July 04, 2003

Alpha Function

Give fire to fire. Mercury to Mercury, and it is enough for you.

Music from 'Atalanta fugiens'
emblem 10

Alchemical Mercury | Mercury | Paracelsus

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Aleph and Bayt

Here we map some of Bion's primary formulations to the Cube of Psychological Space. This requires a revision of PS<->D (paranoid-schizoid and depressive positions), since we can now see that it is really more like P-><-D-><-S. The integrative-depressive work of the psyche is performed between the paranoid (other) and schizoid (self) poles of the existential axis from birth. Bion described the oscilation of developmental position with his double arrow and thought it the basis for psychological growth.

We recognize Bion's trinity of memory, desire and understanding as the life axis of the Cube (future-past) with the work of understanding centered between memory and desire. And the response of alpha function to the presence of beta elements as the axis of experience (sense-perception).

Bion is the most mystical of analytic theorists because he leaves a place for ultimate unknowable reality in his metapsychology.

"The belief that reality is or could be known is mistaken because reality is not something that lends itself to being known ... it is impossible to know reality for the same reason that makes it impossible to sing potaoes .. Reality has to be "been"." Bion, Transformations, 1965, p.148.

Alpha function is associated with awareness but is devoid of meaning. Beta elements are sensory impressions that haven't been transformed by alpha function (consciousness) and can't be stored in memory as a dream thoughts subject to recall and re-transcription.

"The term alpha function is, intentionally, devoid of meaning.(...)it is important that it should not be prematurely used to convey meanings, for the premature meanings may be precisely those that it is essential to exclude."     Bion, 1962, p.3

"Alpha-function operates on the sense impressions, whatever they are, and the emotions, whatever they are, of which the patient is aware. In so far as alpha-function is successful alpha-elements are produced and these elements are suited to storage and the requirements of dream-thoughts. If alpha-function is disturbed, and therefore inoperative, the sense impressions of which the patient is aware and the emotions which he is experiencing remain unchanged. I shall call them beta-elements. In contrast with the alpha-elements the beta-elements are not felt to be phenomena, but things in themselves. The emotions likewise are objects of sense."     Bion, 1962, p.6

"Intolerance of frustration could be so pronounced that alpha-function would be forestalled by immediate evacuation of the beta-elements."     Bion, 1962, p.35

Posted by psyche at July 4, 2003 05:50 PM