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May 6

Tracking the Unconscious in Clinical Work: Current Bionian Perspectives: Spring 2017 Extension Program

May 6, 2017 @ 8:00 am - 5:00 pm

Tracking the Unconscious in Clinical Work ~ Current Bionian Perspectives
Presenters: Dr. Keith Haartman, Ph.D. and Dr. Cynthia Saruk, Ph.D.

In recent decades, Wilfred Bion’s thought has undergone a renaissance. His popularity has spilled into areas of psychoanalysis far removed from his Kleinian roots. The burst of interest in Bion stems from the rise of intersubjectivity in psychoanalytic thought. Bion introduced a relational, intersubjective perspective in his concept of “container-contained”. Instead of viewing projection as simply a defense designed to get rid of unwanted feelings and thoughts, Bion suggested that infants project overwhelming emotions into mother for her to contain, reflect upon, and reflect back in a form that promotes emotional growth. In this view, infant and mother, patient and analyst exist within a jointly composed field of mutual projections and attunements, (and mutual misattunements).

Bion also developed the relational notion of “alpha function”, a continual unconscious dream process that clarifies the raw perplexity of emotions, transforming them into nutrients of the mind.

Bion’s mainly theoretical work included little clinical material. Yet his concepts brim with clinical implications.

This course explores four contemporary psychoanalysts who provide clinical excerpts steeped in Bionian thought: Antonino Ferro, Laurence Brown, Rafael Lopez-Corvo, and Thomas Ogden. Each take intersubjectivity for granted. The unconscious minds of analyst and patient constitute a relational field where neither can be disentangled from the other. We commence with an introduction to the concepts of container-contained and alpha function. Next, we explore how each writer tracks the unconscious from moment to moment by relying not only on patients’ utterances and actions, but also on their own reveries and daydreams. Finally, we assess the clinical merits and limitations of each clinical excerpt. While many regard Bion’s writings as complex and arcane, the course strives to convey the material in an introductory, comprehensible manner.

FEE: $180.00 ($130 for students)
LOCATION: University of Toronto, Trinity College, St. Hilda’s Residence, Adams Room.
44 Devonshire Place, Toronto

Keith Haartman PhD, is a psychoanalyst in private practise in Toronto. He is on faculty at the Toronto Institute for Contemporary Psychoanalysis, and the Institute for the Advancement of Self Psychology. He is the author of “Watching and Praying: Personality Transformation in 18th Century British Methodism” (Rodopi, 2004)

Cynthia Saruk, Ph.D. is a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst in private practice in Toronto. She graduated from the Toronto Institute of Psychoanalysis in 1993.


May 6, 2017
8:00 am - 5:00 pm
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St Hildas Residence at U of T, Adams Room
44 Devonshire Place
Toronto, Ontario M5S 2E2 Canada
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