288 Chapters
Medium 9781855756298

Chapter 2 Review of Earlier Publications

Meltzer, Donald Harris Meltzer Trust ePub

Since the aim of this book is both to bring together my earlier experience and ideas about projective identification, scattered in various publications, and to amend and amplify them with current views, all as a basis for exploring some of the wider social and political implications of this mental mechanism, I thought at first to republish here the earlier statements. But I find, on reviewing, that everything I have written in the past thirty years is shot through with reports of these phenomena. The only option is to take only the major publications in chronological order, abstracting from them the developing ideas.

But as an exception to this I have chosen to republish in full the paper “The Relation of Anal Masturbation to Projective Identification.” It represents first of all a clinical discovery that surprised me, and secondly it is certainly the jumping off place for all subsequent developments in my thought on this subject. As a preamble I might mention that I had been very unhappy about Melanie Klein’s paper “On Identification” but knew not why for some years. It seemed clear to me that, regardless of the author of the novel’s wish to be ambiguous, there was no need for psycho-analytical ambiguity. Clearly, like Golding’s ‘Pincher Martin’,the story of Fabian represents the dream of a dying man. Its events therefore belong squarely in the inner and not the outer world. Only with the writing of this paper in 1966 did I discover the real reason for my dissatisfaction: the tendency of Mrs. Klein’s paper to continue treating projective identification as a psychotic mechanism and one which operated with external objects, primarily or exclusively.

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Medium 9781855756687

III The Sorting of Zonal Confusions

Meltzer, Donald Harris Meltzer Trust ePub

IN the first two Chapters I have traced the early phases of the analytic process, first the gathering of the transference processes into the treatment, and second the differentiation of self and object which is brought about by the systematic investigation of the operation of massive projective identification, as it is intensified in the transference in relation to separation. It seems clear that, since massive projective identification can function to counter any configuration producing psychic pain at infantile levels, no other problem can really be worked through until this mechanism has been to some considerable degree abandoned. In the neurotic patient this may be accomplished in a matter of months or a year of analysis, but in borderline and psychotic patients it is the major work, taking years—and its accomplishment represents an analytic achievement of the first order. In fact, as I have said it would probably be called the crucial step in establishing fundamental health and removing the danger of psychotic deterioration.

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Medium 9781855756786

IV. Approach to a Theory of Thinking

Meltzer, Donald Harris Meltzer Trust ePub

The historical approach to Bion’s work which we are following seems to reveal something of a latency period in his creativity contemporary with his apprenticeship in psycho-analysis proper, standing between the brilliance of his work with groups and the full-blown emergence of his thought in the books commencing with ‘Learning from Experience’. This period of re-orientation was followed by the period of the papers on schizophrenia which reveal him more fully than in any other of his writings deploying his extraordinary capacity for concentration and observation. The result was his uncovering a plethora of phenomena as yet unnoticed in the consulting room, at first with frankly psychotic patients and later with the ‘psychotic part of the personality’ of less ill people. The consequence was a kind of adolescence of reborn creativity in which his expanding thought was struggling to stay within the bounds of existing concept, both Freud’s model of thinking and Mrs Klein’s model of the structure of the personality in conflict. The areas of incompatibility of the two and their fundamental inadequacy to cover the phenomena with which he was dealing was revealed in the manner in which concepts such as primal scene, splitting of the ego, projective identification and verbal thought were stretched to the breaking point.

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Medium 9781855750845

17. The role of pregenital confusions in erotomania (1974)

Donald Meltzer Karnac Books ePub

A clinical example using mainly dream material illustrates how the narcissistic organization interferes with a proper differentiation between adult and infantile levels of functioning and with the ability to protect tnternal objects (mother’s body and identity) from intrusive attacks through projective identification. Chapter sixteen provides further elucidation of the narcissistic organization and technique.

When Mrs Rfirst came to analysis, she was disquieted mainly by evidences of an inexplicable coldness and brutality, which burst out at her children, a boy and girl, whose development seemed in many ways unsatisfactory. But in the course of a difficult analysis, and against great resistance, the idealization of her husband and their marriage broke down and revealed a floridly perverse relationship in which she played the willing slave to his genius, obsessionaltty, and selfishness. As she gradually disengaged herself from this, the relationship became insupportable, and they agreed to stay together for the children’s sake alone. Through this four-year period the analytic situation forged slowly ahead in the face of a strongly erotic transference and intense voyeurism, which gradually revealed an infantile situation of fusion with a parental couple related to sharing the parental bedroom during her breast-feeding period. This generated a strongly blissful state of mind, which resisted interpretation, but when it yielded on occasions, evidences appeared of a brutal wilfulness and independence of Judgement covered by surface compliance. This attitude had indeed characterized her childhood following a period of stress during which a change of house, removal from the parental bedroom, weaning, toilet training, and the birth of a baby sister had followed hard upon the heels of one another.

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Medium 9781855756786

XIV. Review: Catastrophic Change and the Mechanisms of Defence

Meltzer, Donald Harris Meltzer Trust ePub

In order to bring to an end this study of the development of Bion’s model of the mind, it is necessary to attempt to clarify the concept which is probably most central and least mentioned of all his ideas. Except for the paper titled ‘Catastrophic Change’ which he read to the British Psycho-analytical Society in 1966, and which incidentally, in its body never mentions the concept of the title, this phrase appears nowhere in the books. And yet all the books are about it, just as ‘Attention and Interpretation’ is certainly about attention, although it is never mentioned in the text. The paper ‘Catastrophic Change’ was a prelude to ‘Attention’ and is virtually identical to Chapter 12. Insofar as its focus is upon the relationship of container and contained, in the individual and in his relationship to the group, the dread of change and the tendency for change to manifest itself as catastrophe is brought out more clearly than in the later book chapter entitled ‘Container and Contained Transformed’. Bion’s model of container and contained must be juxtaposed to his idea that the truth does not require a thinker to exist, but rather that the thinker needs to find the truth as an idea which he can make grow in his mind. Among the ideas which exist in the world awaiting thinkers are certain ones which, from the religious-historical vertex, he chooses to call ‘messianic’ ideas. The relationship of container to contained in the individual, in so far as ideas institute a conflict between thought and the impulse to action, is not so observable in the ordinary course of events, but becomes dramatically manifest when an idea of messianic significance enters. In order to describe these processes of catastrophic change induced by the messianic idea Bion employs the congruent relationship of the individual mystic to his group. The group, as container, must find some means of expanding to hold this new phenomenon in order, on the one hand, not to crush or squeeze or denude the messianic idea, or similarly to destroy the mystic or ‘sink him without a trace, loaded with honours’. But it also must avoid being fragmented or exploded by the mystic or the messianic idea. These relations of container to contained, whether of experiences in the individual, the individual in a group, the meaning in a word, the significance in a symbol, or the passion in a relationship - in whatever dimension of container and contained, the relationship can be categorized as parasitic, symbiotic or commensal. His application of these biological ideas to the realm of the mind is this: (Scientific Bulletin of the Brit. Psa. Soc., No. 5, 1966, p. 21)

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