Making the best of a bad Job: An introduction to the life and work of Wilfred Bion

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Wilfred Bion (1897 – 1979) was an influential (if at times ‘gnomic’) psychoanalyst who spent much of his working life at the Tavistock clinic in London. He is perhaps best known for Experiences in Groups (London:Tavistock 1961), a key text in the emerging group psychotherapy and encounter group movements of the 1960s,and for Learning from Experience (1962)

Podcast produced and presented by Naomi Wynter-Vincent.

Naomi writes: The title of this podcast, Making the best of a bad job.’ refers to an essay written by Wilfred Bion in his final year (in 1979, when he was 81. Both the essay and its title are classic Bion: wryly self-deprecating, yet devastating in its emotional impact, the essay describes the way that ‘when two personalities meet, an emotional storm is created’ and the way that psychotherapy can only ever aim to ‘make the best of a bad job’ by turning that storm between the two people in the room to good account. I chose it as a title not least as an ironic reference to the progress of my own PhD.

Naomi Wynter-Vincent is a PhD student at Sussex University, writing her thesis to demonstrate the many ways in which Bion’s work can help us to think about writing. The writers she is looking at in detail include: JG Ballard, BS Johnson, Stevie Smith, Jean Rhys, Mary Butts, Sigmund Freud, and Nicholas Royle. As she says in the podcast, she thinks Bion is an interesting writer in his own right: he experiments with form and theory to ‘dream’ and ‘re-dream’ the traumas of his own life, which include his experiences during the First World War.

Production: This podcast was first developed as part of the Critical Waves project at Birbeck, University of London, and aired on ResonanceFM. The male vocal part of Wilfred Bion is spoken by Dan Smith; thanks are due to him also for help with recording and sound engineering.’

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