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Amrhein, C. (2002). Thinking about Reverie in Bion's Theory of the Mind Presenter: Nancy H. Wolf, C.S.W. Discussant: Anni Bergmann, Ph.D. Date: November 8, 2001.. Am. J. Psychoanal., 62(3):299-300.

(2002). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 62(3):299-300

Scientific Meeting of The American Institute for Psychoanalysis

Thinking about Reverie in Bion's Theory of the Mind Presenter: Nancy H. Wolf, C.S.W. Discussant: Anni Bergmann, Ph.D. Date: November 8, 2001.

Charles Amrhein, M.A.

Edited by:
Daniel Feld, Psy.D.

Bion's influence in North American psychoanalysis has grown in recent years due to both the skill of his interpreters and the readiness of the psychoanalytic community to listen. We need skilled interpreters, as Bion's unique prose style can require unusual effort from the reader. In contemporary psychoanalysis, rigorous discussions of the transference-countertransference matrix, as well as deeper acknowledgment of the implications of the fact of the analyst's unconscious, have left us better prepared to revisit Bion's work. Many of Bion's concepts and ideas have had a tremendous influence on contemporary psychoanalysis, for example, witness the frequent use of the word “containment.” Yet, Bion's work on “thinking,” which is necessary in developing a greater understanding of the concept of containment, has not found as secure a place in our everyday conversations.

On November 8, 2001, the Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis welcomed Nancy Wolf, a skilled interpreter of Bion, who offered a clear but thorough explication of the concept of “reverie” and particularly how this reflective state of mind operates in both infant development and psychoanalysis. While Freud wrote of the need for the analyst to rely on his or her own unconscious as an instrument in the work, Bion offered a detailed theory of how this occurs along with a developmental analogue found in the mother-infant relationship. Wolf centered her paper on Bion's concept of reverie, a subjective, nonlinear dimension of thinking. The elucidation of reverie, cast by Bion as “daytime dreamwork,” is one of his core contributions. Wolf pointed out that while Freud and others focused on the disguising function in dreamwork and symbol formation, Bion emphasized the function of making meaning in reveries and dreams. The transformation of meaningless sensation and errant, unlinked preconceptions into meaningful, contained experience was termed by Bion as the alpha-function.

Wolf offered an elegant description of the development of the alpha-function as rooted in the mother-infant dyad.

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