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Learning from Experience by Wilfred R. Bion

Learning from Experience

by Wilfred R. Bion

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Psychoanalyst Dr David Bell has chosen to discuss Learning From Experience by Wilfred Bion on FiveBooks as one of the top five on his subject - Psychoanalysis, saying that:

“…He is very seminal to my work. There are three elements in Freud’s thought that deal with what promotes development. The first is overcoming repression of sexual and destructive instincts, the second is allowing the life instinct to dominate the death drive and the third is knowledge, that is, knowledge of the self. ‘Where Id was there Ego shall be,’ he said. Crudely speaking, the Id is the raging primitive passion and the Ego is the voice of reason and reality. Bion brings knowledge into the centre of psychoanalytic scrutiny. What forces, he asks, can interfere with knowledge? He doesn’t mean knowing things, he means the lifelong process of understanding, of coming to know things. He’s a genetic epistemologist – he deals with the development of knowledge.

The Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget did wonderful work on cognitive development but he leaves emotion out entirely. For Bion emotion and knowledge are intimately connected. He links the emotional capacity to develop and know to the capacity to tolerate frustration. If we can hold ourselves in check whilst we endure frustration then we can come to know things. To some extent we are born with the capacity but we are fundamentally influenced by the world in which we develop, and he deals especially with the relationship between mother and baby.

The more the mother can help the baby, intuitively, to tolerate primitive frustrations, the more the baby can develop and internalise this capacity to manage himself. The psychotic patient, for example, has great difficulty in bearing frustration and his capacity for knowledge of the world is replaced by delusions. Freud talks about this in his essay on the principles of mental functioning, in which he talks about the pleasure principle and the reality principle. In order for the reality principle to function man must be able to manage what he describes as disappointment. Bion leans very heavily on Freud but he also brings in Klein and his own work with psychotic patients…”

The full interview is available here: http://fivebooks.com/interviews/david-bell ( )
  FiveBooks | Apr 12, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0946439052, Paperback)

This book deals with emotional experiences that are directly related both to theories of knowledge and to clinical psycho-analysis, and that in the most practical manner.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:30 -0400)

In this book Bion describes his use of the term "alpha-function" to conceptualize how the data of emotional experience is processed and digested. This includes his thinking on "contact barriers" and the bearing of "projective identification" on the genesis of thought.… (more)

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