On Minding and Being Minded: Experiencing Bion and Beckett

Author(s) : Ian Miller

On Minding and Being Minded: Experiencing Bion and Beckett

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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.

On Minding and Being Minded provides a therapeutic link bridging the single session with multiple session psychotherapy focused upon the dynamic engagement of patient and therapist. This is the social workshop within which Bion’s “learning from experience” occurs. Not only does the analyst supply the requirements for its construction in provision of space, time, and boundary, but also bears in mind the psychoanalytic object itself, its feel, tang, and experiential shape, initially unknowable to the patient.

Reviews and Endorsements

‘Ian Miller delineates ways of receiving, entering, and expressing present moments in therapy, using Samuel Beckett and Wilfred Bion as an exemplary twinship. Response to the present becomes all the more important in a world that seems to spin faster and faster, without time for slow and long reflection. What Miller calls “the present formulation” becomes an affective link between therapist and patient as well as an avenue of access to richly evolving moments. Far from leaving psychoanalysis behind, staying with the present enriches therapy embryos with often unexpected, emergent possibilities.’
— Michael Eigen, PhD, author of The Sensitive Self, Contact With the Depths, and Faith

‘Moving from New York City to Dublin, Ian Miller found himself working as a pioneer of psychoanalytic psychotherapy, forced to redefine for himself and for us the very nature of our work. By doing this, he not only introduced history, geography, and the present crisis of psychoanalysis into the way in which we conceptualise what we do with our patients, but he was also able to think it anew in terms of the mind minding and being minded by another. Psychic growth takes place only in the context of an interpersonal relationship, as H. S. Sullivan had anticipated in the 1920s. Reconstructing how such an intuition was practised and realised by Bion and Beckett, during and after their work together, allows the author to build important new bridges both between psychoanalysis and literature, and between North-American and European psychoanalysis. Beyond this, he formulates a new “credo”, alternating between the “present formulation” of what ails patients and around the urgency of collaborating with them – an extension of Sullivan’s and Bion’s “binocular vision” – in bringing about new and unexpected avenues of psychic growth. This was their common way of interpreting what Ian Miller very eloquently calls “the pressure of the analytic imperative as radical inquiry”.’
— Marco Conci, MD, Co-Editor-in-chief of the International Forum of Psychoanalysis

About the Author(s)

Ian Miller is a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst, practicing and writing in Dublin, Ireland, where he also leads clinical study/reading groups. He is the author of Defining Psychoanalysis: Achieving a Vernacular Expression, On Minding and Being Minded: Experiencing Bion and Beckett, and co-author of Beckett and Bion: The (Im)patient Voice in Psychotherapy and Literature (with Kay Souter).

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