The Long Week-End 1897-1919 : Part of a Life

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New Password. He wanted to train in Psychoanalysis and in he began a training analysis with John Rickman , but this was brought to an end by the Second World War. He was recommissioned in the Royal Army Medical Corps as a lieutenant on 1 April , [16] and worked in a number of military hospitals including Northfield Military Hospital Hollymoor Hospital, Birmingham where he initiated the first Northfield Experiment.

These ideas on the psychoanalysis of groups were then taken up and developed by others such as S. The entire group at Tavistock had in fact been taken into the army, and were working on new methods of treatment for psychiatric casualties those suffering post-traumatic stress, or "shell shock" as it was then known.

Out of this his pioneering work in group dynamics , associated with the "Tavistock group", Bion's papers describing his work of the s were compiled much later and appeared together in in his influential book, Experiences in Groups and other papers. It was less a guide for the therapy of individuals within or by the group, than an exploration of the processes set off by the complex experience of being in a group. The book quickly became a touchstone work for applications of group theory in a wide variety of fields.

During the war Bion's wife, Betty Jardine, gave birth to a daughter, but, tragically, she died soon afterwards in His daughter, Parthenope, became a highly regarded psychoanalyst In Italy. She died prematurely, in a car crash in Italy in As his interest in psychoanalysis increased, he underwent training analysis, between and , with Melanie Klein. He met his second wife, Francesca, at the Tavistock in He joined a research group of Klein's students including Hanna Segal and Herbert Rosenfeld , who were developing Klein's theory of the paranoid-schizoid and the depressive positions, for use in the analysis of patients with psychotic disorders.

He produced a series of highly original and influential papers collected as " Second Thoughts ", on the analysis of schizophrenia, and the specifically cognitive, perceptual, and identity problems of such patients. To this he added a valuable final section called Commentary, showing how some of his views on clinical and theoretical matters had changed. Bion's theories, which were always based in the phenomena of the analytic encounter, revealed both correspondences and expansions of core ideas from both Sigmund Freud and Melanie Klein.

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Wilfred R. Bion

In , Bion moved to Los Angeles , California , [19] where he remained until Shortly before his death, he returned to Oxfordshire. He left a reputation which has grown steadily both in Britain and internationally. Some commentators consider that his writings are often gnomic and irritating, but never fail to stimulate. He defies categorisation as a follower of Klein or of Freud. 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 mainly concerned with his theory of thinking, and his model of the development of a capacity for thought.

Bion performed a lot of group experiments when he was put in charge of the training wing of a military hospital. Among his interesting findings was that in a group, the standards of social intercourse lacks intellectual content and critical judgement.

Another interesting observation was that whatever a group member says or does in a group illuminates that member's view of the group and is an illumination of that member's personality. If the contributions of the group and its members can be made anonymously then the foundations for a system of denial and evasion is established. And perhaps one of the most important findings in his experiments was that whenever a group is formed, it always seeks a leader to follow.

The group then searches for someone who has questionable attributes with his or her mental health. Initially, the group will search for someone who is paranoid schizophrenic or someone who is malignant hysteric. If the group is unable to find someone with those attributes, the group looks for someone with delinquent trends and a psychopathic personality.

Otherwise, the group would just settle on the verbally facile high-grade defective. Wilfred Bion's observations about the role of group processes in group dynamics are set out in Experiences in Groups and other papers, written in the s but compiled and published in , where he refers to recurrent emotional states of groups as 'basic assumptions'. Bion argues that in every group, two groups are actually present: the work group , and the basic assumption group. The work group is that aspect of group functioning which has to do with the primary task of the group—what the group has formed to accomplish; will 'keep the group anchored to a sophisticated and rational level of behaviour'.

Bion specifically identified three basic assumptions: dependency , fight-flight , and pairing. Bion believed that interpretation by the therapist of this aspect of group dynamics would, whilst being resisted, also result in potential insight regarding effective, co-operative group work.

The long week-end, 1897-1919

In dependency , the essential aim of the group is to attain security through, and have its members protected by, one individual. The basic assumption in this group culture seems to be that an external object exists whose function it is to provide security for the immature individual. For example, the leader may pose a question only to be greeted with docile silence, as though he or she had not spoken at all.

The leader may be idealized into a kind of god who can take care of his or her children, and some especially ambitious leaders may be susceptible to this role. Resentment at being dependent may eventually lead the group members to "take down" the leader, and then search for a new leader to repeat the process.

In the basic assumption of fight-flight , the group behaves as though it has met to preserve itself at all costs, and that this can only be done by running away from someone or fighting someone or something. In fight, the group may be characterized by aggressiveness and hostility; in flight, the group may chit-chat, tell stories, arrive late or any other activities that serve to avoid addressing the task at hand.

The leader for this sort of group is one who can mobilize the group for attack, or lead it in flight. The final basic assumption group, pairing , exists on the assumption that the group has met for the purpose of reproduction—the basic assumption that two people can be met together for only one purpose, and that a sexual one'. The remaining group members listen eagerly and attentively with a sense of relief and hopeful anticipation. Bion considered that "the three basic-assumption groups seem each in turn to be aggregates of individuals sharing out between them the characteristics of one character in the Oedipal situation".

The mind grows through exposure to truth. The evolution of emotional experience into the capacity for thought, and the potential derailment of this process, are the primary phenomena described in Bion's model.

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Through his hypothesized alpha and beta elements, Bion provides a language to help one think about what is occurring during the analytic hour. To attempt to apply his models during the analytic session violates the basic principle whereby "Bion had advocated starting every session 'without memory, desire or understanding'—his antidote to those intrusive influences that otherwise threaten to distort the analytic process.

Beta elements were seen as cognate to the underpinnings of the "basic assumptions" identified in his work with groups: "the fundamental anxieties that underlie the basic assumption group resistances were originally thought of as proto-mental phenomena The terms are instead tools for thinking about what is being observed. They are elements whose qualities remain unsaturated, meaning we cannot know the full extent or scope of their meaning, so they are intended as tools for thought rather than real things to be accepted at face value , p.

THE LONG WEEK-END ; Part of a Life | Wilfred R. Bion | Second Impression

Bion took for granted that the infant requires a mind to help it tolerate and organize experience. For Bion, thoughts exist prior to the development of an apparatus for thinking. The apparatus for thinking, the capacity to have thoughts "has to be called into existence to cope with thoughts" , p. Thoughts exist prior to their realization. To learn from experience alpha-function must operate on the awareness of the emotional experience; alpha—elements are produced from the impressions of the experience; these are thus made storable and available for dream thoughts and for unconscious waking thinking If there are only beta-elements, which cannot be made unconscious, there can be no repression, suppression, or learning.

Bion, , p. Beta-elements are not amenable to use in dream thoughts but are suited for use in projective identification.

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