Valency

“Freud turns to discussion of something that crops up under a variety of names, such as ‘suggestion’, ‘imitation,’ ‘prestige of leaders’, ‘contagion’. I have used ‘valency’ partly because I would avoid the meanings that already adhere to the terms I have listed, partly because the term ‘valency,’ as used in physics to denote the power of combination of atoms, carries with it the greatest penumbra of suggestiveness useful for my purpose. By it I mean the capacity of the individual for instantaneous combination with other individuals in an established pattern of behavior–the basic assumptions”

Bion, W R: Experiences in Groups (1961)

“Changing the vertex, Bion has attempted also to shed light on human bond from what might be called a chemical perspective. Based on a widely held metaphorical representation of the individual as an atom (Moreno, 1937), Bion (1961) borrowed from chemistry the concept of “valency”. According to the English dictionary, “valency” designates a measurement of the power of an atom to combine with others, by the number of hydrogen atoms it can combine with or displace. Bion used the concept to explain how people come to combine with and get bound to each other. He defined it as an individual mental predisposition “to enter into combination with the group in making and acting on the basic assumption” (p.116), or the phantasy dominating the group at a certain period of its development and history. This combination of group members through valency is made, according to Bion, “at levels that can hardly be called mental at all but are characterized by behaviour in the human being that is more analogous to tropism in plants than to a purposive behaviour” (p.117). He thus concluded that valency is “a spontaneous, unconscious function of the gregarious quality in the personality of man” (p.136).

Hafsi, M: The Valency Theory (2007) in Memoirs of Nara University

” “I’ve decided that mixing is a key term. It’s better than suggestion, which is one-sided. It explains what people rarely talk about, because we define ourselves as isolated, closed bodies who bump up against each other but stay shut. Descartes was wrong. It isn’t: I think, therefore I am. It’s: I am because you are. That’s Hegel – well, the short version.”

“A little too short,” I said.

Violet flapped her hand dismissively. “What matters is that we’re always mixing with other people. Sometimes it’s normal and good, and sometimes it’s dangerous. The piano lesson is just an obvious example of what feels dangerous to me. Bill mixes in his paintings. Writers do it in books. We do it all the time…” “.

Hustvedt, S: What I Loved (2003)