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Reiner, A. (2013). Recollections of Wilfred Bion. DIVISION/Rev., 7:17-19.

(2013). DIVISION/Review, 7:17-19

Reminiscence

Recollections of Wilfred Bion

Annie Reiner, Ph.D., PsyD, LCSW

Bion had an arresting presence, his owl-like eyes were focused and intense. He spoke thoughtfully, complex thoughts delivered in a simple easy-going manner. In one of the many lectures I heard him give in Los Angeles in the 1970s, Bion told a story about someone skeptical of psychoanalysis, who said to him, “So you mean all you do is talk?” Bion paused, then replied, “No, we are also silent.” His lectures, too, were peppered with silences, but they were silences which felt pregnant with meaning, and a sense of expectation. For some analysts in the audience the intensity must have been unnerving, because many were angered by his enigmatic quality and his tendency to respond to questions with thoughts rather than answers. Others of us were fascinated, and curious about the sometimes mysterious things he said. He wasn't trying to be mysterious, it was just an unavoidable side effect of the topic at hand — the human mind. He focused, not on answers but on questions, and it seemed to me that one of the main things he brought to the psychoanalytic perspective was the sense of awe of a child pondering an infinite, but fascinating universe.

Bion died in 1979 at the age of 83. His presence in Los Angeles, where he lived and worked for the last twelve years of his life, had a galvanizing effect on the psychoanalytic community. There was controversy, but also outright hostility between those who were interested to learn more about his ideas and the ideas of Melanie Klein and object relations, and other analysts who at the time were opposed to the influx of these strange new ideas.

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