Group Perspective to Current Events

Watching the recent upheaval in our society, more specifically watching the January 6th hearings, I began asking myself the question: Is the interaction in the group a product of individual behavior, or is the group understandable as an intact entity suggesting behavior is a product of the group?

I am sure most of you have many thoughts to this question, and I hope you all will share. We can approach it from many perspectives such as groupthink, systems theory, social categorization theory, social identity theory, etc. In my case, this question led me to someone I was fascinated with but never truly understood fully. The person is Wilfred Bion and I wanted to approach this discussion from the psychodynamic perspective. 

I believe there is a wealth of knowledge to unpack when reading Bion.  Although, I continue to struggle in understanding his writing, which often seems to be in riddles.  I recently came across the works of Margret Rioch who attempted to explain some of his work, which I believe helps to define groups and teams.  I will make an attempt to interpret the work below.

What fascinates me the most is Bion’s idea of “a group as a whole”, that certain phenomena occur regardless of the individuals in the group. The group unconscious. He claimed that work and basic assumption aspects are common to all groups and these assumptions do not reside in the individual, rather in the group.  Bion described three basic assumptions in a group. One being dependency where members depend on the leader for nourishment and protection.  Second is the pairing assumption, where members are waiting for an idea or person to save the group.  Lastly, fight-flight assumption, where the group met as if to fight or run away from someone or something.  

This then leads to the behavior analytic perspective, where scholar’s purports that a group does not behave but rather many members of the group engage in similar behaviors to maintain a practice of that group.  How I interpreted this concept is that if enough people in the group do not engage in a select behavior towards change, it is more likely the status quo will maintain. 

To return to Bion in context of the hearing, many things are put into perspective. From this lens, it is evident that there is a set of dynamics within groups that was previously missed or unnoticed in society and social groups.  Primarily, that the basic assumptions are inherent in the underlife of all groups and group members contribute to it without being aware of doing so.  The main take away for me from Bion is that one or more of the three basic assumptions are always present.  

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