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«Enter in one another»

The idea that one can soak up someone else’s depression or anxiety or sense the tension in a room is familiar. Indeed, phrases that capture this notion abound in the popular vernacular: “negative energy,” “dumping,” “you could cut the tension with a knife.”

The Transmission of Affect deals with the belief that the emotions and energies of one person or group can be absorbed by or can enter directly into another. The ability to borrow or share states of mind, once historically and culturally assumed, is now pathologized, as Teresa Brennan shows in relation to affective transfer in psychiatric clinics and the prevalence of psychogenic illness in contemporary life.

To neglect the mechanism by which affect is transmitted, the author claims, has serious consequences for science and medical research.

Brennan’s theory of affect is based on constant communication between individuals and their physical and social environments. Her important book details the relationships among affect, energy, and “new maladies of the soul,” including attention deficit disorder, chronic fatigue syndrome, codependency, and fibromyalgia.

TERESA BRENNAN was in the final stages of editing The Transmission of Affect in December 2002. On the night of December 9, she went out on an errand and was crossing the street when she was hit by an automobile. She never regained consciousness and died early in the morning of February 3, 2003. Dr. Brennan had been working on the finishing touches of her favorite chapter and reviewing the copyedited version of the manuscript on the night of the accident. The remaining
review was completed by her long-time assistant and literary
executrix, Woden Teachout, and her trusted researcher, Sandy Hart.

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