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07-09-2016 at 22:59
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A Basic Law of Group Dynamics

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Lars Bo Jørgensen
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The notion or concept of “Basic Law of Group dynamics” is already introduced by Foulkes in his first book – Introduction to group Analytic Psychotherapy (1948). This appears in a discussion on how group psychotherapy and even social therapy create formation/transformation for the group as well as the individual. 
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The notion or concept of “Basic Law of Group dynamics” is already introduced by Foulkes in his first book – Introduction to group Analytic Psychotherapy (1948). This appears in a discussion on how group psychotherapy and even social therapy create formation/transformation for the group as well as the individual. He uses a metaphor by saying that even you wash dirty shirts in dirty water the shirts will appear more clean afterwards.  Bringing this to a group/social scene he defines:

            that collectively they constitute  the very Norm, from which, individually, they     deviate.

This seems at first to be a paradox. At one hand being more of the same and on the other hand develop individual differences.

Foulkes also brings the concepts into the fore as opposed to classical psychoanalysis – where the vertical analysis is aimed to uncover the individual’s past and attains insight in the inner psychological dynamic stemming primary from the family group. 

Theoretical he is influenced by Kurt Lewin and his concept of Field Theory and Lifespace which focuses on forces as conflicts and motivational factors in creating a certain field.

Foulkes considered “internal” and “external” as an artificial distinction as well as the individual as an artificial construct. What is inside is also outside and vice versa. (Foulkes, 1973). 

The argument is that the community/ the group “determines what is normal, socially accepted behaviour”. This assumption has it roots in the work and findings by Norbert Elias, who in Civilizing Process  stated “…libidinal energies which  one encounters  in any living human beings are already socially processed; … they are in other words, sociogenetically transformed in their function and structure, and can in no way  be separated from the corresponding ego and super-ego structures” (Elias, 2000, p. 409).

Collective norms are not meant to be working for “uniformity” but at best (and in an optimistic way) to create the mould for personal development. Brown (1998) says, “the therapeutic group from which individuals deviate is never ideal. It is what the individual member and the group-as-a whole can make of the good and the bad that determines the therapeutic process – the strangeness of others, the struggle with fairness, and the development of a capacity for concern for oneself and others in the process of defining oneself”. In this process we need both an “I and we” identity.

Where as Foulkes often refer to the optimistic group (process) is it absolutely necessary to   have the bad groups in mind - like the anti group (Nitsun. 1996) as well as Bions Ba groups  (1961) and Incohesive groups (Hopper,2012) and totalitarian groups with a “false collective self” (Klimová, 2015).

Finally – the Basic Law of Group dynamics must be understood and analysed in a context at a personal and social level with historical roots (the past) and in actual social context and dynamic matrix unconsciously and consciously.

References.

Bion, W.R. Experinces in Groups and Other Papers. Tavistock Publication. 1961.

Brown, D. (1998). Foulkes basic Law of Group Dynamics  50 Years on. In: Resonace and reciprocity. Selected papers by Dennis Brown. Routhledge 2006.

Elias, N. (2000). The civilizing Process. (revised Edition), Blackwell Publishing.

Fuch.S.H (1938). Book rview fo Norbert Elias’ The Civilizing Process. In: Selected Papers, Karnac Books, London, 1990. 

Foulkes, S.H. (1948). Introduction to group –analytic psychotherapy. In Foundations of group analysis for the twenty-first century. Edited by Jason Maratos, NILGA/Karnac, 2015.  

Foulkes, S.H. (1973). The Group as matrix of the individual´s mental life in group psychotherapy. In Foundations of group analysis for the twenty-first century. Edited by Jason Maratos, NILGA/Karnac, 2015.  

Hopper, E. (2012) The theory of Incohesion: aggregation/Massification as the fourth basic assumption in the unconscious life of groups and group-like social systems. In Foundations of group analysis for the twenty-first century. Edited by Jason Maratos, NILGA/Karnac, 2015.

Klimová, H. Who is a afraid of the Big Bad Group. Group- Analytic Contexts. Issue no 70. 2015

Nitsun, M. The Anti-Group. Routhledge. 1996.

Nietzgen.D. (2016). Reflections on Group Analysis and Philosophy. G, vol 49, no.1March 2016. 

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