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CHAPTER ONE: Murdering the mind. From the perspective of Bion’s container-contained theory

Lopez-Corvo, Rafael E. Karnac Books ePub

“Science … commits suicide when it adopts a creed”

(Huxley, 1907)

The need to diminish feelings of persecution contributes to the drive to abstraction in the formulation of scientific communications.

(Bion, 1967, p. 118)

Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. All the king’s horses And all the king’s men Couldn’t put Humpty Together again.

(Nursery rhyme)

Introduction

**here are “mental confusions” that interfere with and destroy the faculty to think rationally, that hinder the positive T growth of the mind, and that obstruct the capacity to discriminate between reality and phantasy. Bion (1963) described Growth (represented as Y) as a “preconception in search of a realization”. For Bion the tendency of such realizations could be either negative (-Y) if directed towards narcissism, or positive (+Y) if aimed toward “social-ism”. For instance, a nice-looking, intelligent young woman who, as a child, had a surgical intervention to correct a genetic defect around her genital area, was very resentful towards both parents and herself, found her body ugly, and had difficulties in establishing lasting relationships with men. After a year of psychotherapy, she managed to resolve an important confusion between her early traumatic experience and her present situation as an accomplished young woman. As a consequence she now sustains a relationship with a man and feels very fond of him. At a critical moment she had a dream where she was playing Monopoly with her boyfriend’s relatives and was trying very hard to be attentive to the game. She concluded that perhaps she was trying to fit into her friend’s life, and I add that she seems to be seriously taking a chance. She was starting to shift from the vertex of a narcissistic involvement with herself to a more social form of linkage.

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CHAPTER SEVEN Pre-conceptual traumas as the tyrannical presence of absences

Lopez-Corvo, Rafael E. Karnac Books PDF

CHAPTER SEVEN

Pre-conceptual traumas as the tyrannical presence of absences

What may the bloody noise do to the silence in which it lies imprisoned?

—Wilfred Bion

A Memoir of the Future (1991, p. 50)

The tyrannising presence of absences1

There is an implicit tendency in humans to “idealise absences” by providing inanimate things with qualities of aliveness and depriving human beings of their true sense of life. Inanimate objects often become a site of projected “superpowers”, as can be observed in objects of worship, divination, or idealisation of dead persons. The main reason behind this propensity seems to be the consequence of the terror induced by the human presence of inner feelings of dependency, and moreover, a strong narcissistic need to attack the process of separation and individuation. Alive objects transmuted into inanimate, or the opposite, inanimate objects made alive, represent a schizoid-paranoid interaction that attempts to exercise possessiveness and a complete ruling of the object. It is a conflict usually related to early childhood omnipotent

95

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CHAPTER ELEVEN: The power of magic

Lopez-Corvo, Rafael E. Karnac Books ePub

All witchcraft comes from carnal lust, which is in women insatiable.

Kramer and Sprenger, Inquisitors (Malleus Maleficarum, 1486)

It is interesting to observe how the necessity to understand the world by means of magic induces men at large to search in ancient religious books for answers to modern needs and queries, as if no time had elapsed. I still remember when, several years ago, I decided to revive my own childhood experiences of “house magic” while playing with my eldest son, aged five or six years, who, very impressed, jumped for joy whenever I performed a new trick. However, when I decided at one point to reveal to him the true nature of the game, I was astounded to see him throwing himself on the floor, crying and dejected. It took a few times before I could understand that he was not in the least interested in understanding the hidden mechanisms of tricks or having any lessons in prestidigitation. His main enjoyment lay in thinking that his father had the unbelievable power to make things appear and disappear, that he was mighty and omnipotent. He was terrified of the threat of finding out that everything could have been just a lie.The feeling of this child is not completely unfamiliar to the rest of us human beings; as a resource, when we have to meet everyday anxieties and experience impotence in the face of life's continuous demands, the need for a special power which might allow us access to Nature's apathy or to God's indifference becomes very tempting. It is not possible to understand otherwise why an immense hunger for religion brings about a dangerous paradox where fanatics in search of immortality bring death instead: the never-ending wars between Catholics and Protestants in Ireland or between Arabs and Jews in the Middle East. It seems that the fear induced by men's impotence, fragility or finiteness forces them to lose the only thing they posses, at least temporarily: their own life. Caracas, for instance, is a city with a high rate of delinquency and a great discrepancy between the indigent and the well-to-do living cheek by jowl, as in many other Latin American metropolises. There are at least two situations in which rich people really feel the need for help from the poor, up to the point that they are willing to risk their own lives (and they usually do): when they venture at forbidding hours inside the red zones of the city (poor and dangerous areas) in order to get either illegal drugs or magic, by visiting the pushers or the fashionable witches and sorcerers. It is also common to read, in very important newspapers, long letters or poems in the form of obituaries addressed to family members long dead, as if there were, in the mind of the relative, the fantasy that the deceased gets out of the tomb every morning in order to read the newspaper.

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CHAPTER FOURTEEN: Using the Grid

Lopez-Corvo, Rafael E. Karnac Books ePub

The more I investigate the Grid (see over), the more I become aware of the presence of a genius. It grants a sense of guidance, support, and strength approximating to what Gaea provided to Anteaus, a structure and conceptualization that carries the competence of clearing the mind. Bion, similar to Pythagoras, attempted to apprehend the two sides of the psyche, on the one hand the noumenon, the intuition or the ineffable, which he has referred to as “O”; and on the other hand, the phenomenon, or the observable fact. Bion tries to portray this in the Grid, perhaps inspired by Mendeleyev’s Periodic Table. The Grid is a true monument to Bion’s greatness, but as a monument can only be looked at and admired, and nothing else.

There are two combined axes, one horizontal, and another vertical, which can be read from left to right and from top to bottom. There are a total of fifty-six squares, eight verticals, and seven horizontals, most of them already filled by Bion, with the exception of a few left to be filled, according to him, “by someone in the future”. The Grid does not represent an indispensable element for the understanding of how the mind works; it stands more as a curiosity, as a brilliant attempt to reticulate what has been said during an analytic session; there is however, a particular issue that I will consider later,1 related to the appraisal of “mental growth”, a concept very much contingent upon the relativity of the observer, which could be measured in a more reasonable fashion if the vertical axis of the Grid is used. There is a common dismissal by analysts and students of Bion towards understanding how the Grid works, perhaps more as a form of resistance than a justified view, because, once its ways and reasoning are properly understood, the Grid becomes an easy and interesting tool to follow. Bion often sustained a sort of ambivalent manner in relation to the Grid, very optimistic at the beginning, but rather pessimistic in later years. In 1974, during a conference in São Paulo, he stated:

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CHAPTER EIGHT: The relativity of the vertex. From the point of view of a binocular vision

Lopez-Corvo, Rafael E. Karnac Books ePub

Introduction

In his work on transformation (1965) Bion presents arguments to explain situations where patients could alter their position in relation to outside objects by changing their view-point as a result of splitting of time and space dimensions. Bion refers to this mechanism as “reversible perspective”, where the patient’s time and space operates in a different dimension to that of the analyst, similar to Rubin’s vase, where you can see either a vase or two faces looking at each other, depending upon what you choose as a figure and what as its background.

Bion also refers to a “binocular vision”, such as, for instance, the capacity to consider the breast and its absence as two different spaces, an attitude possible only when there exists the capacity to symbolize the absent object; because, after all, to observe the absence of the object and to name it at the same time is precisely the result of a binocular vision. Such form of vision is absent in psychotic patients (or, following Bion, in the psychotic part of the personality) because thinking is then dominated by a blind void that Segal (1957) has referred to as the “symbolic equation”. It is also indispensable for the analyst to keep a binocular vision about the session, in relation to transference for instance, with its twofold time component about what has occurred in the past and what is happening now in the session; or in similar terms, between unconscious and consciousness, or between phantasy and reality.

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