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Rhode, E. (1996). The image in form. Free Associations, 6(1):73-80.

(1996). Free Associations, 6(1):73-80

The image in form

Eric Rhode


Both Bion and Stokes, as patients of Mrs. Klein, evolved fascinating theories out of Mrs. Klein's seminal discovery of the paranoid schizoid and depressive positions and the transition that can occur between the two positions.

Mrs. Klein's description of the two ways in which the neo-nate can respond to the world, specifically to its mother, is a theory about the role love plays in the evolution of mind. Her theory of the depressive position is a theory about the perception acquired through love for someone to perceive the beloved as other than itself and to regret damage it thinks to have done to the beloved while in paranoid schizoid disarray. It is a theory about the relationship between love and mental development, and it proposes that disinterested love is the mainspring of mental development.

Bion's theory of the selected fact is described in Learning from Experience, which has published in 1962. His more recently published Cogitations shows the extent to which he had worked out this theory. Stokes's parallel theory of the image in form was only touched on briefly in one of his final publications (Stokes, 1967).

I wish to explore the scope of Stokes's theory in this article. And I shall begin with the shape of certain women's hats to begin with, hats of the 1920s, whose shape fascinated the painter Bonnard. They did more than fascinate him; they reflected some integrating function in his being which enlivened the recognition of unconscious links.

Adrian Stokes writes of the hat shape that it ‘approximated to the shape of the head and indeed of the breast’. He goes on to say that ‘[Bonnard] seems to coordinate experience largely through an unenvious and loving attitude to this form’ (1967, p. 48).

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