Customer Service | Help | FAQ | PEP-Easy | Report a Data Error | About
Tip: To search only within a publication time period…

PEP-Web Tip of the Day

Looking for articles in a specific time period? You can refine your search by using the Year feature in the Search Section. This tool could be useful for studying the impact of historical events on psychoanalytic theories.

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

Ogden, T.H. (2008). Bion's Four Principles of Mental Functioning. Fort Da, 14(2):11-35.

(2008). Fort Da, 14(2):11-35

Bion's Four Principles of Mental Functioning

Thomas H. Ogden, M.D.

Bion's lifework as a psychoanalytic theorist was the formulation of a theory of thinking. Over a span of four decades, virtually every one of Bion's papers, books, lectures, clinical seminars, notes to himself (his “cogitations”) involves an effort to develop one aspect or another of that theory of thinking. Bion experimented with a variety of metaphors (models) in his effort to capture the nature of thinking and its consequences. The major metaphors with which he experimented include the idea of the interplay of the work group and the basic assumption groups; an intersubjective conception of projective identification; the theory of alpha-function; the concept of the container-contained; the theory of L, H, and K linkages and of attacks on linking; the concept of binocular vision; the grid; psychic transformations; and the concept of “O.”

With a body of work as extensive as Bion's, I find it useful to state in as few words as possible what I discern to be the fundamental tenets running through that work. Bion (1962/1975c), in the same spirit, commented, “Psycho-analytic virtue lies not in the number of theories an analyst can command but the minimum number with which he can meet any contingency he is likely to meet” (p. 88). Accordingly, I will begin by stating in a highly condensed fashion what I think of as “the four principles of mental functioning” that I believe constitute the core of Bion's theory of thinking. My ideas are offered as points of departure for thoughts about Bion's theory of thinking, not as end points.

After presenting, in the space of a single paragraph, my conception of Bion's four principles of mental functioning, I will go on to discuss at greater length each of the principles that I have proposed. Finally, I will look closely at one of Bion's clinical seminars in an effort to demonstrate something of the way in which his clinical thinking is informed by his theory of thinking.

[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 © 2020, 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.