One cannot read any his [Wilfred Bion’s] works without at least one sentence that strikes an alarm, touches a nerve, makes you wince, gives permission to think and feel. His work can intrigue, and evoke wonder.
Michael Eigen, Faith, 59
He had come into my office in the small church where I was then a pastor. He was ordained in another denomination, but was working in the social service field. I had heard very nice things about him, and was pleased to meet him. He was there just to meet me and to let me know what he was doing in the area. As he shared something about his life’s journey, he made a statement I’ve heard before and since, something that always makes me cringe a little inside. “That’s not something you can learn from a book!”
For those of us who love reading, books or essays function as conversation partners. The words we read open up avenues for exploring both the world and our inner lives. Of course there are things to be learned outside of books, things that cannot be learned from books alone. When I read, though, it opens up vistas for my thinking through and feeling through my experience outside of books. Words provide tools that help me see the world differently. Words help me dig deeper into my own experiences. There are things that cannot be learned from books, but when I hear someone say “That’s not something you can learn from books,” it is often in tones dismissive of the kinds of conversations and learning that happen with books.
One of my more recently discovered conversation partners is the psychotherapist Michael Eigen. Eigen writes movingly about his own encounters with other writers, as he does above. What Eigen says about Bion, I would say about Eigen. When I read him, there are always sentences that strike an alarm, that touch a nerve, the make me wince, the give me permission to think and feel. His work intrigues and evokes wonder.
Here are a few sentences from his most recent work Faith that intrigue and evoke wonder:
At times it takes faith to express oneself. At times, it takes even more faith to wait and let further processes develop. (xiv)
Without work in the trenches of our nature, we may wreck what we try to create. (7)
In psychoanalysis, we learn a little more about destruction. We learn, or think we learn, that feelings matter, that we are sensitive beings who need to sense how sensitivity works, that ethics has roots in sensitivity to ourselves and others. (7)
We are partly defined by a capacity to wish the impossible. To wish the impossible and somewhere feel it might be possible. (41)
I think our big job is to work with ourselves, on every level – socially, psychically, familially. (95)
I don’t think that religious or spiritual people are immune to inflicting their personalities on others. (95)
You can’t just work on institutional injustices without the actual people who are involved working on themselves, and you can’t just work on yourself without working on the injustices in society. (96)
An attitude that has perhaps done more harm in human history than any other is the sense of being right. (97)
We have to cut each other slack in order to be with each other at all. (116)
Faith is a vehicle that radically opens experiencing and plays a role in building tolerance for experience. (124)
With Faith and With Feathers,