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[Undated—1960]

Wilfred R. Bion Karnac Books ePub

The synthesizing function of mathematics

If a formula, or rather a calculus, is available, it may bring order to events that otherwise appear to lack any relationship. Thus a patient makes two remarks, and then makes two more; they appear to be entirely without any connecting link. It could be said that the two remarks, together with the other two remarks, make four remarks, and therefore that these facts could be seen to be related to each other in that together they made four facts. But it would be very unlikely that the mathematical application had served to effect the illumination of a relatedness of any consequence. Nor is it easy to see how, as things are at present, any calculus that has been constructed, or is likely to be constructed in the near future, would illuminate the relatedness of a series of disjointed associations of the kind with which we are familiar in analysis, particularly perhaps in the analysis of a psychotic patient. Moreover, it has to be remembered that we are always concerned with seeing the relatedness of the apparently disjointed and unconnected aspect of the elements in the analytic situation; the observation that two remarks and two other remarks make four remarks produces no flash of recognition because it effects no illumination of the point of intersection between paranoid–schizoid and depressive positions.

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[Undated]

Wilfred R. Bion Karnac Books ePub

The super-ego

The patient is gay, debonair. What has he to be so cheerful about? He is happily married, has a little son to whom he is devoted; his wife, like himself, is wealthy and devoted to him; his home is charming and—what makes it better—he has done much of the carpentry himself; they have both decorated the rooms. Their friends are many and influential, also interesting and creative; a few are artists whose names are known. All is for the best in the best of all possible worlds—the quotation would be known to him. God, likewise, is in His Heaven, all's right with the world. What then is the matter?

But who said there is anything the matter? The patient certainly has not said so—quite the contrary. The summary of his circumstances that I have given is not only obtained from him but is, as I know, the theme on which he is about to embroider as he comes into the room, the theme and its variations to which I have listened for three years in every session he has attended. His analyst and his response to his analyst's treatment both fit in with the rest of his good fortune; it is a pleasure for him to be treated by so brilliant an analyst as myself, and naturally a pleasure for me to have such an agreeable and rewarding patient.

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February 1971

Wilfred R. Bion Karnac Books ePub

The psychotic personality needs to have his awareness of sensuous experience brought home. The trouble may be the obtrusive and non-verbal nature of the experience; say, the buzzing of a fly. This is to be brought home together with the post-verbal awareness of the experience of the buzzing of the fly; for example, “You are feeling I am annoyed by the noise you can hear”. If I said, “…by the buzzing of the fly”, it would not be accurate because the patient does not know what I am annoyed at. ‘Unconscious’ and ‘conscious’ do not meet the problem. ‘Unconscious’ could sometimes be replaced by ‘obvious but unobserved’.

Fear and hatred = powerfully obtrusive feelings; they are therefore liable to draw attention to the ‘unknown self’ → premature and precocious ‘solution’ to obviate feelings of hatred and fear of the hatred and fear. Abolition of feelings → hatred of sense of unreality.

The messianic idea is an unknown idea; it is hated and feared. It is dealt with by projection, materialization. It is, as a result, not an idea but something less frightening, a person or thing. Persons, physically, can be put a stop to, either by idealization (and proved to be real) or by realization (and proved not to be ideal).

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Chapter Three

Wilfred R. Bion Karnac Books ePub

CHAPTER THREE

1. AN EMOTIONAL EXPERIENCE occurring in sleep, which I choose for reasons that will presently appear, does not differ from the emotional experience occurring during waking life in that the perceptions of the emotional experience have in both instances to be worked upon by alpha-function before they can be used for dream thoughts.

2. Alpha-function operates on the sense impressions, whatever they are, and the emotions, whatever they are, of which the patient is aware. In so far as alpha-function is successful alpha elements are produced and these elements are suited to storage and the requirements of dream thoughts. If alpha-function is disturbed, and therefore inoperative, the sense impressions of which the patient is aware and the emotions which he is experiencing remain unchanged. I shall call them beta-elements. In contrast with the alpha-elements the beta-elements are not felt to be phenomena,1 but things in themselves.2 The emotions likewise are objects of sense. We are thus presented with a state of mind precisely contrasting with that of the scientist who knows he is concerned with phenomena but has not the same certitude that the phenomena have a counterpart of things in themselves.

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Chapter Twenty

Wilfred R. Bion Karnac Books ePub

CHAPTER TWENTY

1. WHEN EVACUATION of a bad breast is felt to lead to its presence externally, if the evacuation is achieved, apparently by sucking at a real breast, the aftermath of the evacuation is not painful as in the respiratory and other methods. This stimulates interaction between the reality and pleasure-pain principles. We may follow-up (1) the process of differentiation of the representation from the corresponding realization, the process by which the thing in itself is distinguishable from the idea, (Bradley, 1.148) or (2) the effects of the correspondence between alimentation and thinking. The first course leads directly to a discussion of the importance of abstraction, which may, in this context, be regarded as an aspect of the transformation, by alpha-function, of an emotional experience into alpha-elements.

2. The Kleinian theory that the infant feels it has evacuated its bad object into the breast combined with the theory that satisfaction of a need can be felt as evacuation of a need, the need itself being a bad breast (to employ concrete terms) or what I have called a beta-element (to employ an abstraction) represents an infant's feeling that the breast in actuality is an evacuated object and therefore indistinguishable from a beta-element. Something must happen now if the child is to continue feeding. It is implied in the process I have described that the situation cannot be recognized as objective. If there is a good breast, a sweet object, it is because it has been evacuated, produced; and the same with the bad breast, the needed breast, the bitter breast, etc. It cannot be seen as objective and it cannot be seen as subjective. From these sweet, bitter, sour objects, sweetness, bitterness, sourness, are abstracted. Once abstracted they can be reapplied; the abstraction made can be used in situations where a realization, not the original realization from which it was abstracted, approximates to it. For example an emotional experience is associated with the breast, in which the infant feels that there is an object existing independently of itself on which it can depend for satisfaction of its feelings of hunger; assuming a capacity for abstraction, the infant can feel that from the total experience he can detach an element which is a belief that an object exists that can satisfy his needs. The concrete statement might be: a breast exists that can be depended on to satisfy his hunger for food; abstraction from this might be: there is a something that can and does give him what he wants when he wants it.

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