Bion’s Theory of Dreams : A Visionary Model of the Mind book cover
1st Edition

Bion’s Theory of Dreams
A Visionary Model of the Mind

  • Available for pre-order on April 21, 2023. Item will ship after May 12, 2023
ISBN 9781032450513
May 12, 2023 Forthcoming by Routledge
248 Pages

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Book Description

Through a detailed close reading of Wilfred R. Bion’s work on dreaming, as scattered across multifarious and largely unworked texts, this book argues that Bion’s thinking can form a unified theory of dreams which extends and has further implications as a visionary model of the mind.

The central quality of Bion's model of the mind is the belief that all that is interesting in the human mind pulsates with an unreadably complex dynamic beyond the unknown, the unknowable and the unthinkable. However, rather than interpreting this negatively, the author understands the inevitable unknowability of the human mind as a call to perplexity and wonder which actively encourages the intuition of insights into who and what determines our internal lives. A major implication of this belief is that psychoanalysis is itself essentially about the unknown, and Monteiro generates informed observations about how this may influence psychoanalytic work.

Providing renewed insight into understandings of dreams, this book is essential reading for any psychoanalyst wishing to broaden their knowledge of the importance of Bion’s dream work.

Table of Contents

Part One: On the Unknown, the Unknowable and the Unthinkable  1. Freud's Dream-Thoughts: An Uninvited Step into the Unknown, the Unknowable and the Unthinkable  2. Bion's Theory of Contact-Barrier: A Winding Road into the Mysteries of the Human Mind  3. New Remarks on the Structure and the Workings of the Contact-Barrier  4. The Conscious Mind and the Unconscious Mind: New Remarks on the Structure and the Workings of the Contact-Barrier  5. A Brief Historical Survey  6. Alpha-Function as a Cluster of Dreaming Functions  7. Mother's Reverie and the Mystery of Introjection  8. What is a Dream?  9. Bion's Theory of Dream-Work-Alpha: Part One  10. Bion's Theory of Dream-Work-Alpha: Part Two  11. The Enigmatic Fabric of Mental Life  12. The Dreaming Ego  13. How Conscious is Conscious, and Unconscious Unconscious?  14. Freud's Wrestling with 'The Fact of Consciousness'  15. What, then, is a Dream?  16. The Soul and the Stone  17. Still Unregistered Disorders  18. I Don't Know  19. What is HearingPart Two:  20. The Fundamental Basic Assumption of Psychoanalysis  21. The Myth of Interpretation and the Role of the Ineffable  22. The Slippery Word Understanding  23. Knowledge as a Privileged Path to Intimacy  24. Passion and the Wonder of Unmeasure  25. The Misfortune of Explanation  26. 'Thinking with Passion is the Unconscious Thing'  27. The Inspiring Light of Perplexity and the Emerging Experience of Mystery: A Note  Conclusion

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João Sousa Monteiro has been a psychoanalyst in private practice in Lisbon for thirty years. He has worked under the supervision of Donald Meltzer, meeting him in Oxford every month for thirteen years. João authored Long-term Psychoanalytic Supervision with Donald Meltzer - The Tragedy of Triumph (Routledge, 2019), which describes the supervision of a particularly demanding analysis over twelve years.


‘This book is really amazing… it’s life-threatening to forget, and life-threatening to give such interpretation before we are mature to receive it.’

Yolanda Gampel, professor in Advanced Psychotherapy, Sackler Medical School, Tel-Aviv University, Israel; training, supervising and past president of the Israel Psychoanalytic Society and Institute; vice-president of the European Federation of Psychoanalysis (2001–2005); representative for Europe in the board of the IPA (2007–2011); recipient, Hayman International Prize and the Mary S. Sigourney Award, 2006

‘I was greatly honoured to be able to read such a brilliant and excellent work. The author succeeds in re-creating and condensing what is best in Bion in such a brilliant way. This makes him a remarkable thinker in psychoanalysis and this book a must-read.’

David Rosenfeld, professor of psychiatry and mental health at the medical faculty of the University of Buenos Aires; training and supervising psychoanalyst at the Buenos Aires Psychoanalytic Association

‘At the school of Bion, Monteiro takes psychoanalysis out of the dogmatism in which it locked itself up to make it rediscover all the freshness of its beginnings. Freud's interpretation of dreams has marked its emergence, the dream functions (Bion) lifts a corner of the veil of the transformation of the physiological into the psychic. The psychoanalyst no longer hides behind his theory and assumes a capacity for rêverie which puts him in contact with his own internal characters as he listens to the analysand. Monteiro brings together the dreaming functions and the relation of intimacy (Meltzer): a big step in the understanding of analytical work. Nothing more mechanical, systematic, forced in the analytical work, but the emergence from the depths of the unknown, the unknowable, the unthinkable (dream’s navel) of a sense that never exhausts the living forces of the human soul, but which gradually reveals to our amazed eyes the beauty of the world.’

Didier Houzel, emeritus professor at the Caen University (France); training and supervising analyst at the French Psychoanalytic Association

‘The way Monteiro has read Bion led him to formulate the ground-breaking thesis that psychoanalysis is essentially about the unknown, the unknowable and the unthinkable. The conclusion of this astonishing book speaks for the whole book in an inextinguishable moment of emotional beauty: Meltzer’s "(…) strenuous and astonishingly powerful clamour: "NOOO!!… You always have to be beyond the breaking-point!!" resonates in this book from beginning to end. We can read this book, hear it, feel it, dream it all along Monteiro’s poetic and passionate voyage to the realm of the unknown, the unknowable and the unthinkable; to the very heart and soul of psychoanalysis, to the unending mystery of psychoanalysis and the psychoanalytic praxis.’

Carlos Farate, training and supervising analyst at the Portuguese Psychoanalytic Society; editor-in-chief of the Revista Portuguesa de Psicanálise (Portuguese Journal of Psychoanalysis)

‘This is not just a book on Bion's theories, but a text that investigates the psychic functions beyond the dynamic unconscious, and that concerns the great terrain of unknowable and unrepresentable mental functions that are the basis of our existence. Written in a clear and compelling way, this book is a strong stimulus for future psychoanalytic thinking.’

Franco De Masi, training and supervising analyst of the Italian Psychoanalytical Society; former president of the Psychoanalytic Centre of Milan; author of nine books (Karnac/Routledge)

‘Monteiro takes us to the edge of that which is essential to our analytic work with dreams: "the unknown, the unknowable, and the unthinkable". He reveals another level of understanding of Bion’s theory of dreaming. While we accompany him on this journey, he poses questions about Bion’s theory of dreaming, then circles back to answer them, always taking us to a level of understanding beyond what we knew about Bion’s model of the mind, and the ever-changing perplexity and mystery of dreams and dreaming. The mind continuously creates itself into existence through dreaming. Monteiro expands our thinking about the process of dreaming. Rather than something to be avoided by the analyst, uncertainty becomes a precious guiding light in our analytic thinking and work.’

John A Schneider, personal and supervising analyst, Psychoanalytic Institute of Northern California

‘Monteiro's book is nothing short of a work of genius. It touches on the mechanism of unearthing and enveloping in the psyche much of what lives beyond the edge of the unthinkable, revealing for the reader, with the delicate manner of an artist, additional layers. As Meltzer's student, Monteiro directs us to work with the primal, chaotic and psychotic areas within the psyche and proposes an analytic attentiveness similar to that of a musician. Additionally, he suggests that it is in these areas that the patient listens to the analyst's interpretation in a manner akin to the way one listens to music, or to the manner in which a baby perceives his mother's language.’

Hilit Brodsky, training and supervising analyst at the Israel Psychoanalytic Society, lecturer at the Tel Aviv Institute of psychoanalysis and university, awarded the prize of the Psychoanalytic Training Today (2015), and the Hayman Prize (2021)

‘In this carefully reasoned book about the functions of dreaming, Joao Sousa Monteiro puts us in touch with the passion and the awe of meaning making. Monteiro’s creative and inspiring interpretation of Bion’s dream work describes the ongoing development of our minds as a deeply unconscious process of contact with that which is unknown, unknowable and unthinkable. The book is a disciplined study and an intuitive original exploration of the process of dreaming. Indeed, the book is more than that: it explores what it is to be human.’

Judy K. Eekhoff, training and supervising analyst and a full faculty member of Seattle Psychoanalytic Society and Institute; former president of Northwestern Psychoanalytic Society & Institute and author of Trauma & Primitive Mental States, An Object Relations Perspective and Bion and Primitive Mental States, Trauma and the Symbiotic Link

‘This is a deeply stimulating, enriching and extremely well-written book. The author believes the mind is continually dreaming the unthinkable. He provides many thought-stimulating and interesting ideas, such as the significance of the analyst’s kindness and sustained sensitivity to uncertainty and complexity. A significant contribution of Monteiro’s reading of Bion is the implications it has for the analyst. By conceptualizing the mind as dependent on dreaming, he explores how the human mind is endlessly mysterious, evoking awe and humility. The challenge of the analyst is to be sensitive to this creative and mysterious dreaming function in himself and in his patient. The analyst’s role is not first to interpret, but to be passionately interested and in wonder of the patient’s unconscious.’

Erik Stänicke, former President of The Norwegian Psychoanalytic Society; member of the Research Committee, Norwegian Psychoanalytic Society; associate professor of clinical psychology at the University of Oslo