Robert Lipgar, Malcolm Pines: Building on Bion: Roots (2003):
“Bion was never a nihilist, never – even in his most difficult life crises, of which he had several – a person without hope. However, neither was he an optimist about the human condition. Both the Kantian and mystical perspectives gave Bion an awareness of the great obstacles in the way of relinquishing memory and desire in order both to grasp the “thing-in-itself” and to achieve the “categorical imperative,” Kant’s version of the golden rule in which one seeks to behave in such a way as to exemplify how all others should act. (Bion was never a relativist or an eclectic.) Basic assumption theory was his testament to the way groups are haunted by “thoughts-without-a-thinker” and to the powerful resistances in the way of thoughtful, morally concerned human dialogue and action in groups.”
Group dynamics—the “basic assumptions”
“Wilfred Bion’s observations about the role of group processes in group dynamics are set out in Experiences in Groups and other papers, written in the 1940s but compiled and published in 1961, where he refers to recurrent emotional states of groups as ‘basic assumptions’. Bion argues that in every group, two groups are actually present: the work group, and the basic assumption group. The work group is that aspect of group functioning which has to do with the primary task of the group—what the group has formed to accomplish; will ‘keep the group anchored to a sophisticated and rational level of behaviour’. The basic assumption group describes the tacit underlying assumptions on which the behaviour of the group is based. Bion specifically identified three basic assumptions: dependency, fight-flight, and pairing. When a group adopts any one of these basic assumptions, it interferes with the task the group is attempting to accomplish. Bion believed that interpretation by the therapist of this aspect of group dynamics would, whilst being resisted, also result in potential insight regarding effective, co-operative group work.
Hanni Biran: The Courage of Simplicity – Essential Ideas in the Work of W.R. Bion (2018):
“…I would like to comment on its title, although the epigraph, quoting Bion, speaks for itself. The title was suggested by Earl Hopper, during a conversation we had about Bion. We were saying that, paradoxically, behind his enigmatic writings are some very simple issues. I have a clear sense of this simplicity, and this is how I transmit Bion to my colleagues and students. In teaching, I employ the Talmudic method of reading each paragraph together and then discussing it. I have never yet taught the same text twice, thus allowing those studying with me to join with me in becoming a team of scholars, collectively deciphering the text.”