Three Papers of W.R. Bion features two previously unpublished papers and one which has only previously appeared in The Complete Works of W. R. Bion (2014). Characterised by Bion’s directness, clarity and intensity, together they illustrate important aspects of his later thinking. They also show Bion using his key ideas in fresh contexts which will allow readers already familiar with his theoretical and clinical concepts to appreciate them from a new angle. The first paper, Memory and Desire, clarifies one of Bion’s most important and clinically-relevant ideas: the value of suspending elements of our memory and desire in the service of allowing openness to psychoanalytic intuition. The second, Negative Capability, was reformulated to become the final chapter of his 1970 Attention and Interpretation. The publication here of the original paper allows an interesting and rewarding three-way comparison to be made with the 1970 chapter, and Memory and Desire. The third paper, Break Up, Break Down, Break Through, was presented without notes in 1976 in Los Angeles and the transcript from the recorded talk is published here for the first time. It displays the complex interweaving of the personal and the theoretical and offers a fascinating contribution to the study of what Bion called „the turbulence that obeys no man-made `laws of nature'“. Wilfred R. Bion’s writing continues to be read and re-read by an increasing and widening readership; the three papers presented here possess contemporary clinical relevance and each have a bearing on the underlying philosophical basis of psychoanalytical work and thinking.
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.
Chris Mawson is a training and supervising analyst of the British Psychoanalytical Society and works in private practice as a psychoanalyst.