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We are aware that both analysand and analyst fear the experience of the "unknown" , for this leads to what Bion refers to as "catastrophic change". Bion sees three possible means used to escape of this fear of the unknown: a flight into the past: memory ; b flight into the future: desire; c flight into the present: intellectual understanding.

Nonetheless, a distinction must be made of two aspects of what is generally denominated as "memory" : 1 an "active memory" , a "wish to remember" that we could call "wilful memory" and 2 a memory "evoked" in us, a spontaneous recalling that we could call "non-wilful memory". Likewise Bion differentiates two ways in which the analyst's memory may reveal itself in the analytic situation: i obstructive memory - the aim of which is to control the very anxiety of the analyst with regard to the unknown - this has an adverse effect on the analytic search, and ii evocation evoked memory , which arises spontaneously with respect to what is going on in the session - this is essential to the analytic work.

This evoked memory is like a "dream-like memory", which can be compared with the substance of dreams, corresponding to 'psychic reality". It shares with dreams "the quality of being totally present or inexplicably and suddenly absent". This state of "dream" or "reverie" allows the analyst to have free access to his fantasies, day-dreaming and emotions and this is what makes it possible for the analyst to capture the emotional state of the analysand. Intuition corresponds thus to this spontaneous appearance of facts in the analyst's mind that allows access to incognizable truths.

Evolution implies an ability to join, through sudden intuition, a serious of incoherent and apparently unrelated phenomena that in this way acquire the coherence and meaning they were lacking. Bion gives this state of "non-memory", "non-desire" and "non-understanding" the name of "negative capability", after Keats who defines it as "the quality possessed by a person who is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after facts and reasons".

The other condition that is necessary for insight is precisely the capacity to wait. Bion says that "negative capability" also refers to the analyst's minimum condition of "waiting" until insight - and consequently interpretation - becomes possible. Interpretation demands of the analyst the basic condition of functioning as a "container" for the analysand's associations and projections.


This "capacity to contain" implies both that the analyst is able "to deal with" his doubts, uncertainties and anxieties with regard to what he does not yet know how to signify to himself as well as being able "to wait for" the reception and elaboration of the material until an interpretation can be formulated. So the analyst has to be able to pass through a "state of patience" before reaching a "state of security". Bion feels that interpretations that appear after passing through these two emotional states are the true indications of an adequate analytic work.

For Bion, progress in analysis is inseparable from the need to bear mental pain. This holds both for analysand and analyst. The word "patience" comes from "pathos" that in Greek means "suffering". The analyst himself must learn how to be patient not only in the sense of managing to support the pain of his own mental growth but also, inevitably, in the sense of managing to bear the pain of waiting until the light appears.

Here patience means an active process on the part of the analyst and is associated with a state of suffering and tolerance of frustration. Bion claims that we analysts are initially unaware of what is going on. However, "if we wait, if we don't run away, and if we go on observing our analysand, a pattern will emerge". Only in this way will we succeed in moving from the equivalent to a "paranoid-schizoid position" into a "depressive position".

He says that if the analyst tolerates the aspect of dispersion Ps of the function without strong anxieties, the appropiate term would be "patience". He proposes the term "security" for the emotional state experienced after the discovery of the "selected fact" in the "apparent chaos" of the analysand's communication. This selected fact, in turn, "is an emotion or an idea that will lend coherence to what is disperse by introducing order into disorder".

The discovery of the selected fact leads to insight. Clinical Material omitted here. Whenever the analysand faces up to a new strong emotional experience that he is uncapable of handling and therefore cannot "think it" he looks for a means of making this possible. That is, he looks for a continent that may be able to contain whatever he is, at that moment, not able to contain by himself. The function of continence on the part of the analyst is an active process.

It has to do with the condition in which the analyst is capable of receiving the analysand's anguish for sufficient time in order to be able to decodify and process it within himself so that he can give it back to the analysand "detoxicated" interpretation in a way that the analysand can then take it back into his own personality in a tolerable form. Therefore, through successful projective identification, the analysand is brought into contact with the analyst, as an object with a space for the distress which the analysand cannot yet tolerate, at the same time providing the analysand with an opportunity of internalising an analyst who has this capacity.

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This means that the analysand's dependence on the containment by the analyst will eventually be replaced by the containment of the analysand's own mind. A successful analysis is then, one that propitiates the analysand to develop, progressively, in himself, this capacity of containment. So the analyst receives what is being projected into him by the analysand in the form of free associations, slips, dreams, transferences,etc.

Also, with the help of his own "reverie" and his ability and patience to cope with his "not knowing" of the situation, he will eventually be able to understand these emotions that are stirred up in him by the analysand - which are in fact the effects of what was provoked in him by the analysand - and give back to the analysand the result of such understanding - insight - in a manner that the analysand can then tolerate - interpretation.

Bion states that the operation "contain-containment" is analagous to that of the "alpha-function". So, what apparently appears to be a series of incoherent, inarticulated and disjointed associations on the part of the analysand are in fact, a communication designed to evoke from the analyst a state that will fullfill the function of a "selected fact" that will give coherence to the whole.

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