Bob Bennett, MD,CGP,FAPA
Melissa Black, PhD,CGP
Dale C. Godby, PhD,CGP,ABPP ∑ Myrna Little, PhD,CGP
Scott Nelson, PhD, CGP
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Arthur D. Colman. Up
from Scapegoating:Awakening Consciousness in Groups.
Reviewed by Myrna Little
Arthur Colman, in this small but important volume (128 pages), has addressed the entire Jungian community with a problem inherent in one of Jungís most fundamental concepts, the implied primacy of the individuating self over the collective. Citing many references from early Jung in which the individuation process is privileged and the group process disparaged, Colman all but rejects Jungís early, but influential, skew upon the individual. He reasons -- as Jung later came to do -- that in true individuation the withdrawal of projections, a desideratum of the development of consciousness, requires the presence of a "someone" upon whom one has deposited those projections, and that the someone will always be a member of some collective, whether a family, a group of friends, a nation, a work setting, or a professional society. Up from Scapegoating: Awakening Consciousness in Groups offers the scapegoat as a point of convergence between the individual and the group, a link between the projecting individual and her/his reciprocally projecting group. The scapegoat for Colman is thus an archetype (p. xvi, 5, 7), "a critical intersection" (p. 2), "a juxtaposition " (p. 5) through which both the person and the collective may individuate.
In developing this thesis over six chapters, Colman takes the reader along his own theoretical and experiential journey, one that challenges the hegemony of individual consciousness in the western collective ethos. Consciousness, for Colman, is "more than individual" (p.21f); it exists in a variety of "non-individual consciousness states" on a continuum from lower to higher, "from individual consciousness to ecstatic merger states of group consciousness" (p. 22). According to this model, the ecstatic merger states that occur in group consciousness are an adult version of infant "pre-relational consciousness," itself originating in four "epigenetic ecstatic merger states" (p. 28), starting with the total merger of the fetus with the mother, through a true symbiotic dyad at six to seven months in which boundaries begin to be perceived, onto merger in the family group (p. 30), and, finally, the largesse of "shifting group consciousness" (p. 31), within and beyond the family confines. If I follow Colmanís rationale accurately, the fulcrum linking adult ecstatic group consciousness with merger consciousness (which originates in infancy) is etymological:
Ecstasy literally means standing outside of oneís person. Ecstatic consciousness can be looked at as a state in which oneís personal boundary, oneís ĎIí is diminished or lost through merger with something or someone else. If ecstasy can be thought of as a merger experience in which the personal identity is diminished or lost, then... the dynamics of ecstasy reflect and invert the developmental dynamics of infant and child consciousness (p. 22; italics added).
Colman draws support for this thesis -- that ecstasy reflects a merged state which originates in infancy and is reexperienced in adulthood -- from the writings of Freud, Jung, Wilfred Bion, and Margaret Mahler. From Civilization and Its Discontents he recalls Freudís "early phases of ego-feeling" as "oceanic," (p. 24), and, similarly, he culls from Symbols of Transformation Jungís "...thoughtless state of early childhood, where as yet no opposition disturbed the peaceful flow of dawning life, to which the inner longing always draws us back again and again" (p.24).
Bionís Group Relations Model
When referring to the theory of Wilfred Bion, Colman, a former president of the A. K. Rice Institute, follows a long tradition known as group relations (see A. G. Banet and C. Hayden, "A Tavistock Primer," in John E. Jones and William Pfeiffer, The 1977 Annual Handbook for Group Facilitators. La Jolla, University Associates, 1977, pp. 156-157; and Margaret Rioch, "The Work of Wilfred Bion in Groups," in Arthur Colman and W. H. Bexton Group Relations Reader I: An A. K. Rice Institute Series, 1975, Springfield VA, Goetz, pp. 21-33). Although the history is not discussed in his book, the group relations approach evolved from Bionís innovative research into small group dynamics during the war, which he then brought to the postwar Tavistock Clinic. Named after the renowned British training center where it originated (The Centre for Applied Social Research of the Tavistock Human Relations), "group relations" regards any group as a holistic entity that is greater than the sum of its parts. This is a group method that does not focus on individuals, but brings into relief their commonality of task, function, and motivation. (Perhaps in our era of managed care it is timely to note that Bionís last project at the Tavistock was group therapy for the staff, instigated in 1945 when the Tavistock Clinic was brought into the new National Health Service, and its staff were all confronted with possible demotions, divisiveness, acrimony, anxiety and guilt). The theory of group relations, which was transplanted to the United States in the 60ís through A. K. Rice, and Margaret and David McK. Rioch, (ibid, p. 5) was a combination of Bionís psychoanalytic theory of group behavior and the general systems theory of the American social psychologist, Kurt Lewin. There are two aspects of Bionís theory of group life which are pertinent in Up from Scapegoating. They are the work group and the basic assumption group. The work group describes the situation in which members consciously pursue a common task and deliberately "work" toward its achievement. Members in such a group rely on internal and external controls to prevent their hidden agendas from interfering with the group task. Simultaneously, however, a hidden-agenda group always is interacting with the work group. Called by Bion the basic assumption group, the unconscious group dynamics present are attributable to the operation of the primitive defenses theorized by Melanie Klein, splitting and projective identification. The appearance of these defenses makes group life at first seem rather chaotic, but as Bion explains "...a certain cohesion is given to these anomalous mental activities if it is assumed that emotionally the group acts as if it had certain basic assumptions about its aims" (Wilfred Bion. Experience in Groups. New York, Routledge, 1989/1961, p. 188). Through his study of groups, Bion was able to identify three types of basic assumption groups, each with an aim and corollary leadership: the "dependency group," which colludes to make room for a savior; the "fight-flight group," which strives for either escape or aggressive scapegoating; and the "pairing group," which always strives for an atmosphere of closeness, warmth, and mutual affection. Thus Colman interprets:
Group consciousness is a core concept of Bionís theory of group behavior....These shared assumptions are seen by Bion as regressive operations used by the individual to defend against psychotic anxieties brought on by the fragmenting, boundary-dissolving effects of the group process...splitting and projective identification are regressive states that are defended against...through the basic assumptions, thereby creating the common group mentality (p. 23).
Other theorists from whom Colman draws support for his concept of a shared group consciousness (p. 23) include Winnicott -- for whom the group is a kind of transitional object -- and Jung, whose transcendent function "...is helpful in understanding certain ego states and merger experiences that transcend the individual psyche" (p.24).
Margaret Mahler and Merger
Turning to Michael Fordhamís and Margaret Mahlerís years of research, observation, and theory construction, Colman finds that he prefers the latterís oeuvre
to that of Fordham, which
If I understand Colman, he is saying group consciousness, that is, merger states, are not discontinuous but form an ordinary part of reality (p. 33). The image that comes to my mind is that of the restless ocean with its shifting, cresting waves, a metaphor which, I think, might capture his meaning of individual consciousness as arising from and dependent upon the unfathomable depths of the unconscious sea. He also suggests (p. 35) that there are several universal ecstatic states: cosmic sex (the object is the universe); dyadic sex (ecstasy is shared), group sex (actual or fantasized with music, drugs, initiation); and solitary sex (with or without a partner).
When describing the "mysterious connection between the group and individual," (Chapter Three) it is obvious that Colman speaks from his experience: sharing oneís separateness with a group either makes one more connected or more scapegoated (p. 47). The essence of the "mysterious connection" thus becomes the discovery by the individual, through initiation into and membership in a collective, that
With admirable openness Colman further explores (Chapter Four) this mystery by taking the reader into one of his personal shamanic experiences, in which, as if crossing a lake in a fog (p. xii; 63) he "crosses over" from individual to group consciousness -- a network of thinking and feeling, archetypal images and mergings -- then crosses-back, returning once again to his own ego.
Postulating an "organ of group consciousness" to be an initial loss of "I" (p.61) which mediates between our biological and social structures, the "crossing over" does not need "...candle flame, mantra, or drug as catalyst. The groupís psyche is quite enough, for it diffuses the ĎIí by activating oneís organ of group consciousness, oneís collective nature" (p. 69), which "feels its way unhampered into the patterned psyche of the group" (p. 64).
Merger and psychotic dynamics are probably most apparent in the experience of the large group, a group defined by the group relations tradition as a number greater than 20; Colman indicates a direct proportion between the larger number of people and the increased amount of anxiety. "The large group is about extremes and intensity....Everything one does takes on mythic proportions (p. 67f), especially sacrificial scapegoating:
Thus group work necessitates working through and past the scapegoating mechanism, just as individual development requires awareness of the shadow. This process is illustrated in two consultations (Chapter Six) drawn from Colmanís extensive experience with organizations.
Colman seems uniquely positioned to alert the Jungian collective to the potential projective contagion which functions unconsciously whenever analytically trained people gather into groups. Writing from twenty years experience and his twin perspectives as Jungian analyst and institutional/ group consultant, one cannot miss that he is well acquainted with the scapegoating dynamics of groups. The self-disclosures he offers in the midst of illustrating the countertransferential use of himself, and his step-by-step examples of the subjective approach to group consultation, leave no doubt that Colman has indeed been in the trenches, both as consultant and as scapegoat. In addition, his account of participation in -- and affection for -- his professional home in the San Francisco Jung Institute has persuaded this reviewer that he also has observed and been saddened by the isolation within that community of people whom he has loved. Colmanís guarded account of the ripple effects in that community of blame, counter-blame, and the occasional escalation of those dynamics into what Colman regards as witch-hunt-like proportions, seems therefore to be a sensitive and courageous warning to the entire Jungian collective that none of us, however well-trained analytically, are immune to this ubiquitous process. One gets a sense that he could not have written this book if he did not trust there is an audience who needs it, people whom he sees as capable of finding pleasure in the downfall of an envied other, yet who also can come to hate such a proclivity in themselves to do so. If Colmanís message were to be taken seriously, I think analytic institutes would regularly provide both group didactics and experience within their curriculum.
When I am led by his book to consider the social pressure under which all institutions function, and the group mindís vitality in the collective unconscious to which Colman would raise our awareness, I find both serious omissions in this account of group dynamics and the need to register some caveats drawn from my own twenty-two years of group experience. First, although the "scapegoat" is defined from Webster in Chapter One, and its origins traced from Leviticus, with interesting examples given throughout the text, the scapegoat character profile offered here is remarkably thin. René Girard (Job: The Victim of His People. Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1997, pp. 33-40), a Stanford anthropologist with whom Colman is of course familiar (p. 16), and a prolific writer on the subject, has much more definitively fleshed out the scapegoat. He or she, first of all, is innocent. She/he is always successful, or at least popular. He or she is most often a peer of those who do the scapegoating. Social consensus requires that the scapegoatee complete the unanimity of the group by agreeing with the accusation, and the scapegoated person always does so, occasionally by so doing even becoming a hero or martyr. Lastly, the scapegoating mechanism, to operate, cannot be recognized; there can be no empathy for the scapegoated person. Girardís thesis is that the scapegoating mechanism is a group organizing principle, a social consensus upon which human groups have always depended to relieve culture of the chaos resulting whenever its shadow produces tension, rancor, dissension, and potential violence. Blaming the innocent member, moreover, is a time-honored re-enactment of the ancient sacrificial ritual, an appeasement for disowned guilt to the good-God for the bad things that are happening. In this respect Girard taps Jungís religious function of the psyche to demonstrate its potential for a negative, archetypal structuring of experience and perception. Girardís radical position regarding myth itself is that it is the occlusion of a fundamental "violence," a collective blindspot which does not, and must not, recognize its own violence as an organizing force. I am indebted to James Grotstein ("Why Oedipus and Not Christ?" Paper presented to Division of Psychoanalysis (39) of American Psychological Association, 1994, Los Angeles) who, following Girard (Job, p. 35) differentiates Oedipus, who is a true scapegoat, from Christ, who is a victim but refuses the scapegoat-role. Girard sees Oedipus as a most successful scapegoat because he agreed with his accusers and blinded himself, as did his fellow citizens in Thebes, to the ambiguity surrounding the murder of Laius as well as, of course, to the that polisís earlier abuse of the baby Oedipus. Christ, by contrast, never agreed with his accusers; like Job, Christ was a victim who refused to be a scapegoat by agreeing with the crowdís consensus about him. Grotstein (Why Oedipus) uses the Passion of Christ as an analogy of the analytic method. He notes that when the patientís split-off shadow is projected into the analyst, the analyst becomes the bearer of envy, aggression, and sadistic attack. In order not to retaliate, even at the most subliminal level that will surely be felt by the deeply regressed analysand, the analyst must both feel the blame as necessary and not succumb to the accusation. Grotstein suggests that Christ recognized the existence of the unconscious when he asked the Father to forgive his persecutors, because "...they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34).
Identifying the similarity between a social meltdown occurring in the scapegoating mechanism and the analytic method is, to this reviewer, of immense clinical as well as social usefulness. Colmanís emphasis on scapegoating as a developmental bridge, however, by omitting strategic descriptors of a co-created dynamic of sado/masochistic proportions, seems to me to imply a certain idealization of the notion of scapegoating that weakens significantly Colmanís contribution to our understanding of this phenomenon. For instance, he defines the scapegoat as innocent (p. 7), yet follows with illustrations that are ambiguous and confusing. He states that "several analysts (who) have suffered with sexual ethical problems with their patients...were our collective shadow and our scapegoats" (p. 1f). Surely this is merger at its worst, confounding the sexual abuse of a patient with the subsequent collective reaction. Although I appreciate Colmanís necessary discretion regarding these events -- reading about them, one does not know if these putative abuses were mere accusations or historical fact -- the reader is not able to determine if the analysts involved were truly innocent and scapegoated, or guilty and held accountable; it is hard, therefore, to agree that they were victims of a "witch hunt."
Against the Group Mind
My second issue with the text is Colmanís interpretation of Bionís basic assumption group as a positive entity. Although Colman is not to be discredited for following along in a tradition in which many group dynamic researchers have opted for a systems-view reading of Bionís theory, it must also be noted that, in the text co-edited by Colman (Group Relations), Margaret Rioch ("The Work of Wilfred Bion in Groups," p. 22) strongly rejected the notion of group mind or group consciousness:
Because Bionís name is so much associated with groups and because he emphasized the phenomena of total fields rather than of individuals he is sometime thought of as having talked about the group as a mythical entity instead of talking about human behavior. This is not the case...Although Bion thinks and speaks of instincts, he does not postulate a herd instinct or a group mind. He thinks that ideas of this kind are often developed by people in groups, but that when they occur they are symptomatic of regression. In his opinion groups bring into prominence phenomena which can best be understood if one has some experience of psychotic phenomena as well as of normal and neurotic behavior. The belief that a group or group mind exists, as something other than a function of a number of individuals, appears to Bion to be a distorted figment of the imagination which emerges when people are threatened with a loss of their individual distinctiveness.
Later in the same paper Rioch (p. 23) specifies commonalties of the basic assumption group profile, whose characteristics include: members are oriented toward fantasy not reality; there is great insistence upon feelings, which tend to be acted upon without regard for consequences; there is little patience with an inquiring attitude; members are often confused regarding events and time; they resist change and speak of the good-old-days; language is full of vagaries, generalizations, and anonymity; and finally, the assumption which is basic to the group is disowned, with the result that the group can be ruthless.
In contrast the work group is characterized by the shared values of a search for knowledge and learning from experience. It questions how best to achieve its goal, and members cooperate as separate and discrete individuals. Individuality must be differentiated from the coziness and so-called closeness of feeling in the basic assumption group. As Rioch puts it,
The work group Bion is talking about does not depend upon great amounts of love or warm feeling or oceanic oneness of the group members. It does depend upon the increasing and developing ability of each individual to use skills responsibly in the service of the common task. It is not anything like the Ďtogethernessí which is a function of the fear of being alone or on oneís own. In the work group each individual...may have to accomplish his own part of the task in a very lonely way (ibid, p. 31).
In taking an opposite interpretation of Bion from Colman, she has followed Melanie Klein and Bionís construction of the paranoid-schizoid position as one in which primitive, paranoid anxiety will inevitably be defended against by the primitive defenses of splitting and projective identification. The point is that when several in a group split in the same way -- either projecting the good upon a Great Mother or Father/Savior, or the bad upon a Demon -- the group is then able to function in a psychotic-like harmony around a basic (delusional) assumption. Colman, however, has reversed the way Kleinians use the notion of primitive defenses to explain his "group mind" phenomena. He names the splitting/projective identification defenses as regressive states (of psychotic anxiety), and to my mind erroneously perceives the basic assumptions to themselves be the defenses ("...shared assumptions...used by the individual to defend against psychotic anxieties brought on by the fragmenting, boundary-dissolving effects of the group," p. 22). By so turning the theory around from Kleinian usage, confusing ego states with the defences against them, he is able to read Bion as advocating the notion of group-consciousness.
Further, the issue of whether the efficacy of group work lies in the individual or in a systems approach actually belongs to a forty year-old controversy which is not addressed in this book (the interested reader may consult the entire issue of the International Journal of Group Psychotherapy, 1977, vol. 47, no. 2, for a lengthy discussion of evolution of the argument). S. R. Slavson, an internationally recognized pioneer in group psychotherapy and founder of the American Group Psychotherapy Association in 1942, was himself a strong proponent for only intrapsychic interpretations; he actually opposed the notion of group dynamics (Scheidlinger, "Group Dynamics and Group Psychotherapy Revisited: Four Decades Later," pp. 141-159). Writing from the perspective of the ensuing forty years, Roy MacKenzie ("Comments on Issues Raised by Slavson, Durkin, and Schleidlinger," pp. 175-181), past president of AGPA, was able in 1977 to say of Slavson:
Opting for inclusion of both the dynamics of the group taken as a whole, and individual dynamics which also occur in group settings, the realms of the intrapsychic and the interpersonal are generally viewed by most contemporary writers as an oscillating figure/ground, with the task of the clinician compounded by the necessity to observe both while simultaneously deciding in which realm to intervene. The dilemma of group versus individual seems to this reviewer to be reflective of our time, analogous to the paradigm shift from one-person psychology to two-person psychology, from the classical position of subject and object to the subject-subject model, a perspective in which the psyche is seen in motion, as in Jungís shifting feeling-toned complexes, rather than as static agencies which are neutrally observed. That psychoanalysis currently wrestles with the question whether the theory of transference is a second level abstraction, transference neurosis, or an immediate cluster of interrelated processes, is but one indication of this shift of our model from that of content to that of process.
Challenges to Merger
Similar shifts have occurred in psychoanalytic views of human development, so that Colmanís exclusive emphasis on the work of Margaret Mahler and the omission, not only of Daniel Sternís 1985 opus on the Interpersonal World of the Infant, (New York, Basic Books) but important analytic literature from attachment theory and the psychoanalytic field observation of infant-mother dyads (Judy Suttleworth, "Psychoanalytic Theory and Infant Development." In L. Miller, Margaret Rustin, Michael Rustin, and J. Shuttleworth, Closely Observed Infants. London, Duckworth, 1989, pp. 22-51), seems to indicate his strong bias toward the formulations that emphasize merger states. In contrast to Mahlerís notion of symbiosis, however, the convergence of data from at least three analytic orientations has now firmly established that the infant has a capacity to distinguish and prefer his motherís presence to all others, and to rapidly enter into a multi-modal relationship with her. These three orientations, omitted in Up From Scapegoating, include the empirical research of developmental psychology (which includes the study of perceptual and cognitive skills, recognition and memory); the burgeoning field of attachment theory (which studies bonds of caregiver-infant recognition, feeling and attachment); and psychoanalytically oriented observation in natural settings (now a curriculum requirement in both psychoanalytic and analytical psychology training programs in London). From the standpoint of a parent, a lover, a therapist, or a baby, it is difficult to understand Colmanís neglect of a quarter of a century of research which makes clear the perceptual capacities of the infant to differentiate self from other. He has missed as well the vital contribution offered to the analytic world regarding primitive states and their bi-directional influence upon partners. This capacity of the infant, to transfer perceptual experience from one sensory modality to the other, and to do so in an experimental format which can be replicated, is the basis for Sternís conclusion, after reviewing the literature, that there is a core sense-of-self:
Known since Aristotle as a sixth sense (ibid, p. 154), this perception which humans have abstracted across sensory modalities (cross-modal perception), provides a unity which is the basis for affective communication as well as for the symbolic function, without which neither poetry, the arts, nor analysis would exist.
While Stern (1985) notes cross-modal results in the infant at three weeks of age, Beatrice Beebe reports findings even earlier ("Infant Research and Interactive Dynamics in Psychotherapy: Dyadic Systems View of Interactions and Their Relevance to Adult Treatment. Paper presented to the Division of Psychoanalysis (39), 1993, New York). In this paper mother-infant "bi-directional message systems" are reported to occur very early -- forty-two minutes after birth (the earliest possible access to the newborn) -- and very fast -- under one-half second. Beebe reported research of facial-mirroring in which the infant sees a correspondence between what he sees and the face of the model, and what he feels proprioceptively on his own face.
Through cross-modal matching he can translate between the environment and his own proprioceptive experience. He detects matches from the very beginning of life, and this matching provides a fundamental relatedness between self and other, between inner state and environment, from the very beginning of life.
All this is of considerable interest to the study of groups. Beebe refers to this departure from infant merger theory as a paradigm shift, "...one which has been occurring in psychoanalysts across the century, for example Jung, Fairbairn, Ferenczi, Winnicott, Sullivan, Kohut, Stoller, Mitchell, Gill, and Hoffman, to name some of them." For child development this shift occurred in the early 70ís,
In the new view of the development of interpersonal relatedness it is no longer necessary to posit , as did Mahler and a whole generation of analytically oriented therapists, that the infant does not initially experience herself as a separate entity and only gradually establishes a separate psychic experience. Revision -- of Mahlerís theory of symbiosis, and therefore also of Colmanís "ecstasy as a merger experience in which the personal identity is lost or diminished" (p. 21) -- would emphasize instead the separateness which the infant is preprogrammed to experience, as well as the concomitant necessity of maternal holding to mitigate the terror (note, for example, the anguish of the unswaddled newborn). Jungian developmentalists would conceptualize this terror (which can appear in groups for the individual who does not feel held) as experience in the negative pole of the archetype, hopefully humanized by the encircling lap and arms of the holding mother. Winnicott ("Group Influences and the Maladjusted Child: The School Aspect. In The Family and Individual Development. London, Tavistock, 1955, p. 155) likewise emphasizes emergence rather than merger:
Since Freudís 1923 (Ego and the Id, p. 26) notion of the early ego as, not a surface entity, but the projection in the psyche of a surface, a "skin ego," and Esther Bickís ("The Experience of the Skin in Early Object Relations," International Journal of Psychoanalysis, vol. 49, 1964) observation of infants who seem to hold themselves together (e.g., the prolonged gaze at an object; the grasp reflex; and later, perhaps, forms of pathological containment), theory has evolved into current notions of the sensory experience to be one of fragmenting, of falling to pieces without the holding of the environmental mother. Applied to the psychology of the individual in a group, whether scapegoat, victim, or savior, this theory of reality therefore posits separateness, with the emergence of a core sense of self dependent upon the arms and mind of a holding Other. Of course this does not rule out ecstatic merger experience. The dialectic paradigm in which we presently find ourselves seems to this reviewer, however, to have ascertained that for both babies and adults, even intense moments of connection need neither diminish nor cause us to lose the ongoing sense of self, but rather does the opposite. Healthy group work, like good love making, enhances oneís subjective sense of oneself, yet does so only while simultaneously holding the paradox of recognizing the sovereign self of the other. Beyond the Group Mind Colman is so right, nonetheless, that there is a compelling need for consciousness regarding the dynamics that occur whenever people gather. Merger consciousness, which I believe to be a regressive -- even delusional -- aspect of basic assumption, seems to me to be finally an unconscious acting-out of envy in contempt for an Otherís good. It involves the wish to destroy, experienced in a manic way as omniscience and omnipotence of the groupís ethos, strengthened by the coherence of others in a group. At such a stage the group is ready for the scapegoat. With Colman, I would see the scapegoat as a dis-membered person in a group that has become unified in splitting. When the angst of separateness is not acted-out in primitive states and defenses, however, I have found there is also potential in groups for consciousness of self and other, with the group becoming unified by task and by difference in a truly democratic fashion. Jung understood this very well:
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