Customer Service | Help | FAQ | Report a Data Error | About
Tip: To search for text within the article you are viewing…

PEP-Web Tip of the Day

You can use the search tool of your web browser to perform an additional search within the current article (the one you are viewing). Simply press Ctrl + F on a Windows computer, or Command + F if you are using an Apple computer.

For the complete list of tips, see PEP-Web Tips on the PEP-Web support page.

Billow, R.M. (1999). LHK: The Basis of Emotion in Bion's Theory. Contemp. Psychoanal., 35:629-646.

Welcome to PEP Web!

Viewing the full text of this document requires a subscription to PEP Web.

If you are coming in from a university from a registered IP address or secure referral page you should not need to log in. Contact your university librarian in the event of problems.

If you have a personal subscription on your own account or through a Society or Institute please put your username and password in the box below. Any difficulties should be reported to your group administrator.


Can't remember your username and/or password? If you have forgotten your username and/or password please click here and log in to the PaDS database. Once there you need to fill in your email address (this must be the email address that PEP has on record for you) and click "Send." Your username and password will be sent to this email address within a few minutes. If this does not work for you please contact your group organizer.

OpenAthens or federation user? Login here.

Not already a subscriber? Order a subscription today.

(1999). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 35(4):629-646

LHK: The Basis of Emotion in Bion's Theory

Richard M. Billow, Ph.D.

WHILE BION'S WORK continues to inspire contemporary psycho-analysts, his ideas on human emotion get little attention and are not well known. Bion was not a systematic writer, and the scope of his thinking is not immediately or easily accessible. As he developed his own metapsychology, he often did not delineate when and how he was challenging or modifying the grand metapsychologies of Freud and Klein. He also introduced the Grid and a system of mathematical and alphabetical symbols, the latter exemplified by the subject of this essay: LHK (the basis of emotion). His intentions included offering a shorthand for his metapsychology, to make his ideas accessible, flexible, and practical for the working analyst.

Bion posited three primary emotions: the urge to love, the urge to hate, and the urge to seek knowledge (particularly emotional knowledge), notated, respectively, as “L,” “H,” and “K.” These rudimentary emotions are primitive psychic stimuli — the constitutional or instinctual givens — which the individual brings to his or her experience. The analyst may observe how both patient and analyst struggle with these emotions as they emerge within the psychoanalytic situation, often vaguely at first, and without coherence, to be transformed by mental functioning into symbols, nameable affects or feelings, and thoughts.

Bion (1967a) admonished the analyst to eschew “memory and desire,” to participate within each hour with a minimum of intellectual and emotional assumptions. He also advocated intellectual exercises however: introspective squiggle games played with signs and symbols rather than lines. The symbolic shorthand, LHK, could be used by the analyst to identify and think about the emerging emotions. Playing with Bion's metapsychological constructs could provide an antidote for such therapist-based


The author thanks Dr. Charles Raps for his clear thinking and editorial feedback regarding several versions of the manuscript.

- 629 -

[This is a summary or excerpt from the full text of the book or article. The full text of the document is available to subscribers.]

Copyright © 2017, Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing, ISSN 2472-6982 Customer Service | Help | FAQ | Download PEP Bibliography | Report a Data Error | About

WARNING! This text is printed for personal use. It is copyright to the journal in which it originally appeared. It is illegal to redistribute it in any form.