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The Kleinian Development

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This classic text derives from lectures delivered at the Institute of Psycho-Analysis, London and the Tavistock Clinic (1965-78). It is divided into 3 clear parts that examine, in turn, the writings of Sigmund Freud, Melanie Klein and Wilfred Bion.

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Part One: Freud's Clinical Development (Method—Data—Theory)

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(METHOD—DATA—THEORY)

I wish to thank Mrs Martha Harris, Mrs Margaret Williams, Mrs Catherine Mack Smith and Mr Eric Rhode for their help in the preparation and proofing of the text.

These lectures were delivered in 1972 and 1973 to the students and guests of the Child Psychotherapy Course at the Tavistock Clinic, London. The students were largely in the first pre-clinical year of the course, so that the lectures served as background for acquaintance with Freud's work from reading seminars in this and in the following year. The aim of the lectures was to prepare the students for systematic study of the work of Melanie Klein by giving a firm foundation in Freud's writing on method, data and clinical formulation, somewhat at the expense of any systematic concern with his theory of the mind. Its emphasis was therefore heavily weighted on the clinical papers and on those aspects of his thought which can be seen to have had a development in Mrs Klein's work, It was also the intention to lecture in a critical way, searching out the order, meaning and significance of Freud's work rather than in any way to summarize it.

 

Part Two: Richard Week-by-Week (A Critique of the ‘Narrative of a Child Analysis’ and a Review of Melanie Klein's Work)

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(A CRITIQUE OF THE ‘NARRATIVE OF A CHILD ANALYSISAND A REVIEW OF MELANIE KLEIN'S WORK)

I wish to thank Mr Eric Rhode, Mrs Catherine Mack Smith and Mrs Margaret Williams for their help in the preparation and proofing of the text.

Any systematic attempt to teach Melanie Klein's work runs almost immediately into difficulties that are the exact opposite of the problems facing one in teaching Freud. Where the theoretical tail wags the clinical dog with him, hardly any theoretical tail exists to be wagged with her. This is not immediately apparent because all her earlier work (until the paper on manic-depressive states, but really only taking a clear-cut line of departure with the 1946 paper on schizoid mechanisms) is couched in the theoretical language of Freud and Abraham, shifting from the terms of Libido and Topographic Theory to the new Structural one.

One can hardly ascribe naïveté to such an astute woman; one must assume that the philosophy of science did not really interest her. The laws of evidence; the distinction between description, model, theory and notational system; the different classes of definitory statements – none of this concerned her. This was partly a matter of modesty, for she clearly considered her work to be merely a filling-out and clarification of Freud's and never recognized the huge leap she had made in method or model of the mind. She tended to be hurt and astonished by the hostility directed at her and thought of it only as antagonism to the ideas, much as Freud felt in his early isolation. But surely a great deal of this unfriendliness stemmed from very poor communication, linguistic snarles, further provoked by the dogmatic demeanor of her (and her colleagues’) writing. These are the preconditions for political struggle over the ‘mantle’, Freud's, Abraham's, later Mrs Klein's. Although it now becomes a bad pun to speak of dis-mantling the Kleinian myth, that is certainly one of the main functions of these lectures.

 

Part Three: The Clinical Significance of the Work of Bion

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PART THREE

The Clinical Significance of the Work of Bion

I wish to thank Mr Eric Rhode, Mrs Catharine Mack Smith and Mrs Martha Harris for reviewing and proofing the text. Mrs Barbara Forryan graciously produced the index at very short notice.

Although this book can be read on its own, clearly its intention was to link the work of Bion, particularly in its clinical application, to the line of development in psycho-analysis leading from Freud through Abraham to Melanie Klein and on to Wilfred Bion. In the two earlier volumes a selective attention was given first to the clinical writings of Freud, with emphasis on the evolution of his methods of observation, the clinical data thrown up and finally the formulations that were reached, treating them not so much as scientific theories as metaphoric devices for organizing description of phenomena. Next the ‘Narrative’ was examined in detail, week by week, as the clinical reference point for describing the evolution of Melanie Klein's formulations of mental development and psycho-pathology, highlighting along the way the evidences of her clinical methods of observation, thought and communication.

 

Appendix: A Note on Bion's Concept “Reversal of Alpha-Function”

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DONALD MELTZER, M.D. (OXFORD)

When a new theory is proposed in psycho-analysis it can be said to undertake two functions: one is to organize the clinical phenomena that have already been observed in a more aesthetic (beautiful?) way; the other is to provide a tool of observation that will open to view previously invisible phenomena of the consulting room. Wilfred Bion, beginning with his papers on schizophrenia, sought to amplify the model of the mind which we employ in psycho-analysis so that processes of thinking and disturbances in this capacity could be investigated. The first systematic presentation of this effort, ‘Learning from Experience’ (Heinemann, London, 1962) formulated an ‘empty’ concept of alpha-function by means of which the ‘sense impressions of emotional experiences’ were converted into elements to be used in various ways: as building-blocks for dream thoughts; which in turn could be used for thinking; to be available for storage as memory; and by their continuity to form a ‘contact barrier’ that might separate conscious from unconscious mental processes.

 

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