Guide A Clinical Application of Bions Concepts, Volume 1: Dreaming, Transformation, Containment and Change

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Projective identification is often experienced not as an isolated incident, but as a series of [[[projection]]s and identifications and counter-projections and counter-identifications that evolve in a relationship over time. In such cases there is an ongoing emotional economy or transaction between the partners that takes place over the course of an entire relationship. Other authors have identified multiple motivations for projective identification including: to control the object, to acquire its attributes, to evacuate a bad quality, to protect a good quality, to avoid separation Spillius, , vol.

Here is a simple example of projective identification in a psychiatric setting:.

A Clinical Application of Bion's Concepts: Dreaming, Transformation, Containment and Change

A traumatized patient describes to his analyst a horrible incident which he experienced recently. Yet in describing this incident the patient remains emotionally unaffected or even indifferent to his own obvious suffering and perhaps even the suffering of his loved ones. When asked he denies having any feelings about the event whatsoever.

Yet, when the analyst hears this story, she begins to feel very strong feelings i.


She might tear up or become righteously indignant on behalf of the patient, thereby acting out the patient's feelings resulting from the trauma. Being a well trained analyst however, she recognizes the profound effect that her patient's story is having on her. Acknowledging to herself the feelings she is having, she suggests to the patient that he might perhaps be having feelings that are difficult for him to experience in relation to the trauma. She processes or metabolizes these experiences in herself and puts them into words and speaks them to the patient.

Ideally, then the patient can recognize in himself the emotions or thoughts that he previously could not let into his awareness. The above examples describe projective identification within the context of a dyad. However, PI takes place within a group context as well. Another notable psychoanalyst Wilfred Bion described projective identification in the following way: "the analyst feels he is being manipulated so as to be playing a part, no matter how difficult to recognize, in someone else's fantasy" p. This ongoing link between internal intra-psychic process and the interpersonal dimension has provided the foundation for understanding important aspects of group and organizational life.

Bion's studies of groups examined how collusive, shared group phenomena such as scapegoating , group-think and emotional contagion are all rooted in the collective use of projective identification. In fact, sociologists often see projective identification at work on the societal level in the relationship of minority groups and the majority class.

James S. Grotstein's Paper

Agrachev, S. Identification with losers as a psychological phenomenon in contemporary Russia: Zeitschrift fur Psychoanalytische Theorie und Praxis Vol 11 4 , Sign In Don't have an account? Recently, Luis de Rivera has described a volontary mental procedure, ecpathy , which allows appropriate dealing with feelings induced by projective identification [[It is not clear to this reader--a psychotherapist and anthropologist--how the processes described in the preceding paragraph differ from those of "ordinary" transference and counter-transference.

Here is a simple example of projective identification in a psychiatric setting: A traumatized patient describes to his analyst a horrible incident which he experienced recently. Contents [ show ]. Categories :. Cancel Save. After she developed the concept of the paranoid-schizoid position, she differentiated persecutory anxiety from depressive anxiety.

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Klein's concept of depression was based on Freud's "Mourning and Melancholia" and his differentiation between the narcissistic incapacity to mourn, which resulted in depression, and mourning itself, which allowed relief. Thus, Klein's concept of the depressive position ultimately devolved into a paradox. She originally had spoken of the depressive position as the seat of clinical depressive illness which had to be overcome in order for the person to become well. Later, as she considered the persecutory anxiety of the paranoid-schizoid position, the depressive position became more sublimated and idealized and devolved into a distant goal for mental health.

The problem is that the depressive position carries with it the notion of clinical depressive illness -which designates the failure of the infant to mourn the object -- as well as the feelings of guilt and remorse for damage caused to the object. The confusion in the Kleinian conception of the depressive position has to do with the confusion between successful "mourning" and unsuccessful clinical depressive illness depression, melancholia.

The two are related but are fundamentally incompatible. The importance of this in terms of Bion's epistemology is as follows: In the paranoid-schizoid position the infant has its first painful interaction with its part objects and then has to process how it has imaginatively autochthonously created these objects in phantasy in order to render them intact, separate, and whole, to mourn them, and to allow them to return as evocative symbolic images in the depressive position. L ove and H ate are the epistemologies evolved in the paranoid-schizoid position.

K nowledge is the attribute of the depressive position, but K, too, is the consequence of the sense impressions.

Wilfred Bion

Bion wanted to get beyond this, to "O," which has to do with intuition which itself is ultrasensual. One cannot know "O;" One must resonate with it in a transformation or evolution in "O. I believe that the schizoid mechanisms Klein described govern mental life in the paranoid-schizoid position and are comparable to Freud's conception of dreamwork displacement and condensation. They constitute the mythopoeic function that comprises Bion's , , alpha function or dreamwork alpha. In other words, the paranoid-schizoid position mediates "O" and all its associated beta elements things-in-themselves by transforming them into mythemes unconscious phantasies of "good objects" and "bad objects" in anticipation of transformations in K in the depressive position where they become symbols and can be spoken of in language about objects.

Thus I believe that another position, which I call the transcendent position, is required to accomodate the conception of transformations and evolutions in "O. In the transcendent position, the object dissolves into the ultimate, ineffable Subject.

get link There is no object in the transcendent position. One intuits -- internally "senses" -- the objectlessness of the object without ever contemplating it, yet experiences its presence. In the transcendent position, the individual must forsake the presence of the object in order to look inward into his or her own subjectivity. Thus, in the transcendent position one experiences the quintessence of subjectivity that transcends for the moment object relations. It is the apotheosis of solitude and the attainment of serenity. I believe that "O" is a general metaphysical metaphor for the "dark matter" of our inner and outer worlds.

Bion's , "nameless dread," Winnicott's "chaos," Grotstein's "black hole. At the same time, "O" represents serenity and harmony.

Dream: Transformation

The problem is not with "O" but with the human being's position in regard to it. When persecutory and depressive anxieties subside and the individual is able to transcend the depressive position, that sense of serenity is experienced that belongs to transformations and evolutions in "O. Psychic reality is "O," not the drives or affects that describe or mediate it. In mental processing, we must experience "O" and then be able to self -reflect upon it in K and then use this K, with the help of the analyst's own "O," to return to higher, ever-evolving "O" in the spiraling cycle of transformations.

As a consequence of these assumptions, I believe that Bion is saying that the primary and most fundamental of all anxieties is the ontic, "nameless dread," of "O," and that the paranoid-schizoid and depressive positions with their respective persecutory and depressive anxieties constitute filters or techniques or strategies for mediating this ontic terror. Put another way, the schizoid mechanisms of the paranoid-schizoid position and the defenses of the depressive position constitute the infant's normal "manic defenses" against the Void insofar as they provide a canopy of protective myth and consensual knowledge.

The term transcendent emerges from the work of Kant , Wittgenstein , Heidegger , , and by Jung and some of Jung's followers Dehing, ; Solomon, Bion refers to transcendence as follows:. My object is to show that certain elements in the development of psycho-analysis are not new or peculiar to analysis, but have in fact a history that suggests that they transcend barriers of race, time, and discipline, and are inherent in the relationship between the mystic and the group Bion, , p.

One result of separation [between man and his god] is no direct access of the individual to the god with whom he used formerly to be on familiar terms. But the god has undergone a change as part of the process of discrimination. The god with whom he was familiar was finite; the god from whom he is now separated is transcendent and infinite Bion, , p. Transcendence belongs to an epistemological tradition that began with the pre-Socratic philosophers, flourished in Plato and Plotinus, continued in other forms in the so-called "mysteries," Orphic, Eleusinian, and others , in the Hebrew Zohar Kabbalah and early Christian mystics, became prominent in the Gnostic Gospels and in Zoroastrianism, and was dealt with by later mystical writers such as Meister Eckhart, Ibn'Arabi, John Scotus Eriugena, Marguerite Porete.

The concept was bleached out by the glare of the Enlightenment and dismissed by the certainty and determinism of logical positivism. It surfaced briefly with the transcendalistic movement of Thomas Carlyle and Ralph Waldo Emerson in the nineteenth century and resurfaced again in the mystical works of Kierkegaard. The concept of mysticsm has always been respected in metaphysics. It is referred to in Hegel and in Kant's Critique of Pure Reason as the epistemological quest for the transcendent, particularly the "transcendent aesthetic.

Jung was the first psychoanalyst to appreciate its importance. Lacan had the most profound respect for mysticism, and his work can be read as an appreciation of its importance in mental life. Bion too respected the presence of a "moral" or "religious instinct" in man.

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Not formally religious himself, he was a secular mystic. Briefly put, Bion's works focus on the episteme of how man seeks and hides from the ineffable and represent a distillation of the collective wisdom of Western and Eastern civilizations. Reality, better known in its limited sense by most psychoanalysts as "external reality," had become so saturated that it shrunk into a positivistic enclave.

Heidegger explores transcendence from a metaphysical and existential point of view.

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