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Carpelan, H. (1989). Reflections on Bion's Container Function and its Pathology. Scand. Psychoanal. Rev., 12(2):145-161.

(1989). Scandinavian Psychoanalytic Review, 12(2):145-161

Reflections on Bion's Container Function and its Pathology

Henrik Carpelan

The purpose of this paper is to give a brief description of Bion's theory of the container function, as I understand it, with emphasis on its practical application in the psychoanalytical situation. I shall try to illustrate the problems of transference and countertransferance by means of a clinical case.

The Container Function And The Theory Of Thinking

In order to apprehend correctly the containercontained model of Bion (1962, 1963), one has to keep in mind that it forms only a part of his theory of thinking. Bion has based his theory, partly on Freud's Formulations on the two principles of mental functioning, and partly on Melanie Klein's theories of the paranoid-schizoid and depressive positions, and particularly on the phenomenon Klein named projective identification. Bion sees the search for meaning as the central task of psycho-analysis. One has to learn by experience in order to achieve this. According to Bion, the purpose of this is to learn something new about one own's internal world and one's self, i.e., to learn the meaning of our thoughts, feelings, behaviour, etc. This learning takes place through a form of thinking, and for this, the conscious is needed as an organ for perception of psychic qualities in the way Freud defined it in Chapter VII of the Interpreation of dreams. Bion regards this as an organ directed towards internal experiences, the unconscious. If I have understood Bion correctly, he means that thinking in this way, in the observation of the environment, i.e.,

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