On Minding and Being Minded explores links between depictions of lived experience written by Samuel Beckett and the experience of psychoanalytic psychotherapy pioneered in the writings of W.R. Bion. These robust literary and clinical intersections are made explicit within the demanding culture of twenty-first century psychotherapy as patient demand for time-limited, result-driven therapeutic outcomes conflicts sharply with the contours of intensive, long-term psychotherapy.
Bion and Beckett present elements of familiarity to the practicing psychoanalyst which emerge tantalizingly, out of explicit reach, yet become knowable through interpersonal engagement. These stutterings and intimations are thick with meaning, suggestively presented in passing. They hint at how it is for the patient, provoking excitations of thinking; and, like the mental constructions of us all, their articulation conceals deep artistry.
This book focuses on Samuel Beckett’s psychoanalytic psychotherapy with W. R. Bion as a central aspect both of Beckett’s and Bion’s radical transformations of literature and psychoanalysis. The recent publication of Beckett’s correspondence during the period of his psychotherapy with Bion provides a starting place for an imaginative reconstruction of this psychotherapy, culminating with Bion’s famous invitation to his patient to dinner and a lecture by C.G. Jung. Following from the course of this psychotherapy, Miller and Souter trace the development of Beckett’s radical use of clinical psychoanalytic method in his writing, suggesting the development within his characters of a literary-analytic working through of transference to an idealized auditor known by various names, apparently based on Bion. Miller and Souter link this pursuit to Beckett’s breakthrough from prose to drama, as the psychology of projective identification is transformed to physical enactment. They also locate Bion’s memory and re-working of his clinical contact with Beckett, who figures as the ‘patient zero’ of Bion’s pioneering postmodern psychoanalytic clinical theories.
Reviews and Endorsements:
‘This is an in-depth study of the famous relationship between Samuel Beckett and Wilfred Bion. Beckett had been Bion’s psychoanalytic therapy case (his first) for only two years, but a “psychic twinship” seems to have developed between them which may have unconsciously lasted both their lifetimes. In fact, Bion used him as his first psychoanalytic presentation, “the Imaginary Twin”. The continuation of the “twinship” appeared in the subject matter of the published works of each: sophisticated psychoanalytic themes especially about the intimate nature of relationships. From their extensive research, especially utilizing Beckett’s recently published correspondence, the authors hypothesize that Beckett and Bion were instrumental in launching the post-modern age in their respective fields. Moreover, they also believe that they were thematically paralleling one another, Beckett experimenting with fictionalized psychoanalytic novellas and Bion with Psychoanalytic Field Theory (Container↔ Contained), the psychoanalytic theory of the indivisible nature of the couple, as contrasted with the one-person analyst model of Positivism.
This is a very fine work, one which should be read by anyone with an interest in the interface of literature and psychoanalysis.’
– James Grotstein, author of A Beam of Intense Darkness: Wilfred Bion’s Legacy to Psychoanalysis and But at the Same Time and on Another Level