Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Budding Psychoanalytic Theorist

Wilfred Ruprecht Bion DSO (8 September 1897 – 8 November 1979) was an influential British psychoanalyst, who became president of the British Psychoanalytical Society from 1962 to 1965.

Wilfred Bion's observations about the role of group processes in group dynamics are set out in Experiences in Groups where he refers to recurrent emotional states of groups as basic assumptions. Bion argues that in every group, two groups are actually present: the work group, and the basic assumption group. The work group is that aspect of group functioning which has to do with the primary task of the group - what the group has formed to accomplish; will 'keep the group anchored to a sophisticated and rational level of behaviour'.The basic assumption group describes the tacit underlying assumptions on which the behaviour of the group is based. Bion specifically identified three basic assumptions: dependency, fight-flight, and pairing. When a group adopts any one of these basic assumptions, it interferes with the task the group is attempting to accomplish. Bion believed that interpretation by the therapist of this aspect of group dynamics would result in insight regarding effective group work.

In dependency, the essential aim of the group is to attain security through, and have its members protected by, one individual. The basic assumption in this group culture seems to be that an external object exists whose function it is to provide security for the immature individual. The group members behave passively, and act as though the leader, by contrast, is omnipotent and omniscient. For example, the leader may pose a question only to be greeted with docile silence, as though he or she had not spoken at all. The leader may be idealized into a kind of god who can take care of his or her children, and some especially ambitious leaders may be susceptible to this role. Resentment at being dependent may eventually lead the group members to "take down" the leader, and then search for a new leader to repeat the process.  (Perhaps, resentment at being dependent may also lead to group projections onto an outsider, depicting him as a "basket case," or a baby.)

In a group dominated by the basic assumption of Dependency members behave as if the primary task is solely to provide for the satisfaction of their needs and wishes.  In such a group, in the same way as a child, members unconsciously experience dependency from an imaginative parent figure or system.  Because their needs are not met, members experience frustration, helplessness, powerless, and disempowerment.  This kind of defense against anxiety can also be interpreted as a manipulation of authority out of its role according to the fantasy that then the group will be safe/cared for.  The leader becomes a focus for a pathological form of dependency which inhibits development and growth.  Furthermore provided the illusion that the leader contains the solution can be sustained, he or she may be absent or  even dead.

Be that as it may.

In a letter dated March 30, 1999 that I wrote to my then treating psychotherapist, Lisa Osborn, Psy.D. I offered theoretical speculations about a workplace incident that occurred on April 6, 1989 at the law firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, where I was employed from 1988-1991.

The letter is theoretical and abstract and did not cite any authority that was precisely on point.  In fact, Bion's concept of the Dependency Basic Assumptions group supports the theory that I had worked out on my own, based on logic and intuition.

The letter assumes that the work group at Akin Gump had taken on the function of a Dependency Basic Assumptions Group and that the group leader and the work group had alternating roles, with the group leader at times functioning as a symbolic mother for the group, and at other times the work group-as-a-whole served as a symbolic mother for the group leader.  I was the outsider on whom the role of "dependent child" was projected to preserve the narcissistic integrity of the Dependency Basic Assumptions Group -- the group members' resentment at being dependent was discharged by projecting the fantasy of dependency onto me.

Perhaps the anti-Semitic stereotype of Jews-as-babies can be interpreted by reference to Bion's belief that the Church operates as a Dependency Basic Assumptions Group -- Christians' resentment at being dependent may be discharged onto Jews-as-Outsiders by projecting the fantasy of dependency onto Jews.

The letter to Dr. Lisa Osborn is at the link below:



Gary Freedman said...

The following workplace incident supports the view that I was the victim of a Dependency Basic Assumptions Group at Akin Gump:

30. On a Friday in early spring 1990 (possibly March 30, 1990), Ms. Constance Brown advised me that since there was little work to be done on Eastern, she had arranged that I meet with the administrator of litigation support, Ms. Chris Robertson on Monday morning (possibly April 2, 1990) and that Chris would provide me with work. On Monday morning, shortly after 9:00 AM, I reported to litigation support, which was housed on the terrace level of the building, and met with Chris for about 15 to 20 minutes. Chris provided instruction on a particular task that I was to do for MCA. This was my first contact with Chris Robertson in the relation of employee to supervisor; up until this time I had worked predominantly for Ms. Constance Brown on Eastern. This was also the first time I was to work in the terrace level office. At the conclusion of my conversation with Chris, she led me from her office to a work station where I was to perform the assigned task. Upon sitting at the work station, Chris said to me, “You can sit here.” This was at approximately 9:30 AM. After sitting down at the desk I looked into the trash basket next to the desk. The trash basket was empty except for a baby food jar. The baby food jar had been wiped clean before being placed in the trash basket, consistent with the jar having been brought from home by someone for the express purpose of placing it in the trash basket with the intent to harass.

(Note that the epithet “baby” is stereotypically anti-Semitic.)

[Coincidentally, the client MCA was later purchased by Edgar Bronfman, an individual active in numerous Jewish causes; Bronfman has served as Chairman of the Anti-Defamation League and has headed the World Jewish Congress. Robertson was later found to have made a racially-inappropriate statement about a minority person, and was alleged to have colluded with another supervisor in the discriminatory termination of a black employee. McNeil v. Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, no. 93-0477 (D.D.C., Nov. 29, 1993).]

[On March 30, 1990 the following article, titled “Eastern’s Creditors Threaten to Move For Liquidation,” appeared in The Wall Street Journal.

"Eastern Airlines’ unsecured creditors have threatened to call for a bankruptcy-court liquidation of the beleaguered carrier if Eastern’s parent, Texas Air Corp., doesn’t take a bigger role in current efforts to reorganize it.

But Texas Air officials, in turn, have told the creditors’ committee that it can’t make the kind of wide-ranging financial assurance apparently being sought, according to people familiar with the case.

The sudden standoff is an outgrowth of the disclosure earlier this week by Eastern President Phil Bakes that the airline couldn’t meet the terms of a settlement reached only a month earlier. That agreement called for repaying unsecured creditors about 50 cents on the dollar. . . .

According to people close to the latest discussions, Eastern’s creditors are weighing other possible responses, including backing the appointment of a trustee by the court. A trustee would replace Eastern’s managers and run the airline’s day-to-day operations. The idea has been proposed before and was strongly backed by Eastern’s unions and bitterly opposed by Eastern and Texas Air management. Until now, creditors have also resisted the notion. Creditors are further understood to be pressing their advisors to search for a possible buyer of Eastern, a move they haven’t previously pushed. . . ."

The deteriorating situation regarding Eastern may have contributed to the perception by certain Akin Gump employees that I was now particularly vulnerable. [See also "Eastern Airlines, Unable to Meet Terms For Unsecured Creditors, Plans Cost Cuts,” The Wall Street Journal, March 28, 1990 (reporting that the bankruptcy-court saga recently seemed to be heading toward conclusion)].]

Gary Freedman said...

The following workplace incident supports the view that I was the victim of a Dependency Basic Assumptions Group at Akin Gump:

-- According to Freedman, sometime in 1990 he returned to his desk and noticed that someone had placed a brochure for a secretarial course on his desk. “The brochure was pink in color and featured photographs of women only.” R. 331. On another occasion, someone left a clothing catalogue on Freedman’s desk. “The front cover depicted a young woman holding a little boy.” R. 331.

[The Corporation Counsel makes an interesting omission. The record at 331 reads: “On another occasion someone had placed a Levi-Strauss catalogue on my desk. The front cover of the catalogue depicted a young women holding a little boy.”

Robert S. Strauss and Charles Levi (both Jewish) were the names of two of the firm’s senior partners. They had adjoining offices on the firm’s third floor.

The feminization of Jews can be a typical feature of anti-Semitism, a fact that should have been known to a state human rights agency.

Akin Gump admits the firm’s litigation support department was tinged with anti-Semitism. Record at 57-61.]

Gary Freedman said...

The psychiatrist Lewis Winkler, MD, with whom I had three consults in April 1991, presented himself as an expert in group relations. My paranoid perception was that firm manager Malcolm Lassman (and perhaps David Callet) had a lot of confidence in Dr. Winkler.

Dr. Winkler apparently didn't have a clue about Bion's theories. Bion is one of the giants of the group therapy school.

Malcolm should get his money back!!

Gary Freedman said...

Lewis A. Winkler, MD
Practice Statement

I work with a broad variety of patients and am very experienced in COMBINING and INTEGRATING individual, group, and couples psychotherapy with effective psychopharmacology. If needed I specialize in mood, anxiety, and personality disorders, both severe and more-moderate personality traits and style issues. I'm also highly interested in helping people and couples grow out of "BINDS" they are in or those that conflicting personality styles create. I also specialize in workplace issues, work-created problems, vocational identity issues, and have experience in E E O, Workers Comp, and other litigation. Although I am an out of network doctor I attempt to coordinate fee structure with the insurance plan you are using whenever possible! I do not medicate patients who are currently in therapy or in treatment with other therapists of any disciplines.. I only medicate my patients
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1226 31st Street NW
Washington, DC 20007

Gary Freedman said...

Comcast Cable ( [Label IP Address] 13 returning visits
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23 Jul 10:45:02 AM

23 Jul 10:45:45 AM