Moss, Tim (2015) Alpha and beta: how to be both. In: Psychoanalysis & Education Conference, 22nd to 24th October 2015, University of Sheffield. (Unpublished)

This spoken paper explored Kleinian and post-Kleinian thinking about symbol formation and the implications it has on the development of creative practice for students in Higher Education, and offered some thoughts on the resulting challenges for lecturers trying to develop their students’ creative capacity and helping them negotiate this Primitive Space.

One of the developmental achievements that Melanie Klein describes is of the infant’s successful negotiation of the depressive position, having first of all developed a primitive working ego through splitting processes associated with the paranoid-schizoid position. She recognises that the movement between these positions reoccurs throughout a person’s life to a greater or lesser extent.
Hannah Segal suggests that symbolic equation, (lack of distinction between the symbol and the object that it symbolises) occurs when a person has not successfully negotiated movement from the paranoid-schizoid to the depressive position. True symbolic representation requires the ability to be able to bear loss and separateness, and hence an understanding that the symbol is separate from that which it symbolises. She also suggests that creativity is connected with the reparative process – that it contains the desire to make good what has been destroyed through defensive attacks made in paranoid-schizoid functioning. Segal makes the connection between symbolic equation and Wilfred Bion’s idea of beta elements, and symbolic representation and his alpha elements

In this paper I explore the notion that creativity requires the ability to both tolerate frustration but to also be able to visit and revisit the conditions found in the paranoid-schizoid position and to oscillate between both positions in order to explore the further reaches of our creativity. The individual in creative mode must be both the provider of Bion’s beta elements and to be the container who can convert them into knowable alpha elements.

Finished Paper final for repository - Alpha and Beta.pdf - Accepted Version

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