January Scientific Meeting

January 17, 2018

 Title: “Mind as a Nonlinear Dynamic System and

Wilfred Bion as a Paradigm-Shifter for Psychoanalysis 

Presenter:  Patrick J. Nalbone, PhD
Discussant: Jeffrey Eaton, MA, FIPA
Generally we think of the Mind as a byproduct of neural action in the human brain. The brain takes in our sensory perceptions and records them, allowing them to resurface as memories, mysteriously makes movies in our dreams and guides us in our decisions as we learn new ways of behaving in a constantly changing world. Another view is that the Mind is like an algorithm-generating computer program, continuously learning and adapting, and the brain is the pre-wired hardware, a complex product of evolution.

These remain useful, but incomplete models, unable to explain how the Mind translates the phenomena of experience to make personal meaning, including, unique thoughts, emotions and a sense of a constant Self, with conscious awareness, in sleep states, and in the unconscious as an inaccessible domain, as they all emerge subjectively in an on-going way.

This presentation offers an alternative model of the Mind based on the contemporary perspective of Nonlinear Dynamic Systems Theory. It also ties these ideas to an emerging model of psychoanalytic theory and practice, part of a post-modern metanarrative and a relational-contextual approach to therapy, in which Wilfred Bion's work continues to be a major influence and Bion is viewed as a paradigm-shifting change agent.

This presentation is intended to be an experimental effort to share complex and abstract ideas about Mind, Reality and psychoanalytic psychotherapy. These ideas challenge the traditional metaphors both of our common sense view of Reality and the deterministically explanatory, positivist metaphysics of 20th-century empirical science.

The presentation will invite interaction with the participants as we attempt to build the model in the moment, rather than follow the presenter's ideas in linear verbal language and a reading of a pre-written text alone. As a way of overcoming the existing barriers of language already saturated with meaning, as well as the unfamiliarity of language tied to a particular discipline or school of thought, the presentation will also make use of graphic models, animated to facilitate understanding through non-verbal expression.

The presenter views his clinical work as psychoanalytically-informed psychotherapy and applies the theoretical models of this presentation in his work with clients. The hope is that this presentation will also provide space for participants to imagine their own work and psychoanalytic endeavors through these models and the paradigm shift of which it is part.

Previous knowledge about the subject matter is not required. Hopefully, both experienced clinicians and students will feel welcome and encouraged to participate and interact with the presenter and the discussant.

Learning objectives:

1. Participants will understand and discuss a multi-disciplinary model of mind based on nonlinear, dynamic systems theory.

2. Participants will understand and discuss the paradigm shift in viewing Mind and psychoanalysis through 19th century Newtonian-Euclidian metaphysics as Freud did, to a view through the lens of contemporary nonlinear dynamic systems and chaos theory.

3. Participants will describe and and discuss the properties of dynamic, open systems and the ontological and epistemological principles pertinent to a model of mind and psychoanalysis based on such a perspective.

4. Participants will consider and and discuss how Wilfred Bion's evolving models of mind and psychoanalysis are compatible with nonlinear dynamic systems perspective and can be integrated into a forward-looking model for psychoanalytic psychotherapy and a psychoanalysis for the future.

5. Participants will consider and discuss application of the ideas presented in terms of clinical practice.

Please note: In keeping with the theoretical model presented, each participant's experience will be unique and the degree to which each of the above objectives is achieved will vary from individual to individual.

About the presenter

Patrick J. Nalbone, PhD lives in Seattle and has been in private practice for nearly 30 years. After earning an EdM and then his PhD in 1974 from the State University of NY at Buffalo, Patrick became an Assistant Professor and then Associate Professor at the Oregon Health and Sciences University. Later he earned an MPH degree at the Harvard School of Public Health where he also served as a Research Associate in Health Policy and Management. Additionally, he has an MA from Antioch University/Seattle, and has been an Adjunct Faculty member there in the Psychology and Whole Systems Design programs.


About the discussant

Jeffrey Eaton, MA, FIPA is a graduate and faculty member of the Northwestern Psychoanalytic Society and Institute. He is in private practice in Fremont providing psychotherapy and psychoanalysis to children and adults. He also provides consultation to psychotherapists and psychoanalysts and has a special interest in the treatment of autistic states in children. His most recent publication is a tribute to Neville Symington which appears in a volume titled Neville Symington: A Life Well Lived, published by the Australian Psychoanalytic Society.

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January 2018 Scientific Meeting