The War Memoirs: some origins of the thought of W. R. Bion

Int J Psychoanal. 2009 Aug;90(4):795-808. doi: 10.1111/j.1745-8315.2009.00168.x.


The work of W. R. Bion changed the shape of psychoanalytic theory in fundamental ways, one of the most important of which was Bion's insight into the nature of normal projective identification. No other psychoanalytic theorist has Bion's ability to represent the horrors of psychic abandonment and the converse, the absolute necessity of the presence of another mind for psychic survival. Through a discussion of Bion's War Memoirs 1917-1919 (Bion, 1997), Attacks on linking and A theory of thinking (1993), this paper explores the link between war, masculinity, the maternal and Bion's sensitivity to the significance of everyday interpersonal contact. It is argued that Bion's apocalyptic experiences as a teenage tank commander gave him shattering insight into the extent to which mind is inter-mind, self is inter-self. Bion's life writing has the quality of survivor insight: 'And only I am escaped alone to tell thee' (Job 1: 14-19), as he returns repeatedly to the events of the day when he 'died ', 8 August 1918. His insight into the elemental passions nature of love, hate and mindlessness are borne of his experiences on the battlefield, and exquisitely crystallized in his repeated explorations of an encounter with a dying soldier.

Publication types

  • Autobiography
  • Biography
  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Identification, Psychological
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Psychoanalysis / history*
  • Psychoanalytic Theory*
  • Warfare*

Personal name as subject

  • W R Bion