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Schneider, J.A. (2005). Experiences in K and − K. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 86(3):825-839.

(2005). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 86(3):825-839

Experiences in K and − K

John A. Schneider

In this paper the author explores and expands Bion's concepts of K and −K and delineates the nature of the relationship between the two. While Bion views envy as a principal motivating force for −K, his conception of −K goes considerably beyond this. The author explores manifestations of −K not driven by envy and, consequently, not necessarily pathological or pathogenic. −K is viewed by the author as a psychological process, which may serve many functions, including the communication of the patient's fear that knowing will bring on psychological catastrophe. −K, under circumstances that he describes, may serve to protect the individual's sense of continuity of being. The need to know the truth (K) may be at odds with the need to survive psychically, for example, when a person fears that the truth will kill him, or those he loves and depends upon. This idea is explored in two ways: first, by means of a discussion of the Oedipus myth in which Oedipus attempts to evade knowing for fear of recognizing that a prophesied catastrophe has already occurred; and, second, by means of a clinical exploration of the conflict between the need to know and the need to survive. The author discusses his analytic work with a severely disturbed patient for whom not knowing was felt to be essential to her psychic survival. Her need not to know reached a point where she psychically obliterated the analyst through the use of negative hallucination.

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