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|Groupwork as An Emerging Process|
|Congresses - 2004 Barcelona|
|Written by Marina Edmonda Episcopi|
Marina Edmonda Episcopi
For quite a long part of my training as an analyst in Zurich, about ten years ago, the term “Jungian groupwork” was a sort of oxymoron, that is, “a deliberate combination of two words that seem to mean the opposite of each other” (Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English), the two words being “Jungian” and “group”, as if Jungian groupwork was a sort of “opus contra naturam”, an impossible “coniunctio oppositorum”. The only kind of groupwork which seemed to be allowed and I should say prescribed by the Institute was of course group supervision of clinical cases, the so called “colloquia”, a necessary part of Jungian training. Apparently colloquia were given in groups to allow a better sharing of individual experiences, to collect as much feedback or countertransferential aspects as possible to the individual case, and also for the economic advantage of paying for one supervisor by many people attending. But then, in these supervision groups, something very important would emerge, something that highly impressed me at the time and that still remains in my memory supporting me in the belief of the importance of groupwork: all the clinical cases discussed in supervision groups became for me highly significant, both for my individual path as an analyst and for the therapy of the patient whose case I was presenting and discussing with the other members of the group, even more than the cases presented and discussed one-to-one with my individual supervisors.
Of course we must consider that, strictly speaking, every supervision case is treated by a group of three people, if we want to follow Jung’s idea of analysis – in which “the analyst is as much inside the process as the patient itself and is also changed by the patient” – the three people being the patient, the analyst and the supervisor, all sharing the same process and contributing to it. I always felt that the highly therapeutic and developmental value of these cases was not only due to the higher experience and knowledge of Jungian practice of the supervisor, but to the “interactive field” created by the three people united in a group in which dreams, images and stories bounced back and forth from one to the other creating unexpected resonance. But going back to supervision groups, my feeling of a significant work being done in these colloquia was largely shared by the other colleagues attending the group, because there appeared some sort of image, of production concerning the case that created a therapeutic environment not only for the patients discussed in the group but for the members of the group itself. On the other side, we were somehow taught in our training that Jung had a certain bias against collectivity and groups: everything seemed to be either individual or collective, and although he saw the possibility of reconciling these opposites, the fact that he considered them opposites seems to have influenced Jungian thought for a long time.
Jung used the word “collective” in a very general way, applying it to any collection of individuals that could exert a destructive force on any one member’s individuality. He wrote, in fact, that “… this accords with the experience that social and collective influences usually produce only a mass intoxication and that only man’s action upon man can bring about a real transformation” (CW 10, “The Meaning of Psychology for Modern Man”). Jung in fact tended to think of all groups in terms of crowd or mass psychology, and this has probably been a great obstacle to many Jungians not only in accepting the value of group therapy but also to the development of new trends in analytical psychology connected to group dynamics. However, I believe that this dynamic has been seen by many as the necessary dragon by which to be swallowed in order to come out again renewed, even a sort of family secret not to be shared, or an initiation to be made in solitude. In fact, according to Jung, contradiction is also a polarity and consciousness is not only threatened by the collective unconscious, but also nourished by it, both aspects being present in the archetype.
To go back again to my years of training as an analyst in Zurich: I then met psychodrama in a very Jungian setting, that is, in “Fairy Tales Enactement” with John Hill. In psychodrama, I would say, “memories, dreams and reflections” of the participants are exchanged, integrated, circumambulated, assimilated in a very deep dialogue between the consciousness and the unconscious of the individual and the group, as you will see in the workshop conducted by Peter Elting and Wilma Scategni. Fairy Tale Enactement is a special sort of groupwork in which the characters of fairy tales, which are of course archetypal characters, are chosen by each member of the group and enacted first as a dramatic performance. Then the feedback of participants is shared, collected, and re-enacted in psychodrama form, that is, exchanged with the other members of the group, because archetypes do not belong to one individual member but are at the same time outside the individual, in the internal world of each and also in between as they are constituted in patterns of interaction. And from these interactions, the single member ends up with a picture of himself or herself that is a result of this same interaction, enabling him or her to have a much better inner dialogue in the future.
When dreams are worked in psychodrama groups, the participant this kind of groupwork realizes that every dream represents a group of archetypal images in him or herself and every object of the dream can be played, every person, every symbol, every facet of the individual. In fact we are each of us group conductors of our own inner group and of our own inner life psychodrama. Besides, groupwork allows the reading of the dream (as much as the fairy tale) on different levels all at the same time, and also the possibility of staying with the images of the dream instead of interpreting them, allowing the healing power of the psyche to act, as in sandplay therapy where images activate the dialogue with the unconscious, both healing and soul-making. In psychodrama, time becomes also a sort of space-time continuum, putting tales, dreams and thousand-year-old archetypes all in the same moment, in the here and now, leading to a state of union of mind and soul, as well as the union of the psyches involved in this “opus” of soul- making. This condition leads to the “unus mundus”, the one world, where psyche and matter are united and the inner and outer world are experienced as the same – all this leading to synchronistic events because of the deep involvement with the unconscious. And many of these events are in fact elicited by psychodrama, in the form of other dreams, symbols appearing to different people, one person dreaming the same image as another, events we can also witness in another kind of significant groupwork, that is, “Social Dreaming Matrix”, the very deep space-time of the soul we are offered every morning in our Congresses, thanks to Peter Tatham.
But then is groupwork for Jungians really emerging process? To emerge, if I believe my Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, is to “appear or come out from somewhere” and also to “begin to be known and noticed”, or, “to come at the end of a difficult experience”, as if all the work which has already been done is to be denied, or working with groups is a somewhat lesser way to be a Jungian analyst, or its therapeutic value still to be clarified. Given this case, I would prefer to use here the word “surface”, rather than “emerge”. To surface, in my dictionary, is “to rise to the surface of the water, to become known after being hidden”, which is something nearer to the truth. All Jungian analysts working in individual psychotherapy are well aware today that it is impossible to think of psychopathology in terms of the individual psyche, but every single case must be considered against the backdrop of cultural and collective psychopathology. The group may be considered part of the setting for the individual, and both the individual and the group can be changed with the help of the other members of the group, as happens in families. The group must not be considered an enlarged version of analysis, but probably, in our post- modern world, analysis in the individual setting may be considered a group of two (or three, where the presence of a supervisor, even unknown to the patient, is in the background), a restricted version of a larger group. In dyadic analysis, especially in some contexts, as in prison, the transference to the setting is often more important than that to the analyst and this becomes extremely important, as other elements come into play between the analyst and the patient. The group may create a setting, change it, become aware of, or ignore it, and this provides further help for people living in particular conditions (homeless people, immigrants), because each change in the group provides an evolutionary change in the structure of the group and in the members.
In our post-modern world, the words of John Donne, “no man is an island”, are most important, since only the creation of a collective matrix between the psyches of different individuals may avoid fragmentation and a further destructive trend. The human being and humankind are not and should never be two real opposites, and the individual must be seen nowadays, in a time of nets, as a node in a network. Furthermore, the group experience (psychodrama has been studied under this point of view) is actually known to provide an activation of the so called “mirror cells” of the brain, implicated in the mirroring experiences of the early periods of life between mother and child, the lack of which is certainly at the core of many personality disorders which constitute the main pathology analysts are confronted with nowadays. Group experience, therefore, provides a collective ritual with a mirroring undertone for every member of the group, and the group itself is never the same group, having undergone progressive changes with every change of the single individual constituting the group, so creating a transpersonal interactive field, in which a synchronistic common field reflects a deep relation between the participants in the interactive field itself. It can also express or touch a collective unconscious concern of the times, and this is highly important in our times of war and collective struggles, and can be a means of changing collective consciousness when the fields created are not only transforming to all participants, but impact the collective. Therefore, the network of communication in groupwork spreads not only from the consciousness to the unconscious of the single participants and among participants, but also between the unconscious of the group and the unconscious and consciouness of the single participant in all the possible directions of time and space, inside the temenos, the sacred space of the group and out in the world, which becomes therefore one world, a real global village.
The great importance of groupwork in the therapy of addictions and personality disorders, stems from what has being previously said about mirroring and interactions. In fact, several authors (Cicchetti and Cohen 1995) have drawn attention to the biological preparedness of the human brain to be activated and organized by social interactions and to the fact that only in a social-interactive environment can the brain mature and develop the capacities to regulate affects and create psychological experience. This may appear to be a very neuroscientific way to support groupwork, but the same idea is expressed by Hillman in other words in 1972: “Our relationships do not change merely you and me: they affect history. They are a form of culture. Their maintenance is also a first concern of the soul, required not only for its individual health, but for the integrity of all human life and for the transference of psychological history to future generations. (The Myth of Analysis, p. 114)
All these reflections underline the need to be able to bring together all the Jungian analysts who work in groups in order to reflect together on a specific Jungian approach to groupwork. We therefore started at the Congress in Cambridge to inquire about the role of therapeutic and training groups in the Jungian world and we will present here some results of our inquiry among individual analysts and training institutes, made through two different questionnaires, that will be given to you and illustrated along with the initial results of our research, of course still in progress by Dr. Marina Conti.
Research on Jungian Groupwork
The Dutch analyst Leo Giesen was the first promoter of this research in 1999 when he became interested in the “individuation process in group therapy” with three other psychologists: Sonja Sleegers, Sonny Hermann and Barbara Miller. Giesen, who quite recently and suddenly left us, was trained at first as a psychoanalyst, then as a Jungian analyst and also as a body therapist. To all this he added an experience as a psychodramatist. He seems to have conducted a group of psychodrama, a psychodynamic group and a group on individuation. He started the idea of contacting Jungian analysts in the IAAP interested in groupwork. In the Dutch group, two analysts are known to practice groupwork, Sonja Sleegers and Elly Van der Sanden.
Starting from these first informal contacts, our research group tried to create a sort of “map of the world of Jungian groupwork”, with the following results:
Guidelines of Research on IAAP Groups
1. Aims of Research
From this initial statement, research now in progress began. It was built through preliminary meetings and contacts through the web, so as to identify starting points that may be amplified and better defined during the research itself, such as:
2) Hypothesis of the Research
The basic hypothesis of this research is the existence within IAAP of a net of analysts who already work with groups, have been trained or are interested in group processes related to Analytical Psychology, as witnessed by different bits of stories we collected (Connolly paper). How have these group processes (therapy, research) influenced IAAP in its evolution?
Another hypothesis is that a very intense dreaming activity goes on during institutional events, reflecting them (as in P. Tatham’s research on Social Dreaming Matrix).
3) Typology of Researchers
7) Funds for Research
Research is funded by IAAP participating members themselves. CIPA, as representative of the nation that will host the meetings of the working Goup, will receive a partial refund that will be used for collection and diffusion of the first material produced in the working group itself. We hope of course to find other funds.
8) Research Staff
To be kept as an hypothesis to be assessed first; Barcelona Committee and members who signed up (still to be properly organized).
About 1.5 years for Phase I, and another year to reach the meeting with report and assessment.
A special final assessment meeting on results, and reflections on them with the staff, could be held as a preliminary meeting and then the assessment material could be used in a Congress.
11) Use of Material
One or two-day Seminars in 2004, or at the beginning of the following year, leading to a sort of trace to be published (in progress).
12) Open Perspectives
Research could end by opening new perspectives that will take form during the research itself.
Questionnaire on Groups and Jungian Analysis
In recent years, there has been an explosion of interest in group dynamics, both from the point of view of therapy and of training. In Europe especially, where psychotherapy is evermore moving into the public rather than the private domain, group psychotherapy offers also an economic advantage and the possibility of reaching social groups who would not otherwise have access to psychotherapy (volunteers, immigrants, homeless people, prisoners …). It also offers a solution to the ever-increasing request for supervision on the part of mental health workers. At the same time, today it is impossible to think of psychopathology in terms only of individual psyche, but it must be seen against the backdrop of cultural and collective psychopathology.
In this very collective post-modern world, group work is not a substitution for individual analytic work, but an important addition. The group process allows psychic complexes to appear more readily and intensely and facilitates the well-being of the individual.
The social anomie and fragmentation characteristic of the post- modern world has created a need for a group experience that is based not only on regressive dependency, but also on the interaction of the individual psyches in the here and now. This corresponds to a profound need for collective rituals. A group is more than the sum of the individual psyches, because it creates a collective matrix.
These various reflections underline the need to be able to bring together all those Jungian analysts who work in groups in order to begin to reflect on a specific Jungian approach to the group.
As members of IAAP we are interested in obtaining information on the role of therapeutic and training groups in the Jungian world, and for this reason we have prepared two questionnaires on this subject: one for the institutes and one for individual members. We intend to present the results of our inquiry at the next Congress in Cape Town. We count on the collaboration of as many as possible Jungian colleagues and Institutes in order to achieve our goal.
Questionnaire for the IAAP Institutes