Basics of Group Relations Revisited: What’s it like?

Now that I’ve actually been to a group relations conference – I survived the spiral! – I’m taking a second look at my initial group relations impressions to see how my perceptions have changed. One thing I didn’t get after the Psychoanalytic Understanding of Organizations course was how exhausting a group relations conference can be. […]

Basics of group relations: Bion’s basic assumption groups

This is the second in a five-ish post series on the background and basics of group relations. Read part one here. A key figure in the history and development of group relations was Wilfred Bion (1897-1979). (Incidentally, he is also the originator of the quote that inspired the title of this blog – “The purest […]

The basic assumptions of group relations

This is the first in a 5-ish part series about the experience of group relations. Although the tagline of this blog is “The young person’s guide to group relations”, you may have noticed that I haven’t written all that much on the supposed topic. This is because up until very recently I didn’t really have […]

This is not an armchair psychoanalysis of Rob Ford

One of my favourite advice websites, Captain Awkward, has a commenting rule: no remote diagnoses. No matter how much the letter writer’s annoying aunt reminds you of your mother, you can’t diagnose someone with Borderline Personality Disorder based on the description of a biased third party.

This is good advice, but rarely followed (even on Captain Awkward). Unless you’re living under a rock – and if you are, I might come join you for a weekend just to get away – you will have by now heard of Toronto’s mayor trouble. For the journalists of Toronto, Rob Ford and his antics have been the gift that keeps giving, as the man continues to reach new highs or new lows or just new levels of weirdness. It’s easy to treat the story as entertainment, and it’s difficult for those of us who are not fans of the mayor to react with anything other than schadenfreude. Or, to repeat a phrase coined all the way back in 2008, Schadenford (Noun: Perverse pleasure derived from observing the foibles of Toronto mayor Rob Ford).

But I am going to attempt to follow the good Captain’s advice and keep my itchy fingers off the DSM. I mean, it is pretty obvious that Rob Ford has psychological problems ranging from addictions to rage issues to some reeeaaally dysfunctional family dynamics – I hope if I am ever caught smoking crack my mother doesn’t take the opportunity to appear on national TV and call me fat! – but let’s leave the specifics up to the trained professionals when he finally makes contact with them. Plus that article’s been done already.

More interesting is the psychological profile not of the man himself but of the city which elected him. A brief history for the outsiders: Continue reading “This is not an armchair psychoanalysis of Rob Ford”

The group relations blogosphere (such as it is)

If you are like me, the very first thing you do when you need to learn about something is Google it. I do not know what I did before constant Internet access (which I’ve only had for about 6 years, BTW – I somehow made it to my late 20s without Twitter or Netflix). I literally do not remember how I went about my daily life without being instantly able to answer the question “What was Dougie Howser’s best friend’s name?” (Vinnie, in case you were wondering.)

So when I got this job I started looking for resources to learn about group relations online. There is a decent amount of information around – more to follow on that later – but what struck me was the complete lack of an informal online community.

There is a thriving psychoanalysis and psychotherapy blogosphere, mostly centring around Psychology Today. But if you google “group relations blog”, this blog you are reading right now is the second result. This isn’t because I’m so amazing that I’ve rocketed to the top of the group relations blogosphere, it’s because there really isn’t one. The group relations blogosphere is…me and Larry Hirschhorn.

I am only one person with one blog (on this subject anyway), so I can’t do much more than this to jumpstart a group relations conversation online, but I thought I’d compile a list of helpful links and so on to get you started learning about group relations. Then you can start your own group relations blog and we can get something going here.

So here are some helpful links… Continue reading “The group relations blogosphere (such as it is)”

Hate in the countertransference, part 2: Winnicott vs. Britzman vs. Freud

I feel I need to write this post in the form of an excel spreadsheet. Partly because I have spreadsheets on the brain right now, but also because there’s a lot of info, and when the only tool you have is “SUMIF”, everything looks like a conditionally-formatted cell.

ADMINISTRATIVE PROFESSIONAL JOKE! This is like the time I put a joke about enharmonics in a show and like one person laughed. Sorry. I am trying to bring together the threads from the Winnicott paper and the Britzman presentation AND Freud’s seminal “A child is being beaten” and it’s making me a little giddy. Also I fell off my bike last week and slightly injured my left wrist so had to write the first draft of this post LONGHAND. With a PEN, just like the olden days.

Getting to the topic at hand, I wanted to bring Britzman’s discussion of the concept of transference in an educational context together with Winnicott’s exploration of hate and countertransference. I don’t know if using “vs” in the post title was entirely accurate, as they seem to pretty much agree (though I doubt Deborah Britzman would congratulate herself for not beating a vulnerable child, but times change). They both are on board with the idea that it is necessary to acknowledge that emotions that arise from either the teaching/learning or therapeutic context in order for an authentic relation to happen. I was thwarted in my quest for specifics, I think, because exactly what these emotions are and how they are expressed are highly context-dependent: they are determined by the complex relation of the individuals involved and their social environment. Continue reading “Hate in the countertransference, part 2: Winnicott vs. Britzman vs. Freud”

Hate in the countertransference

So as it turns out the famous analyst who stated that all analysts hate and fear their patients was Donald Winnicott; his 1947 paper “Hate in the Countertransference” explores the topic. This paper is freely available online [pdf] and is not a difficult read.

I’m going to riff off a couple of aspects of the paper in a moment, but first I’ll give you my overall impression. Whenever I read something old I find I am often jolted out of the work by some attitude or event that is weird, incongruous, or unacceptable by modern standards. Sometimes I can identify with the text completely; sometimes it’s like it was written by an alien. Continue reading “Hate in the countertransference”

Transference in education: Britzman at the CNPC conference

This past Friday I had the pleasure of attending part of the Canadian Network for Psychoanalysis and Culture’s first conference, The Freudian Legacy. I attended Deborah Britzman’s plenary talk “An unexpected novelty: Reading Freud’s technique papers with the arrival of pedagogy” and a panel session called Transsexualities featuring Oren Gozlan, Patricia Elliot, Trish Salah, and Sheila Cavanagh.

I must state up front that I am not fluent in academic language. I can read an academic paper the way I read in French – fairly slowly, giving my brain lots of time to parse infrequently used words, and giving myself permission to look up words I can’t figure out from the context. But I can’t really watch French movies or listen to French radio – I just can’t follow the language quickly enough. I also lack the background knowledge to make sense of allusions and cultural references. I might know that “Lacanian” means “pertaining to the work of Lacan”, but I have only a very hazy idea of what that means in the context of the field.

So it is possible – or rather, inevitable – that the majority of what I heard went far, far over my head. I found the panel discussion particularly difficult to follow. I also am generally unfamiliar with the conventions and context of the academic conference, only having been to one or two before, and always as a performer in something or other; I found the format a bit alienating in itself.

But it got me out of my comfort zone and introduced me to some new ideas, and there was free coffee – I’m not complaining or anything. So before I get into my reactions, here are a few terms which I looked up after the fact and which would have to been good to have known beforehand: Continue reading “Transference in education: Britzman at the CNPC conference”