transformations are necessary.  Hence material and information must be continually incorporated from the environment to support the duplication of a living system….  The individual duplicates himself in space and time in such a way that the duplicate he reproduces is itself capable of reproduction, so that theoretically an infinite progress becomes possible.  (Tomkins/aic/7)”

“The concept of duplication is central not only for biology but (Tomkins/aic/7) also for psychology.  This is so because individual and species duplication is achieved by a set of mechanisms which are themselves essentially duplicative.  The end of duplication of a libing system is achieved by means of sub-systems which are also capable of different kinds of duplication.  (Tomkins/aic/8)”

“The extreme instance of duplication with maximal informational and minimal energic transportation or transformation is found in language…..  It is thus possible for human beings using a language to duplicate, by convention, both objects and the relationships between objects. (Tomkins/aic/8”We conceive of man in this respect as an inter- and intra- communication system, utilizing feedback networks which transmit, match and transform, information in analogical form and in the form of messages in a language.  By a communication system we mean a mechanism capable of regular and systematic duplication of something in space and time.  (Tomkins/aic/9)”

“By such a definition the mimeograph machine, the camera and television are also communication systems  [reminds me of the way my mind worked as a child] This is so because a communication system need not involve two-way traffic nor employ feedback, nor language nor consciousness.  The camera is unaware, uncorrecting and non-linguistic in operation…..  Although there are communication systems which employ neither feedback, language nor consciousness, man employs all of these plus non-feedback, non-conscious, non-language duplicating mechanisms as components of his communication and feedback networks.  (Tomkins/aic/9)”

“…some of the general features of information flow and processing characteristic of the human being as he receives, transmits and transforms information to the end of that continuous self-duplication which is necessary for maintenance of his integrity as an organism and to sexual reproduction which is necessary for his survival as a species.  (Tomkins/aic/9)”

receptors, sensory nerves,

“At the terminal of the brain there are receiving stations whose function it is to duplicate those aspects of the world duplicated first at the sensory receptors and then duplicated again all along the sensory nerves.  (Tomkins/aic/10)”

“At this receiving station there is a type of duplication which is unique in nature.  Transmitted messages are here further transformed by an as yet unknown process we will call transmuting, which changes an unconscious message into a report.  We will define a report as any message in conscious form.  (Tomkins/aic/10)”

“Consciousness is a unique type of duplication by which some aspects of the world reveal themselves to another part of the same world.  A living system seems to provide the necessary but not sufficient conditions for this phenomenon.  The uniqueness of this transformation has been a source of discomfiture for the psychologist.  (Tomkins/aic/10)”

“It is indeed a great puzzle to guess what is gained by transforming the complex input of transmitted messages into conscious form…..  Although consciousness represents an increase in complexity, it is clearly not the only way in which nature has increased its complexity….  Most of our homeostatic mechanisms operate without benefit of consciousness.  The preservation of optimal levels of blood sugar calls neither for learning nor awareness.  (Tomkins/aic/11)”  [yet we are learning a lot about what affects that and about our responsibility to take care of the body’s need so that this subsystem can operate correctly]

“Did nature need a mechanism like consciousness to guarantee the viability of living organisms?  Certainly not for all living organisms:  the plant lives but appears unconscious.  We find consciousness in animals who move about in space but not in organims rooted in the earth.  Mobility is the key.  Consider how much information would have been required to be built into an organism which is never twicein exactly the same place in exactly the same world, when that world contains within it complex organisms whose behavior would have had to be predicted and handled.  (Tomkins/aic/11)”

“The solution to this problem consisted in receptors which were capable of registering the constantly changing state of the environment, transmission lines which carried this information to a central site for analysis, and above all a transformation of these messages into conscious form so that the animal “knew” what was going on and could govern his behavior b this information.  There is consequently a correlation between degree and frequency of conscious representation of a structure and that structure’s pertinence to mobility….  Because his range of sensitivity includes animals and objects which move considerably faster than he can, man has been able to take advantage of his own inventions that permit him to move faster than he was originally able to travel, without exceeding his capacity for awareness.  (Tomkins/aic/12)”


“It is our belief that the afferent [information being conveyed to the central nervous system] sensory information is not directly transformed into a conscious report.  What is consciously perceived is imagery which is created by the organism itself…..  The world we perceive is a dream we learn to have from a script we have not written.  It is neither our capricious construction nor a gift we inherit without work.  Before any sensory message becomes conscious it must be matched by a centrally innervated feedback mechanism.  This is a central efferent process which attempts to duplicate the set of afferent messages at the central receiving station.  … matching the constantly changing sensory input is a skill that one learns as any skill.  It is this skill which eventually supports the dream and the hallucination, in which central sending produces the conscious image in the absence of afferent support.  (Tomkins/aic/13)”

“Why postulate what appears to be a redundant mechanism?  Why not assume that what has been carefully transmitted to the central receiving station is directly transformed into conscious form:  Instead of putting the mirror to nature we are suggesting a Kantian strategy, putting the mirror to the mirror. Is this not to compound error?  Certainly the postulation of a feedback mechanism which will have to learn to mimic what in a sense the eye does naturally would at first blush appear perverse.  But the possibility of error is the inherent price of any mechanism capable of learning.  If we are to be able to learn perceptually, we will have to invoke a mechanism capable of learning errors as well as correcting errors.  But it will be objected we do not need to learn perceptually.  Why may we not use our perceptual system as a mirror put to nature by means of which we learn what else we need to know to achieve our purposes?  Should learning not be restricted to the non-perceptual functions? (Tomkins/aic/13)”

“There are many reasons why the human being requires perceptual learning, or to be more explicit, requires a feedback matching mechanism under central control.  First, as a receiver of information, he is at the intersect of an overabundance of (Tomkins/aic/13) sensory bombardment…which paradoxically renders him vulnerable to confusion and information impoverishment. [this happens to me – too right brain] ….  The individual must somehow select information to emphasize one sensory channel over another and focus on limited aspects of the incoming information within that channel.  There is a large safety factor built into the sensory system, [not with autism] but it represents safety only if it can be optimally used.  (Tomkins/aic/14)”

“Second, there is not enough information in the overabundant sensory bombardment.  The world changes over time and so, therefore, does the information it transmits.  At any one moment in time the same transmitted information is a sub-set of a pool of messages which has in fact varied from one receiver to another….  The information of any single message is a function of the set of messages from which it is selected or which might have been sent.  We need only add that the pool of alternatives relevant for the identification of any discrete message includes the messages which have been sent in the past and which may (Tomkins/aic/14) be sent in the future. [this relates to that strange sensation sometimes that there are too many possible alternatives available in my mind at the same time – or all possible alternatives – which is chaos] This set is in varying degrees idiosyncratic to each recipient.  As this set grows and as it is organized and used in the interpretation of new incoming information, the latter increases in the amount of information it caries.  By means of memory and the conceptual organization of memories, what is now being duplicated in the immediate present by the sensory system can be ordered in varying ways with what that same sensory system duplicated a moment ago, a week ago or for the entire past history of that individual.  [this reminds me of what they are now saying about remembering trauma – each time it is brought out and put back, the present involvement is added to it so that the memory “gets bigger”] (Tomkins/aic/15)”

“At this point it is not our intention to put the subjective into opposition to the objective nature of the perceptual information.  Our interest is rather in the amplification of information which becomes possible through the use of a matching feedback mechanism which can be sensitive to more than one source of information.  Perceptual skill is based on such a mechanism which can select from the flow of sensory messages those redundancies which have occurred before, as well as higher order trends across time which in a real sense cannot be represented at any one moment of sensory transmission.  (Tomkins/aic/15)”


“What the individual has duplicated in consciousness (been aware of) [this is not in relation to dissociation] must be preserved.  The environment emits information about both the enduring and changing aspects of itself from moment to moment.  Any organism which is the recipient of such information is thereby more capable of maintaining its life and reproducing itself, but if limited to only this information it would be an eternally youthful and innocent being.  It would look upon the world with continual surprise, [this is really spooky!  That is exactly how I describe my reactions to the abuse – every time mother hit me it was the first time, and I was surprised] and its competence would be sharply limited by its inherent information-processing capacity.  By an as yet unknown process, some aspects of every conscious report are duplicated in more permanent form.  This is the phenomenon of memory storage.  Not all the information which bombards the senses is permanently recorded.  Rather, we think, it is that information which in the competition (Tomkins/aic/15) for consciousness has succeeded in being transmuted that is more permanently duplicated.  (Tomkins/aic/16)”

This would also implicate trauma – which is not metabolized or transmuted – not stored, but remains “conscious” in its own form, not in-formed within the actual individual who “carries” it.

“Permanently preserved information would be of little utility unless it could be duplicated at some future time, as a report, or as a pre-conscious “guide” to future perception, decision and action.  We have distinguished sharply the storage process, as automatic and unlearned, from the retrieval process which we think is learned.  Both are duplicating processes, but one is governed by a built-in, unconscious mechanism, the other by a conscious feedback mechanism.  (Tomkins/aic/16)”

“There is on the one hand an overabundance of stored information which would overwhelm consciousness if it were the direct recipient of all such stored past experiences, and at the same time there is insufficient information across time and across separately stored items.  Sequential phenomena, trends and the variety of higher order organizations of his past experience which the individual must achieve require a centrally controlled feedback mechanism which can match the stored information but is not so closely coupled that its matching is limited to the passive reporting of either one isolated memory trace at a time or to the Babel which would occur if all of the stored information were to suddenly become conscious.  (Tomkins/aic/16)”

Dissociation would be related to the one isolated memory trace at a time, because they are not connected through transitions – they are state shifts, but without flow.

The inner eye, whether the recipient of information from the outside or from the inside, is postulated to be active and to employ feedback circuitry.  In the case of both perception and memory, however, there is a more passive non-feedback registration of information which provides the model for the conscious report.  Both the memory traces and the sensory bombardment are primarily duplicating mechanisms which are non-feedback in nature (despite some secondary feedback loops which will be considered later).  Both this sensory and memorial information represent only partial inheritances from the environment.  Matching of the past involves retrieval skill as matching of the present involves perceptual skill.  Relating the past to the present is possible because these two skills are based. (Tomkins/aic/16) on a shared mechanism which can turn equally well outward to the senses and inward to memory and thought.  (Tomkins/aic/17)”

The senses are in the body – they are not outward, but equally inward.

“…the human being…has purposes, intends to achieve these purposes and does achieve them through the feedback principle.  His purpose we think is primarily a conscious purpose – a centrally emitted blueprint which we shall call the Image.  Although sensory data becomes conscious as imagery and memory data must be translated into imagery, and both of these kinds of imagery are the consequence of a mechanism which employs the feedback principle, there is, nonetheless, a sharp distinction we wish to draw between the operation of imagery in sensory and memory matching and the Image as the blueprint for the primary feedback mechanism. In sensory and memory matching the model is given by the world as it exists now in the form of sensory information, and as it existed once before in the form of memory information.  In the case of the Image the individual is projecting a possibility which he hopes to realize or duplicate and that must precede and govern his behavior if he is to achieve it.  This Image of an end state to be achieved may be compounded of memory or perceptual images or any combination or transformation of these.  It may be a state which is both conscious and unconscious, vague or clear, abstract or concrete, transitory or enduring, one or many, conjoint or alternative in structure.  (Tomkins/aic/17)”

“What is to be produced is a duplicate of the predetermined aim of the feedback system, in another space at another time.  (Tomkins/aic/18)”

“We have assumed that the afferent and the efferent channels are relatively fixed circuits whose main function is to duplicate, via transmission, messages from outside in and from inside out and that the individual can never become aware of these messages.  Before a transmitted message can become conscious we have assumed a transformation process was necessary.  We have labeled this process transmuting and the conscious message we have called a report.  (Tomkins/aic/18)”

“We conceive of the efferent and autonomic system as the space in between a dart thrower and his illuminated target in an otherwise dark room.  One can learn to throw a dart to hit a target, in a dark room, without ever knowing what the trajectory of the dart might be, so long as one knew how it felt just before the dart was thrown and where the dart landed.  The trajectory described by the dart would and could never become conscious, but the effects of the trajectory could be systematically translated into the preceding conditions in such a fashion that for such and such a feel before throwing one could be reasonably certain that the visual report, after the trajectory, would be the desired report.  We conceive of the efferent messages as the dart trajectory, controlled b the afferent reports which precede and follow the efferent messages.  (Tomkins/aic/18)  We have called this a translation because there are two different languages involved, the motor and the sensory. ….  We conceive of the total afferent-efferent chain as follows:  the desired future report, the Image, must be transmitted to an afferent terminal and at the same time translated into a peripheral efferent message.  The message which initiated the translation is the same message which must come back if the whole process is to be monitored.  The monitoring process is, however, not a comparison between the first message and the feedback, but between the first report and the feedback after it has been transmuted into a report.  In other words, the individual can be aware only of his own reports, whether they are constructions from memory, or his constructions guided by an external source…. Is there any evidence that such a guiding Image does indeed exist?  (Tomkins/aic/19)”


“Much of the information which is transmitted over sensory and motor nerves is motivationally neutral….  There is a very restricted class of reports which “motivate” and provide blueprints for utilizing both input information and the feedback control mechanism.  These reports are of two kinds – a variety of pleasure and pain signals from the drive system and a variety of positive and negative signals from the affect systemBoth systems generate responses which in turn generate sensory feedbacks which are not neutral for the organism which experiences such reports.  They are immediately “acceptable” or “unacceptable” without prior learning.  One does not learn the pain of hunger or the pleasure of eating.  Nor does one learn to be afraid or to be joyous.  The organism is so (Tomkins/aic/20) constructed that the pleasure of eating is more acceptable than the pain of hunger and the awareness of joy is more acceptable than the awareness of fear.  These are the basic wants and don’t wants of the human being.  They are “ends-in-themselves,” positive and negative.  (Tomkins/aic/21)”

“These are primarily aesthetic experiences.  The human being passively enjoys or suffers these experiences before he is capable of either approach or escape or maximizing or minimizing them through instrumental behavior.  What to “do” about these experiences cannot be altogether clear to the neonate who is relatively incompetent to do very much about anything[I had no Image of myself as being any different than what was when I was a child] ….  It is a long step from the consummatory pleasure of eating and the affect of joy at the sight of the mother’s face to the “wish” for these, and a still longer step to the instrumental behaviors necessary to satisfy any wish.  Nonetheless there is a high probability that the human being will ultimately utilize his feedback mechanisms to maximize his positive affects, such as excitement and joy, and to minimize his negative affects such as distress, fear and shame, and maximize his drive pleasure and minimize his drive pain.  (Tomkins/aic/21)”

I think this gets all off target and mixed up for those of us with the different brains!

“The hunger signal, and the drive mechanism in general, is an instance of a special type of duplication, that of a sing or signal.  In a signal mechanism there is an orderly relationship or invariance between a state of affairs in one place at one time and a state of affairs in another place or at another time.  So long as the relationship is invariant, one state may signify or stand for the other state.  [This make me think of the difference between coupled and coupled, say with the ANS] ….  The drive mechanism is constructed to signal that food is missing rather than present.  (Tomkins/aic/21)”

“A sign need bear no resemblance o what it signifies, so long as it does stand in an invariant spatial or temporal relationship of some kind to the signficate.  The drive signal communicates with motivational power the information where and when one is to do what – and where and when one is to stop doing what.  The neonate does not know that critical tissues may need replenishment.  He knows only that the mouth is suffering discomfort.  Under these conditions he will make the appropriate consummatory responses and accept food and continue until the signals change in quality and motive power.  The waxing and waning of these signals is nicely timed to his future needs.  He stops eating before the deficit has been completely remedied.  Indeed he started eating long before the deficit assumed critical proportions.  A large safety factor ordinarily governs the emission of drive signals.  (Tomkins/aic/22)”

“The drive system is, however, secondary to the affect system.  Much of the motivational power of the drive system is borrowed from the affect system, which is ordinarily activated concurrently, as an amplifier for the drive signal.  The affect system is, however, capable of masking or even inhibiting the drive signal and of being activated independently of the drive system by a broad spectrum of stimuli, learned and unlearned…..  the affect system…. Is the primary provider of blueprints for cognition, decision and action.  The human being’s ability to duplicate and reproduce himself is guaranteed not only by a responsiveness to drive signals but [sic]by a responsiveness to whatever circumstances activate positive and negative affect.  Some of the triggers to interest, joy, distress, startle, disgust, aggression, dear and shame are unlearned.  At the same time the affect system is also capable of being instigated by learned stimuli.  In this way the human being is born biased toward and away from a limited set of circumstances and is also capable of learning to acquire new objects of interest and disinterest.  (Tomkins/aic/22)”

“The affective system has some of the signal characteristics of the drive system, insofar as it is activated by invariant stimuli or responses and reduced by invariant stimuli or responses.  It differs from the drive signal system in two critical ways.  First, there are numerous invariant instigators of any particular affect.  The child may cry in distress if it is hungry or cold or wet or in pain or because of a high temperature.  Further, he may learn to cry at stimuli for which there are no inherited releasers.  Secondly, there are numerous invariant reducers of the same affect.  Crying can be stopped by feeding, cuddling, making the room warmer, making it colder, taking the diaper pin out of his skin and so on.  Further, as he may learn to cry at numerous stimuli, so may he also learn to stop.  There are many-one relationships with respect to instigation and one-many relationships with respect to maintenance and reduction.  It is this different coupling and uncoupling characteristic which permits the affect system to assume a central position in the motivation of man.  (Tomkins/aic/23)”

“The price that is paid for this flexibility is ambiguity and error.  The individual may or may not correctly identify the “cause” of his fear or joy and may or may not learn to reduce his fear or maintain or recapture his joy.  [Coupled with the fact that this system is vulnerable to damage during its formation during early brain developmental stages]  In this respect the affect system is not as simple a signal system as the drive system.  If the feedback of he affective response is motivating, then whatever instigates, maintains and reduces the affect also becomes equally motivating.  To the extent that there are invariant relationships between any stimulus and any affect, that stimulating state of affairs can become the sign or partial duplicate of that affect.  The face which frightens the child can become the fear-causing face and eventually the to-be-avoided face.  (Tomkins/aic/23)”

“So long as the instigator of the affect is correctly identified, any inborn, invariant relationship between instigator and affect guarantees that the former becomes motivating.  As such this becomes a powerful instrument for evolutionary change since different animals can thus be sensitized to a host of very special environmental opportunities and dangers.  We must indeed look to the evolutionary process for some of the answers to the perennial question – what are the basic motives of the human being.  (Tomkins/aic/24)”


“…natural selection has operated on man to heighten three distinct classes of affect – affect for the preservation of life, affect for people and affect for novelty.  He is endowed with specific affects to specific releasers so, for example, he fears threats to his life, is excited by new information and smiles with joy at the smile of one of his own species.  These constitute some of the basic blueprints for the feedback mechanism.  The human being is equipped with innate affective responses which bias him to want to remain alive and to resist death, to want sexual experiences, to want to experience novelty and to resist boredom, to want to communicate, to be close to and in contact with others of his species and to resist the experience of head and face lowered in shame.  (Tomkins/aic/27)”

“…his integration of these needs cannot be perfect, nor can he be more than imperfectly adapted to his changing environment…..In the case of man, natural selection was operating on a broad spectrum of characteristics for adaptation to a broad spectrum of environments.  (Tomkins/aic/27)”


Drive-Affect Interactions

“The ability to duplicate himself and his kind in space and time is the most essential characteristic of any living system.  In the human being the drive system plays a central role in such self-maintenance and reproduction.  By a variety of specialized mechanisms different kinds of material are incorporated from the environment into the organism, and transported from the organism into the environment.  B y means of the sex drive and the genetic process the species is duplicated over time.  The individual duplicates himself in space and time in such a way that the duplicate he reproduces is itself capable of reproduction, so that an infinite progress becomes possible.  (Tomkins/aic/29)”

“In the case of man, natural selection was operating on a broad spectrum of characteristics for adaptation to a broad spectrum of environments.  It is our belief that natural selection, through differential reproductive success, favored specific motivational and behavioral characteristics in man…..  He is biased towards life and against death.  He is biased toward novelty and mastery and against boredom and helplessness.  He is biased toward excitement and joy in communion with others and against the distress of lonely- (Tomkins/aic/29) ness and the head lowered in shame in the presence of others.  (Tomkins/aic/30)”

“The major mechanism for guaranteeing viability is the drive system.  This operates by a set of signals which inform and motivate the individual to incorporate into the organism the raw material from the environment which it must have to remain alive, and informs and motivates the individual to excrete the waste products of the assimilated material….  Life must and can be pursued and maintained in many ways via the pluralism of the drive system.  (Tomkins/aic/30)”

“The primary function of the drive mechanism is to provide motivating information.  There are systems, such as the sensory receptor mechanisms, which are designed to provide only information, and this at both a high rate of speed and continuously over a long period of time – the life of the organism….  On the other hand, there are systems, such as the affect system, which are primarily motivational in nature.  (Tomkins/aic/30)”

“The drive system in contrast to a specialized information mechanism or a specialized motivational mechanism provides (Tomkins/aic/30) motivating information – information which “drives” and a drive which “informs,” at once.  Without such motivating information, the human being could not live.  The basic nature of this information is of time, of place and of response – where and when to do what – when the body does not know otherwise how to help itself. (Tomkins/aic/31)”

“…the majority of biological processes within the body of man … are silent.  They have no conscious representation but are nonetheless capable of running the complex machinery so that the animal remains alive.  These processes do not “need” conscious representation because they “know” what they need to know, to do what they have to do….  The body employs a “drive” only when it lacks the information necessary to maintain the body.  Then it beats on the door of consciousness until the person is goaded into some activity which will meet the body’s needs.  (Tomkins/aic/31)”

“The breathing rate comes under drive governance rather than homeostatic control when the awareness of breathing and suffocation mobilizes the individual to breathe more rapidly or more slowly and more deeply, or less so, or to take immediate action to remedy whatever is threatening his air supply, or both.  (Tomkins/aic/32)”

“Since there is competition between channels for transformation of messages into conscious form, some drive signals may be sent but never transmuted into reports….  The drive mechanism includes in its design favored entry into consciousness.  (Tomkins/aic/32)”

“The advantage of the drive system over the more automatic homeostatic mechanism is twofold:  increased variability of the consummatory response and the activation of the learning system in activity instrumental to the consummatory response.  [talks here of automatic versus manual choke on a carburetor – when car is running you can’t tell by listening which one is regulating the mixture of gasoline to air]  (Tomkins/aic/32)”

“The second advantage of the drive system over the homeostatic system, the activation of the learning capacity in activity instrumental to drive consummation, is not, strictly speaking, an advantage of the drive system proper….Not until the individual becomes aware of his need for more air can he begin to try to get out of the smoke-filled room.  The homeostatic system, because of its silent, unconscious operation, is not designed to alert the organism to its needs and hence not designed to initiate instrumental activity.  (Tomkins/aic/33)”

“Nature relied on a drive mechanism when she did not have the necessary information to build it into the homeostatic mechanism in advance.  It was much easier to construct an internal (Tomkins/aic/33) environment whose variability could be anticipated and kept within limits by mechanisms supplied with the necessary information to maintain reasonable constancy…..  The drive mechanism, though rarely used for breathing, provided an important safety factor in the event of unusual circumstance….  He is bombarded with distress signals from the site where the rescue work must begin.  (Tomkins/aic/34)”

“In the design of a drive mechanism, then, there have been incorporated as many helpful hints as nature knew how to build.  The so-called trial and error part of the drive-instigated learning represents instrumental rather than consummatory information.  This is a small part of the information necessary to solve the problem of remedying the situation for which the drive is only a signal.  [He uses the example, it is not every blood vessel in the body that lets us know we have a breathing situation here, we could not figure out what we needed to do to remedy if fast enough if we were flooded with physical information] (Tomkins/aic/36)”

“…the drive mechanism, in addition to where and when and what to do, also tells us to what we should be responsive….  Not only does it [the drive signal system] tell us where we must concern ourselves, but also when we must start and stop consummatory activity.  (Tomkins/aic/36)”

“The more biologically urgent the drive…the more likely the drive mechanism is to be so constructed that it will capture consciousness and the more likely it will continue to be emitted as a signal of increasing intensity, rather than being turned off if it is not consummated.  (Tomkins/aic/38)”

“The general characteristics of drive mechanisms, then, include signals which pain and signals which please.  The latter are activated both before and after the correct consummatory response has begun…..  There also appear to be drives, such as pain proper, that are purely negative, i.e., the consummatory response does no more than stop the negative signals.  The cessation of negative drive signals would appear to be a sufficient motivator only in the case of a drive which does not require repetition of the same activity over time.  We distinguish three types of drive mechanisms.  First, drives which are based on pure pain alone, as in nausea, anoxia and pain.  Second, drives which are initiated by pleasure signals and terminated by pain signals, as in sex and eating.  Third, drives which are initiated by both pain and (Tomkins/aic/38) pleasure and terminated by the concurrent reduction of both, as in thirst.  (Tomkins/aic/39)”

“The sign or signal is different from the symbol, in which an element duplicates something by convention.  Both are to be distinguished from the analogical form of communication in which duplication preserves some aspect of the domain in a non-symbolic, non-signal manner.  The retina registers some aspects of the world in analogical form…..  The drive signal communicates with motivational power the information here and when one is to do what, and where and when one is to stop doing what.  (Tomkins/aic/39)”

“We think that most of the perceptual channels in man are designed primarily to deliver ever-changing information, either about the external world (through vision) or about the changing relationship between (Tomkins/aic/41) the body and that world (through proprioceptors).  Such information ordinarily does not motivate directly.  By a motive, we mean the feedback report of a response which governs processes other than itself to maintain itself, to produce a duplicate of itself or to reduce itself.  Thus pain is a motive if it will initiate processes to reduce the experience of pain.  (Tomkins/aic/42)”

“”Wanting” to do anything is a motive if it will initiate processes which will produce the “wanted” experience which exists initially only as a blueprint of the future.  (Tomkins/aic/42)”

“…part of the seeming urgency of the drive state is, in fact, a consequence of an affective response, which ordinarily amplifies, but may under certain conditions modulate, attenuate, interfere with, or even reduce, the primary drive signal.  (Tomkins/aic/46)”

“…a vagus death which is the result of overstimulation of the parasympathetic, rather than the sympatheticoadrenal system…   (Tomkins/aic/46)”


volume 2

“…we consider socialization of distress – anguish punitive whenever the distress cry itself is punished or rejected or whenever there is a failure of helping remedial action to reduce the source of distress, or both.  (Tomkins/aic2/88)”

“To the extent to which the distress cry itself has been further punished, the original cry of distress for whatever reason is ordinarily increased in intensity and duration through the further punishment administered for responding with distress in the first place.  Every type of offense then has a higher priced distress penalty than would accrue to it without the further punitive response to the distress cry.  In this way violations of the norms of the parents, and later of authority in general, become more serious in distress consequences. (Tomkins/aic2/89)”

“whining voice, which is one of the adult forms of the cry (Tomkins/aic2/89)”

“In such cases there may be no strategies of avoiding or minimizing distress because the individual has been essentially taught that the world is a vale of tears and that he is destined to suffer much of his life.  This is the lesson which is taught when the original wishes of the child are continually punished, and when the cry in response to this punishment is further punished and so a further source of distress.  If, in addition, every attempt at protest or resistance in anger at this further distress is further punished, then the child is taught not only that everything he wishes for produces suffering, but every attempt to counteract and reduce this suffering produces further suffering.  This can be produced what we have called a multiple suffering bind.  (Tomkins/aic2/89)”


“We have dfined the multiple bind in general as the case in which negative affects are so organized that any one of this set of negative affects activates the remainder of the set and thereby greatly amplifies the intensity of each component of the set.  (Tomkins/aic2/89)”

“When the cry of distress activates further distress from (Tomkins/aic2/89) punishment for crying, and still more distress as a result of anger and aggression against this distress, then each of these separate experiences of distress constitute a special case of the multiple bind, that of the homogeneous multiple bind, when distress begets more distress.  (Tomkins/aic2/90)”

“A homogeneous multiple bind for other affects would be the circumstances in which fear begets more fear, or anger more anger, or shame more shame.  (Tomkins/aic2/90)”

“In contrast, a heterogeneous multiple bind is that type of inhibition of affect in which a different affect constitutes the major source of inhibition.  An example of a heterogeneous multiple suffering bind would be one in which crying had been reduced by the arousal of fear or shame.  In such a case the adult would be inhibited in responding with distress or would avoid so responding because he had been earlier taught to feel afraid at the possibility of crying.  If, having been slapped on the face for crying, he had attempted to run away from the punitive parent and then been pursued and further lectured to on the importance of taking one’s punishment like a man, he might then have been shamed our of his fear, or at least out of acting on it.  If now, hanging his head in shame before the punitive parent, the child is further lectured on the importance of a stiff backbone in the face of discipline, the shame response itself may be bound by further shame.  The final consequence of such a distress-distress-fear-shame-shame multiple bind might be the frozen face which would solve the entire problem at once.  (Tomkins/aic2/90)”


“Distress we have argued is a negative affect of much less toxicity than fear, and so enables the human being more easily to confront and solve his problems.  We have also argued that distress is ubiquitous, whereas fear is properly an emergency reaction.  (Tomkins/aic2/90)”

“The addition of fear to distress favors more radical strategies of submission and conformity or rebellion and deviance, lest one experience the terror of loneliness and difference.  Loneliness and alienation are no doubt distressing to most human beings, but they need not be terrifying if fear has not been closely tied to distress.  The child who has been made to experience fear whenever he feels like crying is peculiarly vulnerable to the threat of separation from the parent who produced the distress – fear bind.  (Tomkins/aic2/94)”

“Nor is the impact of fear on distress limited to an increased sensitivity to the threat of separation from others.  In addition, any sign of distress in others may also arouse anxiety in the self…..All such attempts at (Tomkins/aic2/94) communion through the expression of distress may evoke from the distress-frightened listener not sympathy but fear.  (Tomkins/aic2/95)”

“Further, since the experience of fear is so toxic, repeated distress-fear sequences can eventually power massive defensive strategies lest such experiences be repeated.  Thus a person who is distress-frightened may deny that he or others are ever tired or sick, are ever defeated or seriously challenged in competitive striving and problem-solving, or ever lonely.  Such a linkage may also power compulsive athleticism or withdrawal from the risks of life, compulsive achievement or passivity, and compulsive communication or isolation.  (Tomkins/aic2/95)”

“The punitive socialization of the distress cry then not only produces the serious problem of learning how to cry without being seen and heard, but may add to this problem, the even more difficult one of coping with affects, such as fear, which are more threatening than distress.  (Tomkins/aic2/95)”

“If, whenever a child cries, he is the recipient of contempt or rejection or indifference from his parents, he may be taught to hang his head in shame whenever he feels like crying.  While shame is not the toxic, emergency affect that fear is, it it [sic] nonetheless quite unpleasant and indeed sufficiently so that it may evoke fear lest it be re-experienced.  In this way distress may become bound in the sequence distress, shame, fear, in the absence of any terrorizing tactics by parents.  It can happen that although it is not sufficient to evoke fear, and although shame might be itself be insufficient to evoke fear, the experience of combined distress and shame produces a sufficiently rapid increase of density of neural firing to activate fear on an essentially unlearned basis.  This can happen despite the fact that the activation of shame by distress has been learned.  (Tomkins/aic2/95)”

“Even without the addition of fear, the experience or threat of shame every time distress is activated or anticipated constitutes a radical increase in the toxicity of the distress experience.  (Tomkins/aic2/95)”

“If because of shame we suppress the cry and the feelings of distress, the same factors operating within us will make us incapable of awareness of the distress-anguish of others, or when the other’s distress-anguish is overly obtrusive, will produce the same reaction to the other as our own distress produces within the self – avoidance of the other, or contempt, and some attempt to suppress rather than recognize the feeling.  The reality of the suffering of the other becomes as difficult to appreciate as is the suppressed suffering of the self.  (Tomkins/aic2/96)”


“Another variant of the distress-shame bind is that produced by “crying it out.”  In such a case the parent ordinarily is hostile toward crying or the child in general or both.  Since this is a pointed turning away from the cry of help, the child upon finishing his crying may or may not be exhausted and apathetic, depending upon how long he cried and with what intensity.  Searles noted many years ago that such a sequence of wish, crying and exhaustion could ultimately produce the most severe withdrawal of affect from all objects, since what was learned was that wishing produced pain and exhaustion.  (Tomkins/aic2/98)”

“…in our view, shame is activated by an incomplete reduction of excitement or joy, so that a child who wishes to look at or smile at a stranger but who is also reluctant, will respond with shame or shyness.  When a child has cried to exhaustion because his parent would not (Tomkins/aic2/98) help him, the interest in the parent is sufficiently attenuated, we think, to evoke shame and the child feels that the parent is in a real sense a stranger to him.  It is because of this type of innate activation of shame that the adult whose distress has been socialized in this way so frequently experiences shame along with weariness and sleepiness when he might otherwise have simply felt distress in response to illness, or failure, or loneliness.  (Tomkins/aic2/99)”

I have the movie, Nell, on —  “It’s like she doesn’t need anybody.”  Strikes me

“Ultimately also, such socialization of distress is capable of producing a profound resignation to destiny because of an awareness that when one needs help most, one’s cry for help will not be heard, or if it is heard it will make no difference.  Much of the pessimism which Freud attributed to the vicissitudes of the early oral stage can be accounted for by the long continued and repeated sequences of the lonely crying to exhaustion which has been permitted by parents whose posture towards distress is essentially punitive.  (Tomkins/aic2/99)”

“…the consequences for the adult may range from an intensification of such resignation, to occasional intrusions, to massive intrusions, or to complete masking but with an underlying vulnerability.  (Tomkins/aic2/99)”


“One important type of freedom which is a consequence of the enjoyment of repeated help from parents in coping both with the experience of distress and its sources is a general trust (Tomkins/aic2/104) in the parents and in human beings.  Basic trust has two components.  First is the firmly held conviction that when one is in trouble that this matters to someone else, that my distress is your distress, that you are your brother’s keeper, and that you will offer sympathy and good wishes.  Second, it is the equally strong conviction that when I am too troubled to help myself, you can and will help me directly or help me to help myself.  (Tomkins/aic2/105)”

“The individual who suffers punitive distress socialization, however, is haunted all his life with something akin to the ultimate human predicament, the necessarily lonely confrontation of his own death which is inescapable.  He senses that if and when he meets trouble he must met it alone, and he must suffer in silence lest he evoke more misery.  He feels he can count on neither sympathy nor help and that he is forever vulnerable to contempt, to hostility or to rejection if he were to surrender to the cry for help.  (Tomkins/aic2/105)”

“In contrast, rewarding distress socialization strengthens basic trust and makes possible a depth and strength of interdependence which is impossible with punitive distress socialization.  It also generates confidence in the efficacy of the remedial action taken by others on one’s behalf.  (Tomkins/aic2/105)”

“Inasmuch as every important response of the parent provides an identification model for the child, rewarding distress socialization produces in the child empathic distress at the suffering of the parents and others, a willingness to communicate felt sympathy, a willingness to help the other and a belief that it is possible to do so.  This set of positive attitudes towards the sufferings of others, combined with the belief that this is reciprocal, is necessary if enduring and intense social ties are to be generated and maintained.  (Tomkins/aic2/105)”

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