In search of symbolization: the analyst’s task of dreaming
W. R. Bion proposed that the capacity to think first develops when emotional experiences without meaning are transformed by a hypothetical maternal function into mental elements. The latter, which are imagetic symbols, become linked to one another, bound to words and have the potential to generate new, more complex derivative forms of symbols, that represent reality when it is absent and generate and represent new emotional meanings for experiences. The transformation of what might be called “biological facts” into mental facts is intimately connected to, dependent upon, and perhaps even identical to the process of representation and is a necessary preliminary step in the creation of symbols. The emotional experiences thus dreamed are communicated to the analyst through symbols, especially verbal symbols, via normal projective identification. When the analytic field is occupied by non-symbolic areas, where the dream-work-alpha of the patient or the pair is weakened, the analyst may encounter difficulties in imagining.