June 27, 2003

Bion: Basic Assumptions & The Grid

Sow your gold in the white foliated earth.

Music from 'Atalanta fugiens'
emblem 6

Vatican Museum Online

Bion puts groups into two categories: work groups (getting things done) and basic assumption groups (acting out primitive fantasies and preventing things from getting done).

The three basic assumption groups are fight-flight, corresponding to Klein's paranoid-schizoid postion, dependency, corresponding to Klein's depressive position, and pairing, corresponding to Klein's and Freud's Oedipal fantasy.

Basic assumptions are a substitute for thinking and a way to avoid the pain of reality, which would require the understanding of unconscious, psychotic processes (splitting and projective identification) in the individual.

"Returning to the analyst's intuition of the analysand's experience, similar psychical objects have been experienced by analysand and analyst, having been first communicated by the former to the latter. This is very similar, if not equivalent to, the baby's conveying to the mother by way of normal projective identification its incomprehensible experiences (beta elements).

These beta elements are acted upon by maternal reverie (alpha function), thereby creating (alpha elements) which are returned via maternal (parental) ministrations, often including the spoken, but incomprehensible word - where it is the accompanying music and dance that convey the understanding to the baby of any age.
. . .
The analyst needs, in the unconscious, to be under the auspices as it were, of a mature internal couple - mother and father - in genital communion with one another in relationship to the psychoanalytic objects being experienced."
James A Gooch: Bion's Perspectives on Psychoanalytic Technique

Bion's Grid
Psi Nota
Inquiry Action ...n,
A beta
A1 A2       A6  
B alpha
B1 B2 B3 B4 B5 B6 ...Bn
C Dream Thoughts C1 C2 C3 C4 C5 C6 ...Cn
D Pre
D1 D2 D3 D4 D5 D6 ...Dn
E Conception E1 E2 E3 E4 E5 E6 ...En
F Concept F1 F2 F3 F4 F5 F6 ...Fn
G Scientific
H Algebraic

"... analytic interpretations can be seen to be theories held by the analyst about the models and theories the patient has of the analyst." (Elements of Psycho-analysis, ch. 5, p. 17).

"Beta-elements - This term represents the earliest matrix from which thoughts can be supposed to arise. It partakes of the quality of inanimate object and psychic object without any form of distinction between the two. Thoughts are things, things are thoughts; and they have personality.

Alpha-elements - This term represents the outcome of work done by -function on sense impressions. They are not objects in the world of external reality but are products of work done on the sensa believed to relate to such realities." (Bion, Elements of Psycho-Analysis, ch.6, p.22).

"Calculi - The scientific deductive system may be represented by an algebraic calculus. In the algebraic calculus a number of signs are brought together according to certain rules of combination." (Elements of Psycho-Analysis, ch. 6, p. 24).
Rosa Beatriz Pontes de Miranda Ferreira: The Fundamental Role Of The Grid In Bion's Work

" In the practice of psychoanalysis, the emotional experience can be discerned as a constantly changing pattern of emotional experience. If the psychonanalyst develops his capacity to intuit these experiences, he can become aware of certain experiences which are constantly conjoined. These constant conjunctions become manifest to the psychoanalyst after a period of time (provided he resists an irritable searching after certainty) as a sensuous caleidoscopic change" (Bion,1977a, p.11).

"It is not clear to me whether a negative growth in T(K) in the analyst leads to T(O) or whether there is a caesura between the two transformations. Anyway, I think there is a difference in the analyst's internal attitude when facilitating T(K) and T(O). In T(K), the analyst assumes an internal attitude which facilitates regression towards a sensuous experience. In T(O) he voluntarily tries to keep away from this sensuous experience.
The analyst facilitates the process in T(O) although it does not take place in himself alone. T(K) was described as what happened when the mind is touched, now touch and mind are throwed away. The dissolution of the ego of the analyst brings fear of going mad but brings a contact with the magma, the matrix out of which the toughts of the analysand are formed. We can call this a reverie in T(O). It implies a humble attitude, being nothing, dust among the dust. What Goethe means by tender empiricism seems to border on this reverie in T(O): "There is a tender kind of empiricism identifying itself with the object so intimately that in the process it becomes the actual theory." ( cited in Benjamin, 1973, my own translation).
Rudi Vermote: The GRID, that two-dimensional crutch

"The negative grid is meant to represent a mental system for generating lies - in the service of misunderstanding and anti-thought. These lies constitute, in Bion's view, the poison of the mind. It is a notion which remained largely unelaborated in his work - a kind of terra incognita - yet to be laboriously mapped out by clinical exploration. But it is scintillating with possibilities for better understanding the nature of perversity as an aspect of character, as distinct from sexual behaviour or choice. It wholly subverts the current propensity to attach labels of 'perverse' or 'non-perverse' to categories of relationships - e.g., homosexual or heterosexual - and places the distinctions, rather, in the area of psychic reality and meanings as represented by different states of mind.

In conclusion, however, it is the connection between these intrapsychic processes and the social sphere that must be emphasized: the connection, that is, between the basic assumption mentality in the individual, mindless group mentality and the dynamics of the gang. A basic assumption group is particularly rich soil for the implanting of gang propaganda.
. . .
In bridging the two - the individual mind and the public sphere - we have been investigating the negative forces in the personality and the ways in which the internal basic assumption groupings rooted in hatred of the emotions and ultimately of life itself, may find expression in external ways. The 'Fair is foul and foul is fair' mode of inversion and distortion , so brilliantly, elaborated in Macbeth, then crystallizes into the hardcore perversity of the little child's aspiration to 'grow up and live dying' and of the forces of oppression and hatred which spread death and despair across the world. "   Waddell & Williams (emphasis and hyperlinks added)

Margot Waddell and Gianna Williams: Reflections on Perverse States of Mind

Posted by psyche at June 27, 2003 01:18 PM