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Chapter Fourteen

Wilfred R. Bion Karnac Books ePub

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

1. A CENTRAL PART is played by alpha-function in transforming an emotional experience into alpha-elements because a sense of reality matters to the individual in the way that food, drink, air and excretion of waste products matter. Failure to eat, drink or breathe properly has disastrous consequences for life itself. Failure to use the emotional experience produces a comparable disaster in the development of the personality; I include amongst these disasters degrees of psychotic deterioration that could be described as death of the personality. As always, the use of a model, as I am using the model of the digestive system here, is open to the dangers I discuss on p. 80. To moderate these dangers and make discussion scientific a notation to represent emotional experience is required. If the individual analyst built up for himself an anthology of working psycho-analytic theory on a foundation of a few good basic theories well understood and capable, individually and in combination, of covering a great many of the situations he might expect to meet, it might help the creation of a notation. What follows is a sketch to indicate the lines along which progress could be made and which I have found helpful.

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August 1960

Wilfred R. Bion Karnac Books ePub

α

It is advisable to revert to the patient's dream over and over again—elaboration 1, 2, 3…n; but not simply as dreams to be interpreted and related to a stimulus. They must be related to the dream-work that the stimulus has stimulated. How is this to be done? It may be easiest with the psychotic patient, for with him there is more chance of being able to see the stimulus, i.e. the consulting room scene itself, and his dream-work reaction to that situation. In particular it would seem necessary at first to make a distinction between α and projective identification—or at least to show that ‘excessive projective identification’ means projective identification to the exclusion of other methods of dream-work-α. The methods of dream-work-α are not the same as those of dream-work which is related to interpretation of dreams, but are the reciprocal of dream-work and are related to the capacity to dream, i.e. to transform into dream, events that are grasped only on a rational, conscious level. In this way α is the reciprocal of dream-work. Furthermore, it suggests that the element of ‘resistance’ in dream-work, as elucidated by Freud, is a compound of two elements: resistance, as described by Freud; and a felt need to convert the conscious rational experience into dream, rather than a felt need to convert the dream into conscious rational experience. The ‘felt need’ is very important; if it is not given due significance and weight, the true dis-ease of the patient is being neglected; it is obscured by the analyst's insistence on interpretation of the dream.

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TWENTY-FIVE

Wilfred R. Bion Karnac Books ePub

PRESENTER: The patient is thirty-two years old, a paediatrician, and comes from the north of Brazil. His father is violent; his mother was sickly and died when he was seven. His is a big family. As is usual in the north, one of the children was chosen to study for the priesthood, and he was that one. He left the church school in a state of revolt, was able to pay to study medicine, and became a paediatrician. While he was still living in the north he made three suicide attempts: twice by poison and once by shooting. He came here two years ago, got married, and has a baby daughter.

He first came to me three days before my vacation was due to begin, having already cancelled an arranged consultation. I had the impression that he was afraid of coming, and during the interview I understood why. He told me that when he was a little boy he returned home after a vacation and found that his mother had died. As I was due to go on vacation I think he was afraid of establishing contact with me and then being left alone. He wanted to be quite sure which day I would be back and when I would be able to see him again.

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27 March 1960

Wilfred R. Bion Karnac Books ePub

Technique: meaning and interpretation of associations

There is a value, when listening to the associations, in making a mental distinction between the meaning of the associations and their interpretation. The patient says, “I went on Hampstead Heath yesterday and did some bird-watching”.

Taking the meaning first:

And so on with other speculations. Then, having decided that point, what is the interpretation?

In conjunction with the rest of the analysis together with current transference, the preceding associations and the meaning as decided above, you finally produce the interpretation.

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24 July 1959

Wilfred R. Bion Karnac Books ePub

The suspicion that the actual events of the session are being turned into a dream came back to me today with X when at one point I suspected that my interpretation was being made into a dream. Thus, he sees a tunnel with a train in it. The train stops. “Won't be able to get cured. Too early and since I just missed it there will not be another for a long time. Minute fragments like faeces…two chairs and the three-piece suite; stool–chair. I can't talk properly.” Then he started on the ‘dream’. It was clear to me that a distinction was being made between talking ‘properly’ and some kind of talking in visual images.

In an attempt to see how these elements were put together, the first difficulty was that the terrifying super-ego would be put together. When it came to synthesis, after this interpretation, the problem was to see how elements were combined. I suspect that Freud's displacement etc. is relevant; he took up only the negative attitude, dreams as ‘concealing’ something, not the way in which the necessary dream is constructed.

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