Monday, October 8, 2012

Do you speak 'Bionese'?

Bion’s ideas resonate for me with Zen and other metaphysical ideas about being and ways of being, but they are, in their descriptions, too often over burdened with jargon. Those who embrace and write about Bionian theory (e.g. Grotstein) can make it unnecessarily more difficult to comprehend when they continue to use Bionian jargon. I personally prefer how Ogden illuminates Bion (see below). While I may be fluent enough in alpha and beta and L, H, K, O, and their impediments (or negatives), and decades ago I may even have excelled in theoretical calculus, I nonetheless find jargon in a conference setting obfuscating instead of elucidating. It is as if a secret language has been learned by some and is expected all should have learned it or be excluded.

On Saturday, Oct 6, 2012 at the local Tampa Bay Psychoanalytic Society Speaker Program Meeting Walton Ehrhardt. EdD from New Orleans did make some of Bion’s principles more accessible. These were my favorites from the day:
1.       Thinking is driven by the human need to know the truth.
I do not necessarily cotton to the idea that there is a the  truth, as truth is varied and contextual to each therapeutic relationship, but I accept the inclination.  
2.       It requires two minds to think disturbing thoughts.
I especially like this idea, as it applies so well to the therapeutic dyad. What one finds untenable to bear alone may be shared, made bearable, with another.
3.       The capacity for thinking is developed in order to come to terms with thoughts derived from disturbing emotional experience.
A little broad reaching, but certainly one of the motivators for thought. And thought, symbolized in language, can help one “contain” disturbing experience. Ehrhardt emphasized that for Bion thought and emotion are inextricably intertwined. I think there exist ineffable experiences that are sometimes  not traumatic.

I longed for Ehrhardt to metabolize terms such as container, reverie, alpha function, beta, and K and re-present them to us in usable form so that the attendees might make use of them and more easily dialogue.

Ehrhardt did elaborate three of many types of projective Identification, all of which are, of course, are about relationship. [I was unsure what Ehrhardt intended to illustrate clinically with these]:
1.       Projective Identification as communication: the content of words, thoughts, ideas, dreams-- both waking and sleep dreams [Bion believed we were always dreaming] --projected, then introjected by the recipient, and, if a good fit, a relationship ensues.
2.       Evacuative type:  The unconscious wish to rid oneself of unacceptable parts, so these unwanted aspects of the self are projected on the other. The other accepts the projections whether through identifying or despising them.
3.       Through Control and Possession of the Object: when the other is treated as an object, related to not as a subject but as function, or a good or bad part-self or -object representing otherness.

Here is what Ogden says about it:
        The idea that there is something therapeutic about the therapist's containment of the patient's projective identifications is based upon an interpersonal conception of psychological growth: one learns from … another person on the basis of interactions in which the projector ultimately takes back … an aspect of himself that has been integrated and slightly modified by the recipient. (Ogden, 1982, p. 40)
[Ogden refers here to the alpha function]

Bion’s basic assumptions about groups were also thrown in:
1.       Dependence: group members behave passively as if the leader = parent; then resent, undermine, finally  topple the leader; then begin again choosing a new leader;
2.       Pairing: the group expects something new to be produced as if met only for a reproductive or sexual purpose.  Two group members or two subgroups do the work; others watch, relieved they do not have to work, and await the product of the ‘couple’  (a messiah, a rescuer of the group, a savior).
3.       Fight or flight: The group may be bonded by aggression (gangs, teams) or in flight (late arrivals, stories that occupy all’s attention, or avoidance of personal involvement of one’s emotional being).
What I found most fascinating was contemplating Bion’s idea that intrapsychically we are all made up of ‘groups’ which can behave according to these same  basic assumptions.

Still the struggling as a group to apprehend some of these concepts was invigorating, and taught empathy for those who were not fluent in ‘Bionese.’

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