Sunday, October 23, 2011

Bisagni - Some Conceptual Parallels Between Bion and Jung

"Apart from the notion of archetype as unsaturated expectation of the encounter—which can help us in assuming a potential for an outgrowth even in autistic children—Jung’s concept of symbolic attitude is crucial. Jung says: ‘the symbolic attitude . . . is the outcome of a definite view of the world which assigns meaning to events, whether great or small, and attaches to this meaning a greater value than to bare facts’ (Jung 1937, para. 899). This is in my opinion very close to what Bion calls the psychoanalytic mind, as a primary quality of the mother to give meaning and build sense in her baby, with regards to the human disposition to search for sense. Such a quality, that may look obvious when we work with more evolved analysands, is terribly hard to keep alive in the analyst when working with the absolute non-mental states of autistic children, and it is even harder again to assume it to be a potential in them.

The notions of pre-conception (Bion) and of archetype (Jung) are very helpful in working with autistic children and, in general, with those analysands who suffer severe impairments in their capacity for symbolization. These notions actually help the analyst in assuming that some proto-trace of representational potential is always present in the individual, and may be appropriately developed if the object is able to provide its fundamental action as a complex and multidetermined subject, deeply involved as a reclaiming object in the analytic relationship. Such a role is essentially played in the function of transforming adhesive bi-dimensional identifications—that trace back to a flattened nonmental world—into projective tri-dimensional identifications, which result in a move from the use of reality in terms of autistic shapes and autistic objects, towards a more evolved and live symbolic use. Such a transformative action can be defined as the prototypical work of the transcendent function."
(pp. 269-270)


Francesco Bisagni (2010) Out of nothingness: rhythm and the making of words, Journal of Analytical Psychology, Vol. 55, pp. 254–272


  1. Keeping faith in what Bisagni describes so well in the second paragraph appears to me key in treating non-symbolizing clients and one of its greatest challenges. It is often such a slow, even imperceptible process of change, as one tries to support the client and allow for a healthy attachment to emerge of itself. One often cannot see the change but has to believe that it is happening.

  2. John - Yes, faith is a good word to describe one of the essential capacities of the analyst necessary to support the emergent process in the patients/clients you mention. Bion seems to have a good grasp of what Jungians often differentiate as the archetype and the archetypal image. Interestingly, Bion was present when Jung lectured in London in 1935. It's striking how both men came to similar conclusions about the nature of the unconscious and analytic interaction but developed different ways of languaging those ideas.


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