Friday, 15 June 2012

A place of memory and desire, part two

What is this place of memory and desire? Dublin in the 1960s.

But I’ll leave that for a moment and make a couple of points about the phrase itself. Bion’s version anyway. That’s the one about entering a place between memory and desire.

Point one
Not that it should stop anyone using or abusing the phrase — that’s democracy, progress and fun — but Bion was using it in a very specific technical sense. He was describing the ideal mental and emotional stance of a psychoanalyst towards his/her patient/client. It was effectively the same thing Freud called free-floating attention or reverie. The idea is that then, quite simply, you are freed to notice stuff you wouldn’t normally notice — essentially, by putting off structuring it or analysing it. Bion wasn’t suggesting that we spend our whole lives in a place beyond memory and desire.

Point two Actually, maybe he was saying — or, at least, thinking — exactly that. The more I read/heard about Bion, the more I became convinced/concerned that he was part of the mystical wing of psychoanalysis. There is, isn’t there, something inherently, well, puffed-up about the phrase ‘beyond memory or desire’. Bit too mystical and eastern and, yeeeeugh, holistic for me. I’m all for a bit of yoga and that but, honestly, frankly, aren’t emptied heads nearly always empty heads.

Next I turn Bion upside down — and steal what falls out of his pockets.

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