The following is an excerpt from a session with a man who had been hospitalized several times and found his way into therapy. We have been working for five years in ways that have begun to touch places that were inaccessible or, rather, accessible mainly as threats that would periodically flood him. The patient mentions Wilfred R. Bion, who has written deeply on catastrophic dreads and psychotic processes. It is not unusual for me to suggest bits of writing that touch aspects of a patient’s inner being. I am calling the patient Ariel (A) and I’m Mike (M).
Ariel (A): I thought I was getting better, but here I am weeping blood all over myself and you. I would wipe the blood off my eyes and eyelashes, but what good would that do?
Dr. M (M): I wish I could see the blood, but I can feel it when you say it. For me it is invisible at the moment.
A: I feel it flooding your office, flooding our insides, soul floods. I think of a phrase I learned from Bion in your writings: “Blood everywhere.”
M: Yes, he said that about his war experience, but he also meant a war inside us. He called it a war that never ends.
A: I feel it now too. I used to make believe it wasn’t there. My parents didn’t want it to be there. But when I look at them in my mind, I see the wounds, psychic blood without a solution.
M: Yes, a problem with no solution. But one thing I learned from Bion—you can build more tolerance. You can take more of yourself, more of your being, even when it’s attacking you.
A: It stops me from breathing, but you tell me to breathe into it.
M: A little at a time. And when you can, a little more. We can try to breathe into it together. Shall we try?
A: I’d like to. I’m closing my eyes and just feeling, trying to feel.
[Moments of breathing together, breathing into the problem with no solution.]
A: The blood is receding a little, going back to its bed, a kind of bloody riverbed. I remember my parents pointing to red mud when I was little and saying the earth was bleeding. Now I understand they were bleeding; I am bleeding—the human race is bleeding.
M: A wound that never heals?
A: Yes, but we can grow with it, grow into it, be with it.
M. Work with it.
A: Yes, I’m learning that here—we can work with it.
- Michael Eigen, PhD, is a psychologist and psychoanalyst and the author of nearly thirty books and many papers. These include The Psychotic Core, Contact With the Depths, The Psychoanalytic Mystic, The Sensitive Self, and Kabbalah and Psychoanalysis. He is a teacher and supervisor at the National Psychological Association for Psychoanalysis and New York University Postgraduate Institute for Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis. He has given a private seminar on Winnicott, Bion, Lacan, and his own work for over fifty years.
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