Monday, October 23, 2017

Group Process

On Oct 21, 2017 Jeffrey Roth provided to the Tampa Bay Psychoanalytic Society an organizational group process consultation [akin to Tavistock groups]. Here were some of the things to be gleaned:

Groups are fertile ground for primary process. [By this, Roth meant sexuality and aggression, seeming less interested in attachment and affiliation.] Just as in individual treatment, there is the stated task and the “covert task” [explicit and implicit]. All that transpires is “data” [fair game, in this case]. There are no ‘as-ifs’--psychic reality is the reality of the group. Differing narratives are not destructive, but combined toward greater understanding. Individual members are ‘elected’ by the group to hold certain characteristics and affects [projections; projective identification] such as the inept one, the angry one, etc. This leaves the one doing the projecting bereft of being able to utilize that characteristic or feeling. What one member says about another is a disguise for what the speaker feels about her/himself. One question is to reflect on whether a projection serves to make the group more or less functional. Ideally, a well-functioning group is one which works to own its projected parts.

References by the leader to any individual is really a reference to the role that individual is playing on the group’s behalf. Issues of boundaries and autonomy come up. The leader speaks to the process of the group, removing the target off any one member. By questioning a member’s complaints of, for example, not having a voice or not wanting to be unkind, the leader challenges the abdication of agency by the complaining member. [Tavistock groups can serve to train leaders, facilitating recognition of what one is ‘made of’ and examining impediments to agency.] “False stupidity” [disavowal] or false muteness may serve an individual by hiding competitive strivings, avoiding risk of rejection, avoiding shame for competitive strivings or from rejection. The leader would amplify the implicit voice, eg. complaining someone was ‘long-winded’ might be interpreted as meaning a “wind-bag” and wanting to say, “Shut the F--- Up!” The leader added that, by the way, a windbag can fill the sails of another(‘s sadness, e.g.).

The group leader seeks “authorization” from the group or a member to make an interpretation about what is going on in the group. Roth would often say “pause” to stop the group and invite it to reflect. If leader does not stop to point out what is happening, then the leader is colluding. The leader does not assume to understand what any member or the group but instead offers hypotheses. He encourages each member to check out their hypotheses with other members. A leader who criticizes is not functioning well in the leader role. When asking questions, the leader reiterates that one is free to answer or not answer. “Experiments” are proposed, e.g. asking one member to speak in the voice of another member’s voice or role. The leader encourages the group to celebrate when an individual is willing to share her/his pain in service of the work of the group.

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