65 Chapters
Medium 9780946439041

9. A Theory of Thinking

Bion, Wilfred R. Karnac Books ePub

100. In this paper I am primarily concerned to present a theoretical system. Its resemblance to a philosophical theory depends on the fact that philsophers have concerned themselves with the same subject matter; it differs from philosophical theory in that it is intended, like all psychoanalytical theories, for use. It is devised with the intention that practising psycho-analysts should restate the hypotheses of which it is composed in terms of empirically verifiable data.

In this respect it bears the same relationship to similar statements of philosophy as the statements of applied mathematics bear to pure mathematics.

The derived hypotheses that are intended to admit of empirical test, and to a lesser extent the theoretical system itself, bear the same relationship to the observed facts in a psycho-analysis, as statements of applied mathematics, say about a mathematical circle, bear to a statement about a circle drawn upon paper.

This theoretical system is intended to be applicable in a significant number of cases; psycho-analysts should therefore experience realizations that approximate to the Theory.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781912567607

One

Bion, Wilfred R. Harris Meltzer Trust ePub

Question: I should like to hear you talk about the theory of projective identification.

Bion: I don't think there is much to be said beyond Melanie Klein's version – what she called an omnipotent phantasy; a phantasy that a person can split off feelings, thoughts and ideas he does not want and evacuate them into another person, more particularly into the mother, and more particularly still at a primitive stage of existence, namely, at the breast itself. Of course the infant doesn't do anything; nothing happens. But the infant feels as if it could do that, and feels that it gets rid of some characteristic which it doesn't like and then becomes afraid that that same characteristic is directed toward it by the other person – originally by the mother, or by the breast into which it projects it. The theory was not intended as a substitute for already existing psychoanalytic theories, but as an addition to them.

Question: You have used the term ‘bizarre bits’ to describe one aspect of projective identification. Could you elaborate on that?

See All Chapters
Medium 9780946439041

4. Development of Schizophrenic Thought

Bion, Wilfred R. Karnac Books ePub

42. In this paper, which must be regarded as a preliminary announcement, I do three things:

(i) I discuss the point at which the psychotic personality diverges from the non-psychotic: (ii) I examine the nature of that divergence; and (iii) I consider the consequences of it. Experience at the Congress at Geneva showed that the attempt to give clinical illustrations in a paper as compressed as this produced far more obscurity than illumination. This version is accordingly restricted to theoretical description.

The conclusions I arrive at were forged in analytic contact with schizophrenic patients and have been tested by me in practice. That I arrived at some degree of clarification, I owe mainly to three pieces of work. As they occupy a key position in this paper I shall remind you of them.

First: Freud’s description, which I referred to in my paper at the London Congress of 1953, of the mental apparatus called into activity by the demands of the reality principle and in particular of that part of it which is concerned with conscious awareness of sense impressions. Second: Freud’s tentative suggestion, in Civilization and its Discontents, of the importance of the conflict between life and death instincts. The point was taken up and developed by Melanie Klein, but Freud seemed to recede from it. Melanie Klein believes that this conflict persists throughout life, and this view I believe to be of great importance to an understanding of the schizophrenic. Third: Melanie Klein’s description of the phantasied sadistic attacks that the infant makes on the breast during the paranoid-schizoid phase, and her discovery of Projective Identification. Projective Identification is a splitting off by the patient of a part of his personality and a projection of it into the object where it becomes installed, sometimes as a persecutor, leaving the psyche from which it has been split off correspondingly impoverished.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781855753440

APPENDIX A: Extract from Péguy’s Basic Verities

Bion, Wilfred R. Karnac Books ePub

“Not only are the three terms of the republican device, Liberty, Equality, Fraternity not on the same plane, but the last two, which are nearer to each other than both are near the first, present several notable differences. Fraternity obliges us to tear our fellow men from destitution. That is a preliminary duty. Contrarily, equality is a far less pressing duty. Whereas it is intensely pressing and alarming to know that there are men still in want, the knowledge that, outside of destitution, men possess more or less large slices of riches does not worry me. I cannot profess much interest in the famous question of knowing to whom bottles of champagne, blooded horses, castles in the Loire valley, will belong in the city of the future. I hope that this will be settled somehow. But I really don’t care if so and so has such and such a position, as long as there will really be a city from which no man can be banished or held in exile by economic destitution. Doubtless many other problems will engross the attention of citizens, but to nullify the civic pact it would be sufficient that a single man be wittingly held or, what comes to the same, be wittingly left in destitution. As long as one man remains outside, the door slammed in his face closes a city of injustice and hatred.

See All Chapters
Medium 9780946439041

10. Commentary

Bion, Wilfred R. Karnac Books ePub

THE distortions in “The Imaginary Twin” of the patient’s past are designed to prevent him or anyone who knew him from thinking it referred to him. Such aims underestimate the power of rumour and suspicion.

If the distortions are judged effective, the narrative must be regarded as fiction. If the narrative were a work of art it might be reasonable to regard it as more nearly representative of truth than any literal transcription; but this psychoanalyst is not an artist. Expectations that the record represents what actually took place must be dismissed as vain.

The first paragraph is evocative; the reader is invited to appreciate the serious nature of the illness of the patient, the state of mind of one who has been advised to consider a severe brain operation, the pessimism and despair of one who has had so many years of unsuccessful treatment. The reader is prepared for the triumph of psycho-analysis in contrast with the patient’s previous misfortunes under psycho-therapy.

Paragraphs 2 and 3 are factually inaccurate; the statements in the two paragraphs are representations of facts to which the realization did approximate closely. I thought this was true then; I think it is true now. What importance should be ascribed to these statements, one in the paper, made within months of the experience; the other in this book, made twenty years after?

See All Chapters

See All Chapters