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Wilfred Bion

Wilfred Bion's unpublished lectures at the Los Angeles Psychoanalytic Society and Institute in April in 1967 represent a unique opportunity for students either new to or continuing in the study of Bion's unique psychoanalytic vertex. Here one can both read - and hear - Bion's clear exposition of his clinical and theoretical thinking to an audience of primarily Freudian trained American analysts, most of whom were new to his ideas. Thfirst lecture sets out Bion's ideas on 'memory and desire' in a paper that set the benchmark in the origins of contemporary Kleinian clinical technique. Bion discusses the various factors that facilitate optimal listening receptivity in the analyst, for example how one differentiates the 'K' link vis-a-vis 'transformations in O.' In the second lecture, Bion defined projective identification, container/contained and 'beta elements'- and how these ideas serve as an orienting template for the analyst's understanding of 'proto-mental' states of mind, either in psychotic, borderline or neurotic patients. He clarifies these ideas while engaging with the queries of renowned American analysts, such as Ralph Greenson. In ththird lecture, Bion gives extensive case illustrations of primarily borderline and psychotic patients primarily in terms of work that ushered in a new era of understanding of both borderline and narcissistic pathological organizations. In the final lecture, Bion takes up hallucinatory forms of experience and intersperses his more recent thoughts about the mystic and the Establishment, understanding something of the problematic tensions introduced by the London Kleinians who had in recent years questioned Freud's assumptions about the non-analyzability of the so-called 'narcissistic neuroses.'
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About the Author

Wilfred R. Bion (1897 -1979) was born in India and first came to England at the age of eight to receive his schooling. During the First World War he served in France as a tank commander and was awarded the DSO and the Legion of Honour. After reading history at Queen's College, Oxford, he studied medicine at University College London, before a growing interest in psychoanalysis led him to undergo training analysis with John Rickman and, later, Melanie Klein. During the 1940s his attention was directed to the study of group processes. Abandoning his work in this field in favor of psychoanalytic practice, he subsequently rose to the position of Director of the London Clinic of Psychoanalysis (1956-62) and President of the British Psychoanalytical Society (1962-65). From 1968 he worked in Los Angeles, returning to England two months before his death in 1979. A pioneer in group dynamics, he was associated with the 'Tavistock group', the group of pioneering psychologists that founded the Tavistock Institute in 1946 on the basis of their shared wartime experiences. He later wrote the influential 'Experiences in Groups', an important guide for the group psychotherapy and encounter group movements beginning in the 1960s, and which quickly became a touchstone work for applications of group theory in a wide variety of fields. Bion's training included an analysis with Melanie Klein following World War II. He was a leading member in the Kleinian school while in London, but his theories, which were always based in the phenomena of the analytic encounter, eventually revealed radical departures from both Kleinian and Freudian theory. While Bion is most well known outside of the psychoanalytic community for his work on group dynamics, the psychoanalytic conversation that explores his work is concerned with his theory of thinking and his model of the development of a capacity for thought. Joseph Aguayo is a Training and Supervising Analyst at the Psychoanalytic Center of California in West Los Angeles. He is a Guest Member of the British Psychoanalytical Society in London, and holds UCLA doctorates in both Clinical Psychology and European History. His most recent projects are co-edited publications, including 'Wilfred Bion: Los Angeles Seminars and Supervision', (Karnac Books, 2013). He has a forthcoming full-length book review on Bion's' Complete Works' in the 'International Journal of Psychoanalysis'. Barnet D. Malin is a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst in Santa Monica, California. He is an Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the UCLA-NPI Geffen School of Medicine, and a training and supervising analyst at the Psychoanalytic Center of California and the New Center for Psychoanalysis in Los Angeles. He has authored several papers on topics including shame envy and rage, Kohut and Lacan, and others.


'Aguayo and Malin have dug into the past to produce a fascinating insight of a moment in psychoanalytic history. Bion's emigration to America was a geographical expression of his internal journey, and this book captures that inner transatlantic sojourn as he prepared for his expedition. What he searched for was the core to psychoanalytic work, the human functioning out of which a psychoanalyst fashions his specific practice. Bion had begun some years before to think of "intuition" as the required alternative to sense perception, and later he formulated it in his own enigmatic systematised form in Attention and Interpretation. Here he is poised, on a cusp, trying to capture the nature of, and conditions for, psychoanalytic intuition. In these seminars he is both exhorting the practice of intuition over symbolic interpretation, and is at the same time practising something like a spontaneous intuitive grip on his audience as he works. It is full of inconsistencies, mistakes, incongruence, misapprehensions, and above all creative thinking. And perhaps that is the real mixture that makes intuition - in contrast to the formed but distancing effect of his written texts. Of all Bion's later published lectures and seminars this is the prize. It shows Bion struggling to present something really new.'- R.D. Hinshelwood, Fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Professor of Psychoanalysis at the Centre for Psychoanalytic Studies, University of Essex, and author of Research on the Couch'These lectures capture Bion's thinking at a unique time in his theoretical and personal development and give the reader a firsthand glimpse of his immersion in a new psychoanalytic culture - the community of psychoanalysts in Los Angeles. This book is a fascinating page-turner that recounts through Bion's animated lectures and the audience's responses the story of his American reception in all its richness, controversy and liveliness. These lectures begin by offering a snapshot of a point in the evolution of Bion's idea about the need for the analyst abandoning memory, desire and understanding as essential to analytic technique, which he links to Freud's concept of free floating attention. The talks move on from this engaging start to cover his theory of projective identification, the container/contained and then gradually the introduction of the concepts of reverence, awe, the relationship between his ideas of the "mystic" and the "establishment" that he expanded upon in his later writings. This is a wonderful book, lovingly edited by Drs Aguayo and Malin, that is essential reading for all therapists, analysts and students interested in Bion's profound influence on contemporary psychoanalysis.' - Lawrence J. Brown, author of Intersubjective Processes and the Unconscious: An Integration of Freudian, Kleinian and Bionian Perspectives

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