Law School Discussion

Nine Years of Discussion
;

Author Topic: INSTITUTIONAL DENIAL ABOUT THE DARK SIDE OF LAW SCHOOL  (Read 106045 times)

carpenoctm

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 3
    • View Profile
Re: INSTITUTIONAL DENIAL ABOUT THE DARK SIDE OF LAW SCHOOL
« Reply #200 on: September 25, 2007, 09:56:37 PM »
But they did not delve deeply enough, and this fact brings us back to projective identification by way of Bion and those whose work was inspired by his. We could think of two or three things which might rescue us from experiencing Freud's reductionism as hopelessly ignorant of the importance of social causation. The first is to look deeper and investigative how certain public values and structures get into the unconscious before they get projected and rationalised as the public interest. The second reason for hope is adumbrated in a motto of Freud's: 'If I cannot bend the higher powers, I will stir up the lower depths'. Bion takes us further into the lowest depths -- the most primitive and most refractory defences of all. He put the point clearly in the conclusion to his essay, 'Group Dynamics -- A Re-view', which was more explicit about the Kleinian inspiration of his ideas than his better-known collection of essays, 'Experiences in Groups' Bion says, 'Freud's view of the dynamics of the group seems to me to require supplementing rather than correction'. He accepts Freud's claim that the family group is the basis for all groups but adds that 'this view does not go far enough... I think that the central position in group dynamics is occupied by the more primitive mechanisms which Melanie Klein has described as peculiar to the paranoid-schizoid and depressive positions. In other words, I feel... that it is not simply a matter of the incompleteness of the illumination provided by Freud's discovery of the family group as the prototype of all groups, but the fact that this incompleteness leaves out the source of the main emotional drives of the group'. He then summarises the notions of 'work group' and the 'basic assumptions' that assail them -- 'dependence', 'pairing', 'fight-flight' -- and suggests that these may have a common link or may be different aspects of each other.

In Bion's view, what matters in individual and group behaviour is more primitive than the Freudian level of explanation. The ultimate sources of our distress are psychotic anxieties, and much of what happens in individuals and groups is a result of defences erected against psychotic anxieties, so that we do not have to endure them consciously. Bion says of the group, 'My impression is that the group approximates too closely, in the minds of the individuals composing it, to very primitive phantasies about the contents of the mother's body. The attempt to make a rational investigation of the dynamics of the group is therefore perturbed by fears, and mechanisms for dealing with them, which are characteristic of the paranoid-schizoid position. The investigation cannot be carried out without the stimulation and activation of those levels... the elements of the emotional situation are so closely allied to phantasies of the earliest anxieties that the group is compelled, whenever the pressure of anxiety becomes too great, to take defensive action'. The psychotic anxieties in question involve splitting and projective identification and are characteristic of the paranoid-schizoid and depressive positions, now as group processes. The move from the individual to the group does not raise new issues about explanation. He says a little further on, 'The apparent difference between group psychology and individual psychology is an illusion produced by the fact that the group brings into prominence phenomena which appear alien to an observer unaccustomed to using the group'.

Following on from Bion's experiences in groups, Elliott Jaques and Isabel Menzies Lyth conducted research in various organisations and found the same mechanisms at work, with the defences embodied in the mores and structures of the institutions. I believe that this model is at work in innumerable situations -- neighbourhood gang, school, workplace, country club, religion, racial, political and international conflict. When one comes into contact with the group, subculture or institution, the psychic price of admission is to enter into that group's splits and projective identifications. In her classical paper on 'The Function of Social Systems as a Defence Against Anxiety', Menzies Lyth describes the link as it applies to student nurses: 'Although, following Jaques, I have used the term "social defence system" as a construct to describe certain features of the nursing service as a continuing social institution, I wish to make it clear that I do not imply that the nursing service as an institution operates the defences. Defences are, and can be, operated only by individuals. Their behaviour is the link between their psychic defences and the institution'. There is a complex and subtle interaction, resulting in a matching between the individual's defences and the institution's. The processes 'depend heavily on repeated projection of the psychic defence system into the social defence system and repeated introjection of the social defence system into the psychic defence system. This allows continuous testing of the match and fit as the individual experiences his own and other people's reactions.

'The social defence system of the nursing service has been described as a historical development through collusive interaction between individuals to project and reify relevant elements of their psychic defence systems. However, from the viewpoint of the new entrant to the nursing service, the social defence system at the time of entry is a datum, an aspect of external reality to which she must react and adapt. Fenichel makes a similar point. He states that social institutions arise through the efforts of human beings to satisfy their needs, but that social institutions then become external realities comparatively independent of individuals which affect the structure of the individual'. The student nurse has to adapt her defences to those of the institution. The latter are relatively immutable, so she shapes hers until they are congruent with the institution's. The primitive psychic defences from infancy are brought by the individual to the fraught and literally life-threatening setting of the hospital. 'These defences are oriented to the violent, terrifying situations of infancy, and rely heavily on violent splitting, which dissipates the anxiety. They avoid the experience of anxiety and effectively prevent the individual from confronting it. Thus, the individual cannot bring the content of the phantasy anxiety situations into effective contact with reality. Unrealistic or pathological anxiety cannot be differentiated from realistic anxiety arising from real dangers. Therefore, anxiety tends to remain permanently at a level determined more by the phantasies than by the reality. The forced introjection of the hospital defence system, therefore, perpetuates in the individual a considerable degree of pathological anxiety.
The child is father of the Man.

carpenoctm

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 3
    • View Profile
Re: INSTITUTIONAL DENIAL ABOUT THE DARK SIDE OF LAW SCHOOL
« Reply #201 on: September 25, 2007, 09:57:03 PM »
The enforced introjection and use of such defences also interferes with the capacity for symbol formation... The defences inhibit the capacity for creative, symbolic thought, for abstract thought, and for conceptualization. They inhibit the full development of the individual's understanding, knowledge and skills that enable reality to be handled effectively and pathological anxiety mastered. Crucial to understand how a person comes to think and feel like a racist or a virulent nationalist or a member of a street gang or a religious or psychoanalytic sect. The mechanisms are the same and that the process of taking in the values as 'a given', adapting one's own primitive anxieties to that group's particular version of splitting, projection, stereotyping and scapegoating, leads to the same kind of impoverishment that nurses experience -- of the ability to think and feel with moderation and to deal with reality and anxiety. It is projected into the structure or the Other and given back -- not detoxified, but -- as an injunction to behave inhumanely toward patients, Lacanians, Jews, Armenians, 'the Evil Empire' or whomsoever. It is by this means that we became certain, without thinking about it or meeting many, if any, of the people involved, that Germans are sadistic, Japanese cunning, Italians sexist, Mexicans lazy, French romantic, English decent, Scots dour, Canadians boring, Swiss efficient, Dutch tidy, Scandinavians cold, Spaniards romantic, Russians passionate, Turks depraved, Arabs fanatical, Jews avaricious, Hawaiians friendly, Australians gauche, Chinese inscrutable, Africans rhythmic, White South Africans racist and authoritarian. We have been sure of all these things all our conscious lives, but we do not recall learning any of them.

We are dealing with a whole new level of grip. It's done with superglue -- cemented or bonded with the most primitive level of feeling that we have. You probably recall a series of sexual jokes. 'Plumbers do it with pipe.' 'Surfers do it with wet suits.' 'Radio hams do it with short waves.' 'Teachers do it with discipline.' 'Psychotherapists do it with insight.' 'Marxists do it with class.' The analogous slogan would be: 'Members do it with projective identification.' Members of families, couples, groups, institutions, tribes, cultures and so on. Work with survivors of catastrophes shows that the trauma acts like a homing device and ransacks or searches out the history of the victim until it finds a congruent, early experience. It latches onto that -- tightly -- and can only be dislodged with the greatest difficulty. Another image is of hungry birds in a nest -- heads vertical, beaks open, cheeping. You may think that they are only craving, but they are also projecting like mad, and what mother thrusts down their throats on her return goes deep. What is true of worms served up as food for birds is also true of people with respect to prejudices and other deeply held beliefs. They become so deeply implanted or sedimented that they are 'second nature'. From the beginning the infant forms some object relationships, predominantly in phantasy. In her view, the outward deflection of the death instinct postulated by Freud creates the fantasy of a deathly bad object... First we project our destructiveness into others; then we wish to annihilate them without guilt because they contain all the evil and destructiveness'. When we read accounts of the genocide of the Conquistadors, the Stalinists, the Germans, the Kampucheans, the Americans or the Iraqis, we must ask what has been projected into these people from the most primitive parts of their tormentors. Similarly, when we see the behaviour of drunken Indians or Esquimos or the fawning of black film actors such as Step'n Fetchit or the behaviour of Mafiosi as represented by Brando, Jews like Dickens' Fagin as played by Alec Guiness or Americans as played by John Wayne -- then we must note how such projections take root and evoke stereotypes.

What are Bion's three basic assumptions which sunder sensible work group functioning -- dependence, pairing, fight-flight -- but projective identifications? What is the mechanism of becoming a follower, as described in Freud's 'Group Psychology' and the 'Analysis of the Ego', except projective identification of desired parts into the leader, who gives back an identity and frees one from the obligation of being responsible for one's own superego? Wolfenstein gives a moving account of this in his writings about the black American revolutionary, Malcolm X and his relationship -- of protégé, heir apparent and then apostate -- with respect to the leader of the Black Muslims, The Honorable Elijah Muhammad. What is being a fan of a movie star or a groupie of a rock star other than romantic, idealising projective identification? Where positive aspects of the self are forcefully projected similar degrees of depersonalization occur, with feelings of personal worthlessness and with dependent worship of the other's contrasting strengths, powers, uncanny sensitivity, marvellous gifts, thoughts, knowledge, undying goodness etc. This is the world of the devotee, cults and hero-promotion. It is also a world in which people will do anything a Bagwan or a Rev. James Jones tells them to do -- from sexual licence to mass suicide. The same suspension of one's own sense of right and wrong is at work in the followers L. Ron Hubbard in the Church of Scientiology as in the helter-skelter minds of the devotees of Charles Manson, killing rich Californians, and in the convictions of bombers and perpetrators of sectarian murders in Northern Ireland or terrorists from Lybia, though the ideologies of the respective group leaders may have utterly different apparent of real justifications.

The 'institution in the mind'. A further group presence in the unconscious is in the notion of 'pathological organisations' in borderline psychotic states, the subject of a burgeoning literature. In discussing this, Herbert Rosenfeld explicitly describes the individual as in projective identification with a 'gang in the mind': 'The destructive narcissism of these patients appears often highly organised, as if one were dealing with a powerful gang dominated by a leader, who control all the members of the gang to see that they support one another in making the criminal destructive work more efficient and powerful. However, the narcissistic organisation not only increases the strength of the destructive narcissism, but it has a defensive purpose to keep itself in power and so maintain the status quo. The main aim seems to be to prevent the weakening of the organisation and to control the members of the gang so that they will not desert the destructive organisation and join the positive parts of the self or betray the secrets of the gang to the police.
The child is father of the Man.

NILA

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 1
    • View Profile
Re: INSTITUTIONAL DENIAL ABOUT THE DARK SIDE OF LAW SCHOOL
« Reply #202 on: September 25, 2007, 10:54:55 PM »

A recent enthusiast compared the significance of Klein's 'discovery' of projective identification with the discovery of gravity. It is undoubtedly an important but complex subject. The notion of projection is relatively straightforward. The depressed young man lying on a beach who said 'everyone on this beach looks utterly miserable' was clearly attributing to others his own affective state. We commonly attribute our more difficult and unacceptable feelings to others -- for example, blaming those that are close to us for our own shortcomings. Externalization, the outward limb of projection, allows us to disown responsibility and to feel an illusory sense of mastery over our impulses. If our unwanted impulses and feelings are reflected, like a boomerang, resulting in feeling of being under constant attack, the projection has gone full circle and leads to anxiety, or if extreme, paranoid delusions.

Identification, similarly, refers to the process by which self-representations are built up and modified during development, as distinct from the conscious copying of imitation. As Klein originally conceived it, projective identification combines these two notions in a highly specific way. She described it as a phantasy in which bad parts of the infantile self are split off from the rest of the self and projected into the mother or the breast. As a result, the infant feels that his mother has 'become' the bad parts of himself. The projection is 'into' rather than 'onto' the object -- prototypically the mother or the analyst -- and what is projected is not so much a feeling or an attitude, but the self, or part of it. Klein imagined that in the paranoid-schizoid position the infant might project 'bad' sadistic parts of himself into the mother's body in order to control and injure her from within. If these are then reintrojected -- introjective identification -- the individual contains a bad identificate, a potential source of low self-esteem or self-hatred.

In this original formulation, projective identification was defensive, intrapsychic, and solipsistic, a mental transaction involving the self and a perception, but not the participation of the other. How does then projective identification differ, if at all, from projection? Klein maintained that projection is the mental mechanism underpinning the process, and projective identification is the specific phantasy expressing it. Spillius suggests that it adds depth to Freud's notion of projection by emphasizing that a phantasy of projection is only possible if accompanied by a projection of parts of the self. In contrast, many American writers distinguish projection and projective identification by whether or not the recepient of the projections is emotionally affected or not by the phantasy. If projective identification is seen as an interactive phenomenon, then the recepient of the projection may be induced to feel or act in ways that originate with the projector.


Correct me if I am wrong, but isn't projective identification a process in which an individual like in projection deals with emotional conflict or internal/external stressors by falsely attributing to another his or her own unacceptable feelings, impulses, or thoughts, but that unlike simple projection, he does not fully disavow what is projected? That instead, the individual remains aware of his own affects or impulses but misattributes them as justifiable reactions to the other person, with him inducing the very feelings in others that were first mistakenly believed to be there, making it difficult to clarify who did what to whom first?

Layman

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 3
    • View Profile
Syphilis can be mistaken for the Narcissistic and Paranoid Personality Disorders
« Reply #203 on: November 16, 2007, 02:39:23 PM »

[...]
- syphilis
- syphilis caused by Jewish prostitute
[...]


Don't take the syphilis thing lightly! Syphilis in its tertiary (brain consuming) phase produces symptoms that are easily misdiagnosed as Bipolar Disorder comorbid with Personality Disorders. It is common knowledge that brain disorders, injuries, and traumas are sometimes misdiagnosed as mental health problems. But what about "run of the mill" organic medical conditions? Syphilis provides a fascinating glimpse into the convoluted world of differential diagnoses: the art of telling one form of illness from another. Syphilis is a venereal (sexually transmitted) disease. It has a few stages and involves unpleasant phenomena such as lesions and skin eruptions. Syphilis can go dormant (latent) for years or even decades before it affects the brain in a condition known as general paresis. Brain tissue is gradually destroyed by the tiny organisms that cause syphilis, the spirochetes. This progressive devastation causes mania, dementia, megalomania (delusions of grandeur), and paranoia.

Even when its existence is suspected, syphilis is difficult to diagnose. Most mental health clinicians are unlikely to try to rule it out. Syphilis in its tertiary (brain consuming) phase produces symptoms that are easily misdiagnosed as Bipolar Disorder combined with the Narcissistic and the Paranoid Personality Disorders. Syphilitic patients in the tertiary stage are often described as brutal, suspicious, delusional, moody, irritable, raging, lacking empathy, grandiose, and demanding. They are indecisive and absorbed in irrelevant detail one moment and irresponsibly and manically impulsive the next. They exhibit disorganized thinking, transient false beliefs, mental rigidity, and obsessive-compulsive repetitive behaviors.

vögel

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 1
    • View Profile
Re: INSTITUTIONAL DENIAL ABOUT THE DARK SIDE OF LAW SCHOOL
« Reply #204 on: November 16, 2007, 02:51:25 PM »
Hitler had a preoccupation with the purity of blood. This was the foundation of the sterilization law and the euthanasia measures and ultimately of the Final Solution. Indeed, Hitler's use of medical imagery was striking. Depicting himself as physician to the diseased German body politic, Hitler variously portrayed the Jew as a tuberculosis bacillus infecting the German people, a toxin, a parasite, and a cancer. Syphilis, Hitler believed, was a Jewish disease that was "transmitted generationally, and destroyed races, nations, and ultimately mankind."

Hitler did not have any of the major psychoses, as some psychiatrists have suggested. Borderline personality disorder is ruled out as well. There is insufficient evidence of any conventional psychiatric disorder that might explain the extreme nature of Hitler's actions; a "politological" rather than a psychiatric diagnosis should be offered: political paranoia. The most important psychopathology of Hitler were paranoid delusions, particularly the threat of world domination by the Jews. Hitler's dominant ego defense was projection, which regularly interfered with his evaluation of his adversary's intentions. In addition to many paranoid features, narcissistic features are to be emphasized as well: his grandiosity, tenuous personal relationships, sensitivity to criticism, and potential for rage. These two severe personality characteristics — paranoia and narcissism — were joined in his eliminationist anti-Semitism. Hitler is the exemplar of the destructive charismatic who unifies his wounded people by identifying and attacking an enemy.

CogentCom

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 2
    • View Profile
Re: INSTITUTIONAL DENIAL ABOUT THE DARK SIDE OF LAW SCHOOL
« Reply #205 on: November 17, 2007, 10:28:49 AM »

[...] a "politological" rather than a psychiatric diagnosis should be offered: political paranoia. The most important psychopathology of Hitler were paranoid delusions, particularly the threat of world domination by the Jews. Hitler's dominant ego defense was projection, which regularly interfered with his evaluation of his adversary's intentions. In addition to many paranoid features, narcissistic features are to be emphasized as well: his grandiosity, tenuous personal relationships, sensitivity to criticism, and potential for rage. These two severe personality characteristics — paranoia and narcissism — were joined in his eliminationist anti-Semitism. Hitler is the exemplar of the destructive charismatic who unifies his wounded people by identifying and attacking an enemy.


I wouldn't call even this "pathology" or something along those lines ... everyone knows that all philosophical systems of thought, or scientific theories, for instance, are like paranoid delusions because they try to make sense of the world and our place in it. More specifically,
Now, leaders who concretize and give meaning to the groups' ideologies form a powerful and intimate connection with the group's shared myths and delusional fantasies. Primitive aspects in groups demonstrate how individuals form intense attachments or identifications with leaders. Groups often form a "trance" or an intense identification with a charismatic leader, who best offers the promise to: (1) play out the group's mythological fantasies, and (2) play out the group's aggression. Aggression is addictive, becomes exciting, people get hooked. Aggression and cruelty reinforces the libidinal ties in groups, as long as there are outsiders into which to project and blame (enemies/scapegoats). When one is vulnerable, one is more inclined to identify, fuse with, or act in complicity with any leader who offers any semblance of bonding. We've already elaborated on this board that group formation involves a process whereby each individual in the group surrenders his own ego-ideal and, through idealization, gives it over to the group leader, similar to an hypnotic trance. Expanding Freud's concept of the ego ideal, Bion realized that tensions evolve as the group assigns itself certain group fantasies. The group fragments, divides into subgroups, pairs-off, or acts overly dependent in order to evacuate painful anxieties (relinquishing all individual thinking to the collective group self).

In his seminal work, Bion highlights two kinds of groups: (1) The work group is a rational-thinking group; members are task/reality oriented, and its primary concern is the achievement of goals; and (2) the basic assumption group is the regressed group whose members function on the basis of blame/shame, fight/flight, and parasitic bonds. Work group members are acknowledged for their creativity, individuality, and rely more on thinking than dogma or group ideology. In the basic assumption group, the inclination is toward irrational, non-thinking process, whose sole purpose is "emotional" survival. Each basic assumption group qualifies a different leader. The pairing "blame/shame" group calls for a savior, messiah like Gandhi. The "fight-flight" group seeks a battle leader like Saddam Hussein. The dependent parasitic group, the most regressed, chooses the most malignant or pathological leader like Hitler or Milosevic. Often these are charismatic leaders, who are paranoid, and/or schizophrenic, and pathologically disturbed. Leaders who play-out these myths, express the group's dysfunctionality, and form a most powerful and intimate connection with the group. Just as individuals can identify with an abusive mate, so can individuals in groups identify with a destructive/sadistic leader. The leader knows how to play on the group's omnipresent fear of imminent danger (real or imagined) from outside forces. In regressive dependency groups, blame, attack, retaliation, getting back at any cost are dominant features. Themes such as "Drive the Jews into the Sea," "Return to the Land of Milk and Honey," "Land for Peace," are familiar themes. When tensions surge, members resort to shame/blame, fight/flight, and scapegoating. The group searches for an enemy for the blame and enemy and a leader/messiah who will save the group from calamity. Leaders who are most likely to survive are the ones who best perpetuate the group's ideologies, mythologies, and collective group fantasies.

Hadrian

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 3
    • View Profile
Re: INSTITUTIONAL DENIAL ABOUT THE DARK SIDE OF LAW SCHOOL
« Reply #206 on: November 17, 2007, 12:13:55 PM »

[...] Bion realized that tensions evolve as the group assigns itself certain group fantasies. The group fragments, divides into subgroups, pairs-off, or acts overly dependent in order to evacuate painful anxieties (relinquishing all individual thinking to the collective group self).


Very interesting! Here it is a more complete summary of Bion:

Come follow, follow, follow ,follow, follow , follow me!
Whither shall I follow, follow, follow,
Whither shall I follow, follow thee?
To the greenwood, to the greenwood,
To the greenwood, greenwood tree!


In this well-known old song, an English canon composed by John Hilton in 1652, we are encouraged to follow an invisible leader. But before we decide to do so, we ask him "whither shall I follow? Whither shall I follow thee?" The answer sounds tempting: "to the greenwood tree..." So,... off we go!... Or perhaps not?

Bion's Theory of Thinking -- "Container-Contained"

The theory or the "model" at the base of author's reflections is Bion's model "container-contained", also called his "theory of thinking". The relationship between container and contained is central to Bion's thinking seeing it as basic, a ubiquitous pattern of relationships which, as it were, biologically pre-programmed. In other words, it is one of nature's key patterns. It is at one and the same time: the model of conception (penis-in-vagina), gestation (embryo-in-uterus), alimentation (nipple-in-mouth) and elimination (faeces-in-colon). This fundamental pattern -- 'one thing inside another', as Bion simply calls it -- in its many variations and permutations, forms the model for all human somatopsychological experience from the very beginning of life. Bion posits a "place" or an "object", which he calls the "container", whose purpose is to take up a "something" which needs to be contained. Through this process both container and that-which-is-to-be-contained are transformed, and something new, a "third" element comes into being. From this biological pattern, Bion develops his model of the origin of the ability to think, which, for him, is a precondition for his central developmental concept, "learning from experience", which is the process he describes as the mental metabolizing of experiences, perceptions and fantasies, both conscious and unconscious. Bion's starting point is what he refers to as the "proto-mental", the somato-psychic level of experiences, consisting of emotional entities "in the raw", which to he gives the name "beta elements". According to Bion, these bits of raw sense data are, as it were, "looking for", or "in search of" a place where they can grow and be transformed into thoughts, dreams ideas, myths, etc. For in Bion's theory of thinking, (very much along Platonic lines) all thoughts exist a priori to their being actually thought; that is to say, they are simply 'there' in some potential space/time, independent of there being a thinker to think them. Bion's image of thoughts simply being "there" without having found a thinker to think them yet, is reminiscent of Luigi Pirandello's drama "Six Characters in Search of an Author." They, too, these six characters "exist" ostensibly a priori to an author's mind having created them, and their search can be thought of as being analogous to the "searching" of thoughts for a mind, for a thinker to think them.

When these "thoughts without a thinker" find such a "nesting place" in the mind of a "host" (mother, therapist, consultant, supervisor, leader etc.) so to speak, they can then be transformed into so-called "alpha elements" through the state of mind which Bion has named "reverie", and the process which he has called "alpha function." He emphasizes, however, that he neither knows what alpha-function is or how it functions, he just knows that it does! What he does describe in great detail is the indispensable requirement for the successful functioning of this transformation, negative capability. It all depends, he says, on the presence of "negative capability", i.e. the capability to take in without judging and without explanation, the ability just to "be with one's experience", to tolerate uncertainty, mystery and doubt without any "irritable grasping for facts and reason." When the containing object (the psyche of the container) takes up the contained (i.e. the projected, the not-understood, the painful, needy, as yet uncontained, unthinkable beta elements) from the subject, it must be capable of carrying out this metabolic, disentangling process within itself, in order to be able to feed it back to the subject in small, digestible doses, so that it can now be metabolised by the subject and used for mental growth, rather than being simply expelled, "spat out" again as mentally indigestible. Negative capability, which enables the object to "dream" (reverie) upon, to ponder and reflect upon these projected parts, requires a state of mind which Bion calls "patience" and which gradually changes into a state of mind which he calls "certainty" when the "to-be-contained" has been understood, detoxicated and re-presented to the subject. Following Freud's dictum "where Id was, Ego shall be", one could restate Bion's postulate as "where beta elements are, they shall be transformed into alpha-elements", that is to say, transformed into dreamable dreams and thinkable thoughts through the workings of alpha-function. This, then, is the process which, according to Bion, has to take place in every mother, in every therapist, consultant or supervisor, in every leader if he or she has the intention of being helpful to his/her "baby" (patient, client, supervisee, client system, team, staff, organisation, company, nation or people), and to the extent to which the necessity of performing a containing function for those who are to follow his or her lead is both recognised and possible.

Bion's theory of group dynamics, basic assumptions and leadership

It is one of Bion's central tenets of group life, that people who come together to form a group -- regardless of its ostensible purpose -- are basically always and predominantly concerned with the survival of the group as a group as such, no matter what. At the unconscious, "proto-mental" level, group formation takes place in at least three basic forms -- which Bion has dubbed "basic assumptions".

- The whole group remains dependent on a leader for its well-being (basic assumption Dependency -- baD)
- The group chooses a pair whose task it is to create a new "something" (person, idea, structure) which is seen to have a messianic function and makes the group believe that it will thereby be safe from disintegration and destruction (basic assumption Pairing -- baP)
- A kind of group leadership is formed which is seen as guaranteeing the survival of the group by making sure that potential enemies are either fought against or fled from (basic assumption fight/flight – baF)
 
A basic assumption group, instead of orientating itself according to the task at hand and its requirements, instead of tackling them and creating appropriate structures to get the work done, runs the danger of becoming more and more absorbed by the basic assumption structure and its dynamic, clinging to it until the task and its requirements can hardly be discerned, or even disappears completely. The main focus of attention is on maintaining the illusion that the that the group will survive no matter what, and that the fear of its being destroyed or eliminated is being or has been effectively thwarted.

The work group and its leadership

The work group, by comparison, chooses its leadership according to, and is characterised by, a task-oriented relationship to reality and the job to be done, making the capacity to do work and achieve productive results possible. Therefore, one of the main goals of quality leadership is to keep the group functioning in a work group mode as much as possible in every work situation. When a the group manages to do so successfully, the result is apparent immediately. For instance, I am sure you are all familiar with the kind of atmosphere, say, in a kindergarten or pre-school group, where a clear sign that productive and satisfying work is being done can be observed as expressed in that soft background hum of calm activity and a certain sense of satisfaction in the air. Similarly, we all know well the unpleasant feeling of being in a group which is unable to work, although every single member of the group might quite justifiably claim that, as an individual, he or she is trying hard to work effectively. Surely, this means that the group is unconsciously holding on to one of the basic assumptions, and, for whatever reasons, (i.e. rivalry, envy, laziness, fear of the task itself or fear of failing) is not capable of installing and maintaining competent work group leadership, leadership authorised by the group to be effective in getting the group to work at its task.

Hadrian

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 3
    • View Profile
Re: INSTITUTIONAL DENIAL ABOUT THE DARK SIDE OF LAW SCHOOL
« Reply #207 on: November 17, 2007, 12:15:15 PM »
Fight/Flight mentality and the choice of a leader in the Fight/Flight group

As to the choice of a leader for a fight/flight group, Bion says:

Quote
"It is usually a man or woman with marked paranoid trends; perhaps, if the presence of an enemy is not immediately obvious to the group, the next best thing is for the group to choose a leader to whom it is."
 

This statement is important for several reasons. First, it makes it obvious that, according to Bion, it is not the leader who chooses his group -- neither according to his own needs or his perception of the group's needs -- but much more the basic assumption group which seeks and chooses its appropriate leader according to its (unconscious) needs. And second, the group's need to find an enemy, against whom they can either fight or from which they can flee, exists even before that enemy has been found, discovered or, indeed, invented. In other words, one might say, that if the Jews hadn't been there already for the Nazis to identify as the enemy, responsible for their miserable plight, the Nazis would have had to invent them! And as for the leadership role in this fight/flight dynamic, the German people were highly successful in picking a personality from among their ranks (who was, of course not even a German, but an Austrian!), and whose capacities as a leader of the fight/flight basic assumption have remained virtually unparalleled in history, Adolph Hitler. According to Bion, leadership is a product of the group mentality, not its origin. He writes:

Quote
The leader, on the basic assumption level, does not create the group by virtue of his fanatical adherence to an idea, but is rather an individual whose personality renders him peculiarly susceptible to the obliteration of individuality by the basic group's leadership requirements.

And here Bion links this phenomenon with the Kleinian theory of projective identification:

Quote
To me the leader is as much the creature of the basic assumption as any other member of the group, and this, I think, is to be expected if we envisage identification of the individual with the leader as depending not on introjection alone but on a simultaneous process of projective identification.


This "loss of individual distinctiveness" applies to the leader as much as to anyone else.

Thus the leader in the fight/flight group, for example, appears to have a distinctive personality because his personality is of a kind that lends itself to exploitation by the group demand for a leader who requires of it only a capacity for fighting or for flight; the leader has no greater freedom to be himself than any other member of the group. Bion compares this leader with

Quote
"an automaton who has ceased to be guided by his own will. He is leader by virtue of his capacity for instantaneous, involuntary combination with every other member of his group and only differs from them in that, whatever his function in the work group, he is the incarnation of the basic assumption group leader.


Bion points out that it is incapable of tolerating frustration in the long run, because in the sphere of basic assumption phenomena, time itself is not a relevant, not even an existent dimension of reality. Flight offers an immediately available opportunity for expression of the emotion in the fight/flight group and therefore meets the demand for instantaneous satisfaction -- therefore the group will take flight. Alternatively, attack offers a similarly immediate outlet -- then the group will fight. The fight/flight group will follow any leader who will give such orders as license instantaneous flight or instantaneous attack.

The capacity for "containment" as a prerequisite for good leadership

So, how can Bion's Container-Contained model serve as a model for good leadership in groups? Only a group which feels sufficiently contained will be able to function successfully over a long period of time as a work group. If anxieties, irrationalities, aggressions, envy and rivalry, disruptive unconscious fantasies and ideas, etc. are not adequately contained, they threaten to paralyse the group or to blow it up. If this is the case, then the group will be forced to fall back on functioning in a basic assumption mode in order to prevent such threats and disturbances from destroying the group altogether. The price paid for this is, however, is, of course, the loss of task orientation and with it, the capacity to do work. When, however, the work group leader is capable of offering the group enough containment, these disturbing factors can be "digested", can be better metabolised into the group's dynamic life, and it can then "feed" on this experience, can grow on it, learn from it, and thereby improve its capacity to devote itself to the task at hand and to achieve good results.

Containment as a leadership style -- where does it come from?

How containing the style of the leader and how given to blaming others when things go wrong (paranoid/schizoid position) versus acknowledging one's or one's institution's contribution towards the trouble one is in (depressive position), depends to a very large degree on the individual's capacity to maintain a relatively mature stance as opposed to falling into a defensive/paranoid one, and this capacity is based on early experiences and their later reworking as the life-cycle progresses. The assumption underlying this aspect of psychoanalytic theory suggests that the conditions necessary in order for a proper Container-Contained relationship in the Bionic sense to come into being are:

a) when an individual has him/herself had sufficient experience of containment in the course of his or her personal development, and
b) when s/he has thereby developed a capacity to identify both with the container as well as with "being contained" and then, through the process of introjective identification, has been able to include this as a significant and stable aspect of his or her own internal life.

This developmental process thus enables one to increase one's capacity to contain, and to employ containment of anxiety as a psychic tool, which can then be utilised as necessary in the authoritative execution of leadership roles.

Glee Client

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 4
    • View Profile
Re: INSTITUTIONAL DENIAL ABOUT THE DARK SIDE OF LAW SCHOOL
« Reply #208 on: November 20, 2007, 12:38:38 PM »

This statement is important for several reasons. First, it makes it obvious that, according to Bion, it is not the leader who chooses his group -- neither according to his own needs or his perception of the group's needs -- but much more the basic assumption group which seeks and chooses its appropriate leader according to its (unconscious) needs.


So basically I don't have to do anything - the group will find me ?
2007

#

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 2
    • View Profile
Re: INSTITUTIONAL DENIAL ABOUT THE DARK SIDE OF LAW SCHOOL
« Reply #209 on: November 20, 2007, 01:45:06 PM »

This statement is important for several reasons. First, it makes it obvious that, according to Bion, it is not the leader who chooses his group -- neither according to his own needs or his perception of the group's needs -- but much more the basic assumption group which seeks and chooses its appropriate leader according to its (unconscious) needs.


So basically I don't have to do anything - the group will find me ?


Glee, you are so funny! ;)