In this first seminar, Bion, on one level, seems to be laying out some of the contours of his psychoanalytic phenomenology. By this I mean to say the analytic aperture — the analytic form of being “a world-disclosing openness” (Heidegger) for and with the patient  — he seems to be trying to convey is all about dialing into, aiming one’s sight on, taking in and making room for the ‘analytic object’ to “show itself from itself in the very way it shows itself from itself” as Heidegger defines the aim of his hermeneutic phenomenology in his introduction to Being and Time.

When Bion opens the seminar he takes the reader through a productively deconstructive series of thought experiments and reflections on the nature of psychoanalytic ‘facts’ and “how those facts should be observed by us.” What seems to be his answer through the course of the first seminar is this: analytic ‘facts’ are grounded in the immediate experience of an unfolding inter-psychic encounter. We must remain vigilant against internal sources of obscuring our experiential/intuitional registration of that point of emergence of personal being @ this ontic level of lived experience. We must endeavor to dial into the point/place of witnessing and catalyzing that spontaneous grasp at existence ==> the place/point in time of emerging psychic birth (“Tell me when your optic pits… when your auditory pits became functional”). He most poignantly refers to this in a later passage:

What is the object which purports to be the ghost of an inanimate doll [Stravinsky’s Petrouchka, the doll looking for a soul] and which one would think had been dead all the time, having simply made gestures as if animated, pulled by the puppet-master’s strings? Putting it another way: when you see your patient tomorrow, will you be able to detect, in the material which is available to you, signs that there is a ghost of a puppet? If you can, you may still be able to breath some life into that tiny survival.

By contrast Bion seems to go to some length to emphasize that psychoanalytic ‘facts’ are not theories, even psychoanalytical ones. His point seems to be, consistent with his encouragement to “abandon memory and desire”, not to reify or mentally hold onto any kind of theory, concept, construction or formulation, as doing so obscures, blocks, or prevents being present to the live unfolding of here and now experience. It is all too easy to turn to an inner model of what is happening to avoid the emotional turbulence which invariably occurs in a real “I-Thou” encounter (Buber) with an Other who is not oneself. ‘Facts’ must be lived experiences, dialing into the ontological level of “O” as it were. Detecting such “facts” may involve the apperceptive use of what he calls “constant conjunctions” (names, abstractions, models) in Elements, Transformations, etc.  And such analytic facts may or may not have an immediate sensuous manifestation, and may or may not presence themselves according to our “natural attitude” (Husserl) expectations of linear time or spatial contiguity. He exemplifies this with a clinical example:

I would certainly from an analytic point of view, from my experience there are certain ideas which have never become conscious and which even seem to betray their existence in adult life. For example, I have a patient who talks very freely, and at the end of the session I know a great deal — if I were to attach much importance to hearsay evidence — about everybody except the patient. That seems to me to become a bit more comprehensible if one supposes that this patient has tried to get rid of every undesirable thought, feeling, even primordial thought, before he ever had them, so that he is surrounded, so to speak, by the thoughts which are voiced by other people — but never his own thoughts or ideas…. Using as much analytic theory as seemed relevant, I made no difference whatsoever to this flow of material in which everything appeared excepting the patient — the one object which was completely unexpressed.

I hope given what I have summarized that the following “bullet points” follow:

1. focus on the point of emergence of a flicker of life, that spontaneous grasping at existence through the weeds of what is false, where is the meaningful opening in the meaningless noise….

2. ala Husserl’s ‘Epoche’, bracket or suspend one’s natural attitude: one’s preferred theories, memories and desires, etc., for yesterday’s patient and be-with tomorrow’s patient. Make room for the faint traces of that subjectivity other than yourself, what Grotstein calls the “ineffable subject of the unconscious” and the traces of it’s emergence in the immediate here and now of the transference-countertransferece matrix.

3. Dial into the patient’s lived experience first and foremost.

4. Be-with/Observe phenomenologically – in a way that allows what shows itself from itself to be seen in the very way it shows itself from itself.

5. Say what you mean and be direct and to the point.

6. Tune into the shapes of non-verbal, pre-verbal, tactile-level communications.

7. Be a midwife to the excluded.