Wilfred Bion (1897-1979)was an influential figure in the psychoanalytic movement being second only to Freud in the opinion of Neville Symington. Having seen active service with the early tanks in the First World War, he trained in medicine and became interested in psychoanalysis. During these early years he treated the young Samuel Beckett. During the Second World War he worked as an army doctor treating soldiers with psychological damage.He pioneered the use of leaderless groups, trusting that the basic functions of self preservation would be triggered and a path to healing initiated. Very controversial at the time his ideas have matured and are incorporated into the fundamentals of much psychiatric treatment.. Subsequently analysed by Melanie Klein he played a key role in the development of her ideas. His theoretical basis for understanding group behaviour was published in a series of books which are very densely written. His ideas come alive in the (temporary) Group Relations Conferences which still continue as the progeny of the WWII groups. He continued to develop his ideas on a wide variety of subjects right to the end of his life.eg Basic Assumption Groups,Thinking, Love and Hate, Reversible Perspective, The Ineffable, Reverie, where do thoughts come from?
Bion was very much involved in the establishment of The Tavistock Institute on a firm basis at the start of the NHS. He was President of the British Psychoanalytic Society (1962-1965). He became disenchanted with the situation in Britain and moved to California. His ideas never really took root in the USA but latterly he spent much time working and teaching in South America where he was respected and much loved.
This precious film from the teaching records of The Tavistook show him in later life teaching, as usual, without notes and his vibrant and iconoclastic personality shines through.