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Williams, M.H. (1983). 'Underlying Pattern' in Bion's Memoir of the Future. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 10:75-86.

(1983). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 10:75-86

'Underlying Pattern' in Bion's Memoir of the Future

Meg Harris Williams


This paper explores Bion's Memoir of the Future from a literary viewpoint, as a work belonging to the pioneering tradition in which an author's self-analysis or internal autobiography is co-extensive with the creation of a new genre for self-expression. It describes the progress of the Memoir's search for 'underlying pattern': in the dual sense of a search for appropriate artistic form, and for the fundamental pattern of 'catastrophic change' which structures the mind's development. Bion's internal 'voices' (including P.A.—Psychoanalyst) struggle towards 'disciplined debate' as they experience past and future catastrophes in the present. The internal 'Group' gradually achieve coherent genre as they increase in self-awareness and in resilience to catastrophic change. By Book 3, their history becomes recountable in the terms of a single life-cycle, from pre-birth to approaching death. Key points

of catastrophic change are represented by birth itself, by the transition from latency to adolescence, from adolescence to adulthood, and by death. The approaching catastrophe of the future, unknown although imaged by death, becomes containable artistically—casting its 'shadow before'; and catastrophic anxiety no longer fragments the Group. Their original chaotic 'Dream' undergoes successive transformations—part revealing, part constructing a 'pattern'—until it comes to metaphorically express the process of thinking itself, equipped to face the birth of an 'idea'.

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