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Bion in Brazil: Supervisions and Commentaries

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The discovery, translation into English, and publication of these previously unpublished recordings of Bion's clinical supervisions in Sao Paulo and other cities in Brazil, with commentaries by leading Brazilian psychoanalysts, gives readers the opportunity to experience for themselves his clinical and theoretical thought as it emerges and evolves through a series of fascinating case discussions.

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Chapter One - Supervision A1

ePub

In the text that follows, T stands for translator; P1 and P2 stand for participants in the audience of the supervision.

T: This patient came to analysis concerned about all the lies he had told to the people with whom he lived in order, to appear as a “normal” person. One of the lies was that he met a girlfriend when he went away on vacation. When he returned from one of these trips, he was with his school friends and they were mostly girls. On the way up in the lift, they asked how things were going with his girlfriend and he became very disturbed. So, he didn't go up the lift, he went up the escalator. Then, when he found the girls waiting for him, he realized that he had made up the story and felt ill with anguish and then he didn't know who he really was, where he came from, or if he was meeting the same people again that he had met down below. This, the patient told to the analyst, in his first interview, while sitting on a chair, and moving about, posing as if he were a clown.

 

Chapter Two - Supervision S12

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In the text that follows, T stands for translator; A stands for analyst; P1, P2, P3, P4, and P5 stand for participants in the audience of the supervision.

A: The patient is a female approximately forty years old, who dresses too young for her age. As she is a foreigner, she speaks Portuguese with a strong accent. She's been consulting me for more than one year, but only two months ago we have been able to start analysis at four times a week.

Bion: When you say: “her dress is not in conformity with her age,” is that her opinion, or is that the impression you get?

A: It is mine.

Bion: I see. So she thinks it's all right?

A: Yes. Before we began treatment, she phoned me twice. She was very interested and wanted to begin the treatment. When she first came to my office to arrange the treatment, she was very excited and happy because I had an hour to spare. Just before beginning the treatment, she was in Europe on holiday. In a big city shopping street, amongst all the crowds, she suddenly felt ill and frightened of being alone and of something happening to her, with no one to turn to.

 

Chapter Three - Supervision A25

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In the text that follows, T stands for Translator; A stands for Analyst.

T: Don't you feel, Dr. Bion that perhaps, with everyone here understanding only a little different bit of the English, from different kinds of “sauces” there can emerge the understanding of something new, although perhaps not exactly what you were saying?

Bion: Maybe, maybe. But, the language that is spontaneous it's a sort of language which the French call: “Les grands mots”—the indecent words. If you are taken by surprise, if you are suddenly frightened, the language that comes naturally to you is not polite language. [lots of laughter]

That language is universal, whether you are French, or English, or Portuguese, or German, or Chinese, or whatever. I think you can immediately understand that language. Even words like: “God” can be used with a different intonation. If you are swearing, if you are praying, or if you are taking part in a religious service. So, perhaps, the day will dawn where an international psychoanalytic congress conducted in entirely indecent words. [Bion declares this in a laughing tone of voice]

 

Chapter Four - Supervision A30

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In the text that follows, T stands for Translator; A stands for Analyst; P1, P2, and P3 stand for participants in the audience.

T: The patient has been in analysis for about four years and for the past two years has been sleeping a lot on the couch during the session. The analyst is writing an article about this to present at the Society and today he is bringing an extract of some of his work. After the client began sleeping during the sessions the analyst felt a great difficulty in establishing contact with him, because he interrupted what was being said to him, by the analyst, about his sleep by falling asleep! The patient acknowledged expecting a great deal from the analysis that had not yet been forthcoming and the analyst thought that the sleep was a response to not yet having found the idealized solution to his problems that the patient had hoped to find in the analysis.

Bion: Has anybody got any questions they want to ask? I have one question, which I would like to ask, at once. I would like to ask the analyst: what made him think that the patient had gone to sleep?

 

Chapter Five - Supervision A10

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In the text that follows, T stands for Translator and A stands for the presenting analyst.

T: Instead of beginning with a case, A would like to raise a theoretical point. We know that there are different vertices from which to observe the human experience and these vertices don't necessarily take into account the existence of something like a mind. For example, the theories of Pavlov and Skinner, which can deal either with behavior as it is observed or with reflexes at the neurophysiological level ignore the mind. This doesn't mean they don't believe the mind exists, but that they don't need it to do their work. Their views are in opposition to our model in which it is necessary for us to believe that the mind, or something like a mind, exists. And, therefore, because we, the analysts, are submerged in experiences in which we need the model of the mind, we may forget that this model of a mind is built by a mind itself. So perhaps although it is a question to be solved, whether or not a mind exists, we do not necessarily use this as a point of departure to our work. In recognizing this as a model, as a model with its peculiar characteristics, it wouldn't make it easier for us to work with it. For example, A has noticed that usually many analysts think that the mind is inside the skull but it seems to him that what is inside the skull is the brain and not the mind.

 

Chapter Six - Supervision A3

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In the text that follows, T stands for Translator; P1 stands for a participant in the audience.

T: Here is the situation I would like to begin by describing and having your thoughts about. During the session of the day before, there was a plant in my office with many leaves. One leaf was dry, wrinkled and looked ill. After the patient left, I removed this leaf from the plant. The next day, the patient noticed this and asked me, “Where is the leaf?” I answered, “You are trying to discover if I can take in and listen to what you tell me and hold it inside of me rather than having what you tell me turn into feelings and actions that I cannot hold and keep inside.”

Well, I felt that my answer was sort of evasive. I had taken out the leaf and he could notice that it was no longer there. So in this sense, I felt, that perhaps my answer was a lie.

Bion: The only important point about that, I think, is: has one given the patient a correct interpretation? In other words, has one interpreted correctly the facts, which are available to you in the session? Now, sometimes, when you give an interpretation, which you think is correct, you feel: “Yes, that it is so” to yourself. Now, the patient may also feel: “Yes, that is so” he may say: “Yes” or, he may take no notice and go straight on. Now, I think that it is usually possible to tell when the patient appears to take no notice and goes straight on, that he has in fact changed, is now talking about something else. It depends a good deal on what he says, but,—if it's just what I have described—then, the interpretation is as correct as any interpretation is ever likely to be, because the subject is closed and he goes on to the next straight away.

 

Chapter Seven - Supervision A45

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In the text that follows, T stands for Translator; A stands for Analyst; P1 stands for a participant in the audience.

T: This is the case of a lady who was presented to you three years ago. She came to analysis in 1971 with the complaint: “I have a sensation that I'm falling into a hole, a very deep hole, out of which I won't be able to come out.”

Bion: [interrupting, asks] Who says that? The analyst?

A: The patient.

Bion: Oh, the patient! I see. Yes.

T: [continuing the patient's complaint and reason for seeking analysis] “Then there's a very strong scream, or a very strong handshake, and I recover my consciousness.” She was thirty-six years old, at the time. She was not very well dressed, was inelegant, very tall, and we could, approximately, describe her as a masculine type of woman.

A wants to bring today's session, to talk about it and remind us that in the former supervision Dr. Bion had suggested the problem of double language: the verbal one and the language of illness.

 

Chapter Eight - Supervision S28

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This is a double-length supervision. In other words, the same case will be discussed for one hundred minutes instead of fifty. In the text that follows, T stands for Translator; A stands for Analyst; P1, P2, and P3 stand for participants in the audience.

A: The patient I shall present is blind and twenty-six years old—she was not born blind. The problem was that she had cancer and her eyes were operated on abroad when she was eighteen. Five years before she began analysis, she had a metastasis of the cancer to the medulla and she lost all sensitivity in both arms. So, she had to learn to deal with visual blindness and with losing touch—touch in her arms.

Bion: The patient that we are talking about is one who has cancer…

A: The blind girl. When she was eighteen, she had cancer in her eyes. At twenty-three, she was operated on and she lost all the touch in the arms. She started analysis eighteen months ago. This is one session in which there was some kind of limitation, that I felt dealt with senses and thinking. So, I wrote it down and I have the dialogue with me.

 

Chapter Nine - Supervision D17

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In the text that follows, T stands for Translator; A stands for Analyst; P1, P2, and P3 stand for participants in the audience.

A: Last week, when we were speaking about Dr. X's case, I remembered my patient…I told you about her. She is the patient who wants a child and can't have one.

Bion: This is one of the things, which I think is an advantage about talking about these matters all together, that they tend to tell you something about some other one.

A: Yes!

Bion: Because, there's always this resemblance between one human being and another human being, so that it can always tell you something about someone else.

A: This patient, she is not young anymore. She is perhaps thirty-seven, thirty-eight. She's not so old for having a child; but she's not so young either. All her life—she's been married for many, many years—she has been trying to have a child. She went to several doctors. She began analysis with me one year and four months ago after having been in analysis with Dr. X. She is also a very difficult patient—with a great deal of acting out, although I don't know if I can call this acting out.

 

Chapter Ten - Supervision A36

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This case was presented to Bion by an Argentine analyst, whose native language was Spanish. The tape of the presentation reflects both a degree of language confusion—inconsistent English and “Spanglish”—and what was probably considerable anxiety on the part of the analyst that is a reflection of the case. Some of the confusion has been edited out for the comfort of the reader, but some is inevitable and left in, because coherence and clarity is impossible to determine from the transcript or the tape. In the text that follows, A stands for Analyst; T stands for Translator; P1 stands for a participant in the audience.

A: It's a woman patient; she's thirty-three years old, unmarried, and a psychologist. Two months before this session, she had an operation due to a sacro-coccygeal teratoma. This session is on Monday. She begins as follows:

“How pretty you are today, doctor. Well, why is it so difficult for me to communicate to you the good and the bad? Yet, just here, this is the place where I can do it. I have been thinking about the fourth analytic hour.1 Last Saturday, I went early to work and after work, I had lunch with a friend. After that, I went home to change clothes, then I went to X's home. I was laughing. I stayed chattering. I said to myself that I had spent a Saturday working. Sunday was the sixth anniversary of my father's death. I did not go to the cemetery.

 

Chapter Eleven - Supervision D11

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This supervision was conducted in Spanish and English in Brazil with a group of Argentine analysts. In the text that follows, A stands for Analyst; P1, P2, P3, P4, P5, and P6 stand for participants in the audience.

A: We want to tell to you some of our ideas that we're preparing for a paper which we're going to present in the next Pan-American Congress. It refers specifically to dreams: dreams and the actual practice of analysis. We should like to know your opinion and your ideas. To ask you some questions and also to know…well, to know even the dreams of psychotic personalities, or neurotic personalities, even the difference between dreams and hallucinations and so on…

Bion: Well, I will find it a very interesting discussion. I'm quite at your disposal whichever way you'd like to go, whatever you want to discuss. I'll say what I can about it, from my point of view.

A: We'll start with this fact…Concerning sleep and dreams from the psycho-physiological point of view, there is R.E.M. (rapid eye movement) sleep and non-R.E.M. sleep, periods of sleep with dreams and periods of sleep without dreams.

 

Chapter Twelve - Supervision A2

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In the text that follows, A stands for Analyst; P1 and P2 stand for participants in the audience.

A: This patient I am bringing is a patient with whom I feel I have great difficulty; a very complicated case. My feeling, at almost every meeting, at every session is that I am making a mess. Very seldom do we manage to meet. Usually he doesn't come. We miss session and the losses…When he does come, he suffers terribly during the sessions and he manifests his suffering physically. He sneezes, he moans, he sighs, he cries, he gets very desperate. I always have the feeling that I have failed to understand what is happening.

Bion: What is he talking about, when he does that? When he behaves like that?

A: Very often he's not talking, he's just dreaming.

Bion: Just…yeah!

A: And he puts his hands on his head and says “Oh my God” in English. He says it in English: “Oh my God.” He gets desperate and I can't reach him. I have here yesterday's session. There are other sessions, in which perhaps things went better than yesterday, but this is one that happened yesterday.

 

Chapter Thirteen - Supervision D8

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In the text that follows, A stands for Analyst; P1 and P2 stands for participants in the audience.

A: Last week I made a mistake at the end of Thursday's hour. I told her “until Tuesday,” instead of “until tomorrow.” The next day was a Friday and I was coming here, so I had changed her appointment and I was seeing her in the morning, very early in the morning. I forgot and I said “until Tuesday.”

Bion: Yes, yes.

A: Monday, was a holiday!

Bion: That was the time that you mentioned?

A: Yes. Then, she didn't come Friday. Tuesday she came. When I opened the door, she looked at me laughing, in a superior way. Then, she said that she understood that I set her free: “You don't need to be here tomorrow.”

Bion: You don't need…?

A: “To be here tomorrow,” what she understood about what I had said.

Bion: Umhm.

A: She felt as if I had said: “You are free, you don't need….” Then she told me a lot of complaints about her husband. She gave him a…a…?

 

Chapter Fourteen - A Journey's Notes

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Leopold Nosek

I

Wilfred Bion first landed in our midst in 1967, invited by Frank Philips, one of the founders of the Sao Paulo Society, who had earlier trained in London and undergone analysis with both Klein and Bion. Our colleagues are unanimous in describing the profound impression this British psychoanalyst had upon our analytic milieu and the deep impact of his thought on the Brazilian Psychoanalytic Society of São Paulo. Almost immediately, his work came to predominate over the classical Kleinianism that had preceded it, offering a breath of innovation and stimulating ever deeper studies into the psyche and the analytic process. This situation lasted to the end of the 1980s, when its supremacy began to be questioned and was followed by an opening to other schools of thought and to a renewed interest in Freud's work. Bion, however, never ceased to be studied—and I believe it is no exaggeration to assert that to date his writings are one of the identifying marks of the São Paulo Society. The work of a great author instigates new intellectual adventures for those who investigate it—and this book bears witness to one of the products of this shared trajectory.

 

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