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Bion, W.R. (1958). On Arrogance. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 39:144-146.

(1958). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 39:144-146

On Arrogance

W. R. Bion

In this paper I propose to deal with the appearance, in the material of a certain class of patient, of references to curiosity, arrogance, and stupidity which are so dispersed and separated from each other that their relatedness may escape detection. I shall suggest that their appearance should be taken by the analyst as evidence that he is dealing with a psychological disaster. The meaning with which I wish to invest the term 'arrogance' may be indicated by supposing that in the personality where life instincts predominate pride becomes self-respect, where death instincts predominate, pride becomes arrogance.

Their separation from each other and the lack of evidence of any relatedness is evidence that a disaster has occurred. To make clear the connection between these references, I shall rehearse the Oedipus myth from a point of view which makes the sexual crime a peripheral element of a story in which the central crime is the arrogance of Oedipus in vowing to lay bare the truth at no matter what cost.

This shift of emphasis brings the following elements into the centre of the story: the sphinx, who asks a riddle and destroys herself when it is answered, the blind Teiresias, who possesses knowledge and deplores the resolve of the king to search for it, the oracle that provokes the search which the prophet deplores, and again the king who, his search concluded, suffers blindness and exile. This is the story of which the elements are discernible amongst the ruins of the psyche, to which the scattered references to curiosity, arrogance, and stupidity have pointed the way.

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