Loading Events

Checking for faculty or student restriction

« All Events

  • This event has passed.
Recurring Event Event Series: British Object Relations

British Object Relations

September 9 @ 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm, Back Classroom

Third Year Adult Psychoanalytic Training (APT)
2022-23, 1st Trimester — Fridays, 3:30-5:00pm
Stan Case, LICSW PhD
Judy K. Eekhoff, PhD

View Whole Syllabus


Freud wrote that the ego is “a precipitate of abandoned object cathexes” that “contains the history of these object choices,” although he continued to believe that intrapsychic drives are the primary determinants of personality and psychopathology. To Fairbairn, who coined the term object relations theory in 1941, and Klein, infants were more than drive-satisfying—they are born object-seeking and object related. Klein elaborated the internal world, a complex system of internalized object relations based on early phantasies and anxieties in intensely personal relationship with the primary object. While Klein acknowledged the reality of external trauma, she tended to see bad objects as internally derived. Winnicott, drawing on his experience with healthy mother-infant dyads, tried to bridge the interpersonal and the intrapsychic. Attachment research has confirmed that mental disorders of adulthood develop in earlier relationships, both fantasied and remembered. It has also confirmed that infants are object related from birth and do not begin life in an autistic state as Mahler and Tustin once thought.

Bion’s ideas expanded the analytic field exponentially; as Ogden writes, his concept of dreaming “is our profoundest form of thinking and constitutes the principal medium through which we achieve human consciousness, psychological growth, and the capacity to create personal symbolic meaning from our lived experience.” Just as to Winnicott (1960) “There is no such thing as an infant [apart from the mother],” to Bion (1961) “the human unit is a couple; it takes two human beings to make one.” “Just as Winnicott shifted the focus of analytic theory and practice from play (as a symbolic representation of the child’s internal world) to the experience of playing, Bion shifted the focus from the symbolic content of thoughts to the process of thinking, and from the symbolic meaning of dreams to the process of dreaming.”

Bollas (1987) has distinguished between two kinds of transference, one involving the patient and their objects, the other involving the receptive capacity by which the analyst facilitates the creation of new internal objects and self experiences. In the first we serve as a transference object, in the second we serve as a new (or developmental) object. Object related ideas have enriched our understanding of the “social unconscious” and collective forms of othering. When Freud’s focus shifted from the seduction theory to fantasy-based neurosogenesis, sexual trauma got marginalized. Ferenczi (who was Melanie Klein’s first analyst, and who was exiled by orthodox Freudians) focused on the impact of the actual incest and abuse. He expanded the concept of introjection to that of “intropression” (1932), to describe an externally forced introjection. Bion’s seminal explorations of group phenomena in the 1940’s provided a foundation for current psychoanalytic authors about group schisms, ostracisms, parasitic and persecutory processes. Further, he believed that external group processes reflected the internal world.

Bion wrote that each of us contains a “group self,” pitting what he termed our innate “socialism against [our] narcissism” (1961). Gonzalez (2020) proposes that the collective psyche involves not just “individual object relations, but relations of one-to-many.” Layton (2018) anchors her ideas on Freud’s and Bion’s ideas about disavowal and lying and on Klein’s concepts of guilt and reparation. Dajani (2020) draws on the cultural implications of Winnicott’s theories. She and Anton Hart enlarge Winnicott’s radical ideas about listening to the patient. Green and Skolnick base their insights about systematic racial oppression on Bion’s conceptualizations about groupthink and Klein’s paranoid-schizoid positions. Fakhry Davids bases his reflections on racism on British object relational theories such as Rosenfeld’s about malignant narcissism and Steiner’s on psychic retreats.

Just as this field keeps growing, we look forward to growing with you as we reflect on these readings together. Although we both regretfully need to teach remotely this term, we will keep you informed about if/when that could change.

—Judy and Stan

September 9, 2022 — Bion’s Theory of Thinking

[34 pages]

Bion extended Klein’s concept of projective identification to include a normal communicative, not just an evacuative, defensive function. He revolutionized psychoanalysis with concepts such as container-contained, maternal reverie, alpha-function, beta elements (raw emotional sensations), nameless dreads, and bizarre objects. He focused on the capacity to think and on the mind’s capacity to attack its own thinking functions. In this early writing on psychotic processes which dominate the neurotic part of the personality, his concepts are Kleinian. Excessive projective identifications which split, penetrate or engulf their objects, hateful of links between objects in reality, leave one surrounded by “bizarre objects” when these projections return, laden with aspects of the external object into which they were projected.

Ogden outlines four principles of mental functioning on which Bion built his theory of thinking (by which Bion meant both thinking and feeling). “Dreaming” for Bion is a form of thinking, the way in which we achieve consciousness, psychological growth, and create personal symbolic meaning from lived experience. We “dream” ourselves into existence. The four principles are our needs: (1) to know the truth, (2) for two minds to mentalize our most disturbing thoughts, (3) to develop our capacity for thinking in order to work on disturbing emotional experiences, and (4) to dream in order to grow psychologically.

Bion, W. (1957). “Differentiation of the Psychotic from the Non-Psychotic Personalities.” IJP 38:266-275

Ogden, T.H. (2009). Ch. 6 “Bion’s Four Principles of Mental Functioning” in Rediscovering Psychoanalysis. N.Y.: Routledge. pp90-113


September 9
3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
Event Categories:
, ,


(206) 328-5315
View Organizer Website


4020 E Madison St, #230
Seattle, WA 98112
+ Google Map
(206) 328-5315
View Venue Website