1st Edition

Containing States of Mind
Exploring Bion's 'Container Model' in Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy

ISBN 9781583918791
Published October 2, 2009 by Routledge
288 Pages 2 B/W Illustrations

USD $49.95

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Book Description

Wilfred Bion’s insights into the analytic process have had a profound influence on how psychoanalysts and psychotherapists understand emotional change and pathological mental states. One of his most influential ideas concerns the notion that we need the minds of others to develop our own emotional and cognitive capacities.

In Containing States of Mind Duncan Cartwright explores and develops some of the implications that Bion’s container model has on clinical practice. He argues that the analyst or therapist best fulfils a containing function by negotiating irreconcilable internal tensions between his role as ‘dream object’ and ‘proper object’. The container model is also used to illustrate different ‘modes of interaction’ in the analytic field, the nature of particular pathological states and some of the key dilemmas faced in attempting to make unbearable mental states more bearable.

As well as addressing key theoretical problems, Containing States of Mind is a clinical text that renders complex ideas accessible and useful for psychotherapeutic and analytic practice and as such will be essential reading for all those involved in the fields of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy.

Table of Contents

Preface. Acknowledgements. Encountering Unbearable States of Mind. Projective Identification, Countertransference and the Containing Function. The Analyst’s Containing Mind. Polarities of the Containing Connection. Notes on Interpretation. Speculations About Proto-containing Experiences. Modes Of Interaction. Idealizing the Container. Some Aspects of Beta-mentality on Mimicry and Thinking in a Technological Age. Beta-mentality in Violent Men. The Autistic Mode in Agoraphobic Syndrome. The Dead Alive Self in Borderline States. References.

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Duncan Cartwright is head of the Centre for Applied Psychology, University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa. He is in part-time private practice and is the author of Psychoanalysis, Violence and Rage-Type Murder: Murdering Minds, Routledge, 2002.


"Bion’s concept of the "container and the contained" has become one of his most well-known and used ideas – to the point that it has become taken for granted ("saturated," in Bion’s terms). Duncan Cartwright has given this concept new life, expands upon it, and integrates it with much of Bion’s other work in innovative ways. The results are exciting. The author has expertly balanced profound and extensive scholarship with sound reasoning and with a reader-friendly style. A number of works on Bion have been published recently; this one is in my opinion one of the finest and most useful."James Grotstein, Training and Supervising Analyst, Los Angeles Psychoanalytic Institute, USA

"This is a challenging book in relation to the conceptualisation of the container-contained configuration but one that is extremely useful in developing an understanding of the dynamics and psychic processes inherent in the analytic relationship."Journal of Analytical Psychology, Vol. 55, 2010