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Mitrani, J.L. (2002). Replies to Questionnaire. J. Anal. Psychol., 47(1):47-56.

(2002). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 47(1):47-56

Replies to Questionnaire Related Papers

Judith L. Mitrani, Ph.D.

Question No. 1

I believe that it is what Wilfred Bion referred to as the ‘containing function of the mind of the analyst’ that brings about therapeutic change. Over my years of practice, my thinking has evolved both in terms of how I define this function and in the way in which I believe it operates in analysis if things are going well.

To begin with, Bion (1962) first defined this function of mind in his model of the ‘container-contained’ as this relates to normal or realistic projective identification, which he thought to be the earliest form of pre-verbal communication between mother and infant (Bion 1959; 1967a). This constituted an extension and expansion of Klein's concept of projective identification, which she defined as an unconscious phantasy of ridding the self of unwanted objects, experiences and aspects of the self (1946), or as an omnipotent means of control over or as a vehicle for envious destruction of the object (1957). Bion applied his model to the analytic relationship and the infant's (and later the analysand's) search for coherence and meaning.

In my understanding of Bion's model of the maternal container or the analyst-as-container, the analyst first demonstrates the capacity to receive and take in (introject) projected parts, feelings and unprocessed sensory experiences of the infant/infantile aspect of the analysand (what he called beta-elements). Next, she must be able to experience the full effect of these on her own psyche-soma and to bear the effects of these projected elements while in a state of uncertainty. Finally she must eventually be able to think about and to make meaning of these projections (transformation), gradually returning them to the infant in due time and in decontaminated form (publication/interpretation).

This assumes a mother/analyst who has her own boundaries, internal space, and a capacity to bear pain, to contemplate, to think and to reflect back. A mother/analyst who is herself separate, intact, receptive, capable of what Bion called ‘reverie’, and who is appropriately giving will be suitable for introjection as a good containing object.

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