- But at the Same Time and on Another Level: Volume 1: Psychoanalytic Theory and Technique in the Kleinian/Bionian Mode. Volume 2: Clinical Applications in the Kleinian/Bionian Mode
"If psychoanalytic intuition does not provide a stamping ground for wild asses, where is a zoo to be found to preserve the species? Conversely, if the environment is tolerant, what is to happen to the 'great hunters' who lie unrevealed or reburied?"—W. R. Bion, A Memoir of the Future. The Dream
In these two volumes, James Grotstein, an author whom Bion would certainly include among the "great hunters" of recent decades, embarks on an enterprise I am tempted to call epoch-making, and brilliantly carries it off.
The first major obstacle is also the question the reader asks himself while picking up these volumes for the first time: How to advance in the Kleinian/Bionian landscape without losing one's bearings? Right from the titles Grotstein promises to identify a "Kleinian/Bionian Mode," a single perspective, so to speak, capable of bringing under one umbrella what appears to many as a confused, quarrelsome motley of authors who would be at pains to recognize themselves as belonging to a single current. The very first pages dispel the notion that this is a work to be added to those which—very profitably in some cases, such as Psychoanalysis Comparable and Incomparable (Tuckett et al. 2008)—offer a comparative method to navigate among different points of view, or to those which give a historical description of the evolution of the Kleinian or Bionian schools, such as the important work of Riccardo Steiner (2000a; 2000b). In his preface Grotstein makes it clear that, unlike other works dealing with the broader ramification of psychoanalytic technique, his work aims to be "a handbook of specific suggestions of 'how to . . . ': . . . how to approach, how to listen, both actively and passively, how to think about the analytic situation, and how to intervene with the analysand" [End Page 470] (1:xiv). To put it differently, it is clear right from the start that this book, far from being a textbook or an anthology to be read somewhat indifferently, attributing each issue to the authors dealt with in the various chapters, is a reflection on the available theoretical and technical instruments that necessarily implicates the readers (if they are clinicians) and seriously questions their assumptions. After building "Bridges to Other Schools and to Psychotherapy" in the first chapter, Grotstein plunges into the thick of things and devotes each chapter to a particularly thorny theoretical-clinical question, without flinching, and without ever leaving the confines of the analyst's consulting room and the analytic process, or shrinking from their stalemates and unresolvable mysteries.
The questions Grotstein thus tackles are all crucial to psychoanalysts, as shown by the following partial list: "Innocence" versus "original sin" (8); "what is the analyst's task?" (58); "what are the goals of analysis?" (60); "who am I this time?" (99); "against what and/or whom do the defences defend?" (186); "when do resistances disappear willingly and/or persist defiantly?" (213); "what does the patient want of the analyst?" (234); "co-construction versus self-organization" (237); "who really does the identifying in projective identification?" (277).
Among the several important theoretical operations, a particularly useful one is his identification of a number of fundamental ideas that constitute the "hidden order" (2:xiii) of the technique employed by Kleinian/Bionians, a common ground of which many are, or have been so far, unaware. Such is the case of "the once-and-forever-and-ever-evolving infant of the unconscious," extensively discussed in Volume 1, Chapter 11. Kleinians, post-Kleinians and Bionians, Grotstein says, all seem to assume
the putative presence of an "analytic infant" within the analysand, one who in some ways corresponds to the infant of actual infancy and in other ways...